If you grew up going to church then my guess is you’ve heard that God loves you—a lot. But do you really believe it?
As I have chatted about God in my young adult group and with other students these are the things they said. They know God loves them, but...
“I know God loves me—but can He forgive me for the bitterness I hold in my heart toward my parents who abandoned me when I was a kid?” …. “I know God loves everyone—but He won’t forgive me if I can’t forgive my dad who steals and cheats and cares more about himself than me.” …. “I know God loves me—but will He keep on loving me if I fail? I’m tired and I’m so afraid that I’ll make the wrong decisions.” … “God may love you—but I’m not sure He’ll ever love me again. I don’t think He can ever forgive my behaviour toward my girlfriend.” …. “God can’t possibly love me—otherwise my life wouldn’t be so screwed up and messed up.” …. “God is love—that's Sunday school crap—look at the cuts on my arms and legs—how could God ever want me?” …. “If God loved me He would have made me—skinny ….shorter ….brainier …..etc., etc., etc.”
So many of us live with a huge “BUT” in our heads.
We don’t really understand what unconditional loves looks like. As wonderful as some of our parents are/were—they don’t love us unconditionally. We understand that very few people will love us when they see how genuinely ugly we can be.
And so we fear God can’t love us either if He sees how ugly and broken we are inside.
We can’t be perfect—and somewhere deep inside we’re afraid that perfection is what’s required of us. And perfection is the standard God requires. But He knew we couldn't pay that and so He sent His Son—His perfect, blameless Son—to make the payment for us. Jesus died, paying for our sin, but then He rose and conquered death and sin.
So I may think I'm hopeless and lost because I'm messed up....
BUT... that’s not what the story of Jesus says...
His story? "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Believing is what God asks of us—If you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose again to save you—then you don’t have to live with any more BUTS.
- Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve, wrath and punishment.
- Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve, love and forgiveness.
(Definitions by Roy Holm)