Anytime we speak about the extravagant and unending love of God for people, we must always remind ourselves – and one another – just how sinful and undeserving we are of such amazing love.
The danger, of course, is that we might fixate too much on God’s audacious love and not spend enough time meditating on our own worthlessness.
Several authors are guilty of this. For example, people like Philip Yancey, and Brennan Manning tend to go on and on about God’s great love for us, and even seem to emphasize our full acceptance of this love, without balancing these ideas with the truth [which is that we are slimy worms who could never deserve such unmerited grace and love].
For example, here’s what Yancey says about God’s grace:
“God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.”
“I would far rather convey grace than explain it.”
Notice how he makes no mention of our sins? Hmm…
Now, look at what Manning says:
“God loves you exactly as you are, not as you should be, because none of us will ever be as we should be.”
Ok, he does mention our sins but he fails to emphasize how our sinfulness is repulsive to God and how our failures can be a barrier to God’s great love.
As bad as these may be, the worst offender of all is this guy Paul, the Apostle.
Notice what he says about God’s great love:
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” [Eph. 3:17-19]
Worse yet, Paul doesn’t follow up this thought about God’s awesome love with any verses about how much we don’t deserve that love. Shameful.
And it gets worse:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8:35-39]
Here, Paul not only goes on and on about God’s miraculous and astounding love for us, he even tries to convince us that nothing can separate us from this great love. Really, Paul? Not even our slimy, undeserving sinfulness?
In another epistle, Paul drops casual references to God’s love for us and uses it as motivation for how we should love one another:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” [Col. 3:12]
Of course, Paul even went so far as to write an entire chapter about love [see 1 Cor. 13] without ever mentioning how much none of us deserves God’s great love. Talk about a missed opportunity.
The other Apostles are no better. John, for example, who has the gall to call himself “the one the Lord loved” also talks about God’s love for us without the necessary caveats:
“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” [1 John 4:16]
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! [1 John 3:1]
Again, all references to how much we don’t deserve God’s great love are “conveniently” omitted.
The dangerous thing here is that Christians who read this might actually start to forget their filthy sinfulness and begin to focus only on the goodness, and kindness, and graciousness of a God who loves them so much that He would rather die than live without them.
Just imagine what would happen if more and more Christians started to forget what horrible people they are? Sure, they might start to experience more joy in their lives, but they might also start to forget what shame and guilt feel like.
And then what?
The more Christians start to become aware of God’s unmerited favor and His love that surpasses knowledge, the more they might also start telling others about it, too.
Do we really want to live in a world where the emphasis is on God’s continual, unending love for those who are made in His image? Are we prepared for the consequences of this unbalanced approach to the Gospel, or to life itself?
The implications are almost unbelievable.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean.
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