And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, 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).
“What happens to the Gospel when idolatry themes are not grasped? “God loves you” typically becomes a tool to meet a need for self-esteem in people who feel like failures. ―David Powlison
As I began thinking and praying about how God would have us start digging into scripture about love, I became convinced and convicted that we must first consider God’s judgment of sin. Specifically, God’s judgment of our sin. I need to consider God’s judgment of my sin. You need to consider God’s judgment of your sin. Even specific sins that He is gently and persistently raising to our consciousness right now.
“But Becky,” you say. “You’re a Christian, you’ve been forgiven. I’m a Christian, I’ve been forgiven. No need for consideration here.” You’re right, kindof. I just had the same response when I began meditating upon God’s love. But we have to consider how ugly, revolting and heinous our sin is. The knee-jerk “but I’m a Christian so my sin doesn’t count against me anymore” statement is right, but in a half-true way. Christians are forgiven and will not sit in judgment under God’s wrath. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to consider our sins. There are two reasons we should do this: First, we need to consider our sins in order to more fully grasp God’s great love. Second, we need to consider our sins so we can more fully love others.
This leads me to another important point: we need to more fully submit to the idea of God’s wrath in order to more fully walk in love. If He is a good and loving God, he must hate and judge sin. Here in America, for those of us middle-class, comfortable, mostly white people, living in safe neighborhoods, it’s difficult to understand why God hates sin so much. It’s difficult to swallow God’s judgment. God is love – how can He dictate to the angels to cast down bowls of fire, disease and destruction? I think, if, my beautiful sisters had been sold into child prostitution – I think, if, as a mother I watched my beautiful children die horribly as their inner organs were melted as a result of chemical warfare – I think, if, I had lived through countless other horrors that other humans have faced and face today, I would cry out for God’s angry justice. These atrocities are the result of sin and they are sin. A good, loving God must be angry at sin. A just God must exact punishment against sin. When I consider so much of what goes on in this world, I want Him to, and soon.
But here at home? Sin can seem fairly harmless. A mere turning away from the prompting of the Spirit. A little thought. Nobody knows. And this is where we become deceived and ensnared. Sin takes root. Sometimes it grows large and obvious. Sometimes it just grows small but pervasively. I have a little flower bed at my home. It sits between the house and the lawn. We installed some black plastic edging to keep the lawn in its place, but that grass is invasive. In the spring, after the snow melts, I see a few blades of grass growing. It keeps cropping up among my poppies, encroaching ever nearer to my cultivated plants. That grass is a lot like the sin of us “decent” Christian Americans – small but pervasive. It’s not typically huge and gnarly like a great big thistle, but like grass in a garden. Despite it’s “size,” full grown and unchecked, it kills the garden.
There are many reasons I don’t want to start this series talking about God’s anger at sin, but without this fundamental understanding of God’s anger and judgment, we cannot really grasp His love. And if we cannot come to this right understanding of His love, we cannot love others. It’s impossible, because in such a state, we are like the pharisee or the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son.
Spirit, come and speak to us in Your word, in this story of Jesus’ life. Let us see, hear, taste, smell, touch. Show us, using Your Spirit and word, the depth of our sin and greatness of your love so that we can love more.
Using your senses – read Luke 7:36-50, imagine yourself there — the smell, sights, sounds.
What did the Spirit impress upon you with this story? Will you take your impressions of Jesus and the people in this account before God and let Him speak to you? Sit with it, for a few moments. Now, return to it throughout the day and hold it all week long as we continue to gaze into Love.