This week, I’ll be taking a look at how the love of God transforms us and sets us free to finally become in public the image of God that we have always been within. This series will contain three posts, starting with this one.
Growing up in the church, I heard a lot about the unconditional love of God. I remember thinking how odd it was that this God who supposedly loved us so much would impose so many rules and requirements for us to maintain His love. The general thinking seemed to be “God loves you. Now get your act together.” That was something I could never seem to accomplish. How could I bask in the love of a Father that I had to constantly prove myself worthy of?
Jesus told a story about a shepherd who had one hundred sheep. Like many of us at one point or another, one sheep either lost its’ way or wandered off and ended up estranged from the flock and the shepherd. Choosing to go after that sheep was a calculated risk for the shepherd. The countryside was dangerous. Difficult terrain and wild animals meant the shepherd was putting his own life on the line if he chose to go looking for that one sheep. On the other hand, that sheep would likely die if left alone. From a business perspective, it made no sense to leave the ninety-nine other sheep to go after the one.
Love Seeks Us Out
Jesus came on the scene announcing that He was a new kind of shepherd. This wasn’t about business for Him. His love isn’t transactional. A good shepherd’s motivation is simply love for his sheep. Jesus claimed to be a good shepherd who would pursue that wayward sheep no matter what it cost Him. He backed that up with His life lived in the margins of society and with His death at the hands of violent men.
As Jesus demonstrates, the love of God seeks us out. Jesus called this being “born of the Spirit” or “born from above”. It’s an awakening to the beautiful reality that we have been fully known and fully loved our entire lives. On our worst day, there has never been one moment of our life in which we were unloved.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”-1 John 4:18 NIV
For most of my life, I kept God at arm’s length unsure if I could really trust that the Creator of the universe would actually accept me as I am. Once I embraced the truly unconditional love of God, that love evicted my fear of Divine rejection and of eternal punishment. God isn’t a religious formula for a blessed life. God is extravagant, overwhelming love that keeps no record of wrongs and wants nothing more than for us to know how loved and accepted we already are.
For Further Reflection
On Sunday, August 3rd, I shared a message along these lines with the people of Eternal Hope Church in Mary Esther, Florida. You can watch a video of that message on the Eternal Hope UCC Facebook page.