In every other religion of the world, if you do the right things, then God will love you, or forgive you, or give you what you want, etc. At it’s core, it’s basically about improving yourself in order to appease God or some other sort of Supreme Being or Thing.
This is the standard from which we all tend to operate. If you do good you deserve good, and if you do bad, you deserve bad. So it makes perfect sense that religions would teach this in some form.
Imagine if this is how I viewed my relationship with my daughter. That if she would be good then I would love her.
So if she holds in all her poops until her mom gets home (been trying to train her to do this for quite some time, still hoping it will work), sleeps through the night, takes good naps, and doesn’t cry during Duke games then I would love her.
But that’s not how it works. She doesn’t hold her poops in until her mom gets home, she often doesn’t sleep through the night or nap well, and whether or not there is a game on TV I want to watch, it has no bearing on whether or not she’s fussy. But I still love her. Her actions have absolutely no impact on whether or not I love her.
And so the God of the Bible is often initially approached, like every other religion, in a get what you deserve way kind of way. We naturally think that God may be willing to forgive us, but we have to get a few things together first before we approach him or approach church.
But that’s not the message of the Bible.
The message of Scripture is this:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Which means, Jesus came for you as you are today not for some better version of you. While you and I were still sinners, Christ died for us, not after we improved ourselves.
Jesus does call his followers to obey his teachings and commands (Matthew 28:20), but this is after we have been forgiven and loved by God, not before.
Matt Chandler says,
So this idea of God’s love for us, according to the Scriptures, should create two things. It should repentance, and it should create gratitude that we are loved by God. And we are loved by God today. It’s not you when you get everything straightened out that God loves. It’s you now. It’s not some future version of you that God has affection for. He loves you now.
He loves you now.
So if that’s you, someone who isn’t sure about this whole God thing or thinks God won’t love me until I [fill in the blank]. I hope you come to know that’s not true.
God loves you now, and he wants more for you than you can imagine.