I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere along the way, I lost my first love.
In my mind, there was God on his throne who could barely stand to look at me and the only reason he tolerated my existence was because of what Jesus did for me on the cross.
I was saved, I was a believer, and I believed I was loved (albeit, in a technical sense). But I no longer believed that God liked me. It felt like a tolerant love. And as anyone on the opposite side of the word ‘tolerance’ can tell you, it feels far from love. We tolerate smells, we tolerate traffic jams, we tolerate long lines. But tolerance as the foundation for a relationship? It just doesn’t work.
And this twisted view of the gospel I was embracing poisoned my relationship with God.
But what I failed to believe, or perhaps neglected for fear of developing a shallow ‘buddy Jesus’ faith, is that we are not tolerated – we are loved. And loved deeply.
For a long time, I found myself tripping over the fact that the only reason God loved me was because of the cross. This, unfortunately, is only a technical half-truth and because of it, it never felt like God loved me just for me. If that was it, then every part of me was repugnant to him, and God forbid if his eyes ever fell on me! Jesus would have to quickly jump in the way, shielding God from who I really was, and in turn keeping me safe from his wrath.
For a person like me who was already buried under a mountain of worthlessness, daily confirmed by the world, to have this understood as my ‘Good News’? It nearly cost me what little affections I had to an already perceived distant father.
This isn’t to take away from the seriousness of sin. God hates sin with a capital “H”. Hence, the cosmic collision that happened on the cross – God’s absolute hatred of sin and yet his unstoppable love for sinners. A love so unstoppable and a hatred of sin so deep that no cost was too great to remove the poison that stood in the way of that love.
“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.”
It was because God loved us that he sent his son to suffer. It did not say, “God so hated the world that he sent his one and only Son so that he could tolerate our existence…”
I know, duh, right?
“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,”
The LORD was pleased, to crush Him? When Jesus, at his greatest moment of weakness, begged his father to let the cup of his wrath pass from him and to find another way, as agonizing and as tempting it must have been for the Father to give in, he stuck to the original plan. Why would both of them be willing to go through such agony?
“… For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
What was the joy set before him? Sitting at the right hand of the throne of God? Did he not already sit there before the world began? Why would he endure the cross for something he already had?
Wasn’t the joy that Jesus was willing to suffer for, the joy of reuniting humanity with the love of its maker? To bring us back to his Father, whose love and presence he felt so marvelous he was willing to die to bring us into it?
For most of you in the faith, this is a little too obvious. But for the person whose struggles with their worth, like me, has found distance between them and God, and just needs to go over the basics again, my prayer is that you realize how much he delights in you as his creation. He not only loves you, but he likes you. too.
“I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” Hosea 11:4
(Special thanks to amorvincit.blogspot.com for the pic!)
I’ll leave you with a quote from William Gurnall,
“There is a sweetness to pardoning mercy, and the bleeding love of Christ to be tasted in the reconciled soul’s communion with God. This lump of sugar Adam had not in his cup. He knew what the love of a giving God meant, but was a stranger to the mercy of a forgiving God. The reconciled soul experiences both.”
Thanks for listening to my journey.
Author’s note – I’m not a student of theology. I’m just a layman when it comes to my understanding of the bible and I’m open to correction on any or all of the points that are mentioned in the post. So, please feel free to correct me in the comments if you feel lead to do so. Thanks! ~R.