If you’ve ever worked a job, you know that the arrangement is really simple. When you do what the boss tells you, he likes you. And when you don’t, he doesn’t. Do a good job long enough, and you get a promotion. Do a bad job long enough, and you get fired.
In fact, most relationships in life feel that way. If we’ve dated somebody before, we’ve seen this same dynamic at work. When you’re a good and attentive boyfriend, it tends to go well for you in the land. And when you forget birthdays, anniversaries, and favorite colors, you tend to get dumped.
Some of us have had this experience with our parents. When we got good grades and made the cut for the team or the orchestra or whatever, things were peaceful. And when we screwed up, disapproval rained down from on high.
So, it makes a whole lot of sense to assume that the relationship between you and God would work the same way.
Except that it doesn’t. At all.
Real love – which is to say God’s love – is never earned. It isn’t increased when you do good things, and it isn’t decreased when you do bad things. This is because God’s love is not an evaluation of your performance. In fact, God’s love for you and your behavior don’t have anything to do with each other. They are not connected.
So, what is God’s love about, exactly?
It turns out that God’s love is a decision he made to be devoted to your good, no matter what. It’s a decision that he made before time itself even existed – in other words, before you had had a chance to do anything good or bad. (Ephesians 1:3-6, MSG)
This matters, because it means that you can relax. You will – like the rest of us – make mistakes. You will do things that are wrong, and that you know are wrong, and that you know you shouldn’t do, and that you decide to do anyway. And, when those moments come, some part of you is going to wonder where you stand with God as a result.
Sure, if God were a boss, you might get fired. And if God were a boyfriend, you might get dumped. And if God were an earthly parent, you might get disowned.
But God isn’t any of those things. God is God. He’s holy – which is to say, different. He doesn’t think like anybody else. And he doesn’t act like anybody else.
No, when those moments come, what you’ll find is that God is just as devoted to your good as he was before you did that thing. In other words, he loves you exactly as much as he did before you sinned.
So you can relax. You can go to him and say, “I’m sorry I did that wrong thing. Please help me get back up.” And He will stand you up, brush you off, and help you keep on walking with Him.
“This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” (1 John 4:10, MSG)