“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” – Luke 2:10 NIV
So much has been introduced into the message of the gospel over the centuries that even the most spiritually mature struggle deeply with dissatisfaction, discontentment, fears of disappointing God, frustration and hopelessness. Salvation has come to be seen much like the business model of a narcotics dealer. You can get it initially for free but to keep it will cost you greatly. As a result, the years following the conversion experience for some look like an addict desperately trying to get enough to buy or earn another fix or another high. When the buzz wears off, the withdrawals symptoms of fear, anger, depression and anxiety appear and take hold.
This is not the good news that Jesus offered. That we would spend the rest of our days chasing the elusive high of our early days of salvation or earning a renewal of our membership in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The good news is that we are loved, sacrificially and unconditionally, first and foremost. Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18 NIV) and nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ our Lord (Romans 8:39 NIV). Nothing we do or neglect to do. Nothing we say of neglect to say. In this love we find rest, joy and contentment.
Yet we begin to see spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, study and fellowship as ways to earn or sustain God’s favor. We see spiritual gifts as merit badges and a sign of His favor. How is it that so many of us can talk about God’s unmerited love for us yet still with every thought and act demonstrate that our lives are not aligned with that truth?
It is almost like the distinction I have heard in characterizations of marriage, “I love you, but I don’t really like you right now.” Have we twisted our understanding of God’s love so much to believe that despite His love for us that we must earn his liking? If you believe God loves you, do you also believe he likes you?
Over the next few weeks, as several churches are fasting, it is my desire that pastors and parishioners alike will find peace in His love, rest in His unmerited favor and satisfaction in His calling. May we no longer be crushed under the fears of disappointing, annoying, frustrating or offending the one who is full of unending love for us. May we have that mystical experience of knowing this love in the deepest part of our being.