Afraid of God
Are you a little afraid of God? Do you worry that he has something against you?
When I feel that way, it helps me to remember three stories in which God teaches us how he really feels about us. The first is the strange story of the prophet Hosea. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute, so he did. Their marriage produced children, and Hosea loved his unnamed wife. She eventually went back to her immoral ways, but despite her unfaithfulness, Hosea didn’t stop loving her. Hosea’s experience was God’s way of illustrating how he never stopped loving his chosen people, even though they repeatedly turned back to idolatry.
The second story is that of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to help a Jew in distress. Samaritans were despised; but in Jesus’ parable, the Good Samaritan ignored the history of prejudice and mistreatment to help a man who would likely just as soon have spit in his face. That’s just how Jesus feels about me. No matter what I’ve done, he still loves me, forgives me and takes care of me.
The third story is Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. The father of the prodigal son didn’t wait for his son to drop to his knees, begging and pleading to be taken back, even as a servant. He ran to his son crying, elated to have him back, before his son had even spoken a word.
Sometimes we might think God is much like stern parents or teachers, peering over his reading glasses, looking down his nose at us, waiting for us to sheepishly or desperately admit our sins and ask for all to be forgiven before giving us the “Well, okay, but don’t do it again” condescending nod. And then we may or may not get the ruler on the knuckles before he sends us on our way.
Growing in grace and knowledge means we can put aside our childish notions of a God who thinks and acts as we humans do. He is not like us; his thoughts and ways are not like ours. He is not a petty, malicious, self-centered being who gets offended when we sin and then peevishly waits for us to crawl to him on bloody knees. Just as in the examples of Hosea, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, our God loves and forgives us even while we are sinning! Christ died for the ungodly. His love is not conditional, and his forgiveness is ours before we even think to repent.
God does desire our repentance. He wants us to be with him and to know we have his forgiveness. Repentance is going to God’s throne of grace and being reassured that he never stops loving us. It does not mean drumming up artificial sorrow and begging for a forgiveness we fear we might not get.
God is not holding a grudge and he has not turned away from us. He lovingly awaits those who fall back into old habits, who still feed at the pig troughs, and who in their sins are helpless in a ditch, no matter how long it takes. His love is unfailing and his grace is never ending.
Reprinted with the kind permission of Christian Odyssey