I heard it somewhere, sometime ago— a statement about God’s love and judgment… and that when talking of God’s love, to make sure to mention judgment, too.
But, it isn’t necessarily that a person is ignoring all other parts of God’s character or dismissing God’s judgment as inconsequential, if someone is speaking of God’s love, because something dawned on me yesterday while listening to the sermon on Matthew chapter 9: 1-8, where Jesus heals a paralytic man.
In that passage, a few friends carry a paralyzed man on a mat to Jesus for healing. Upon arriving, Jesus says to the paralytic man, “your sins are forgiven” (verses 1 and 2). Jesus’ first words are not about healing, but words about the man’s sins.
Immediately the teachers (inwardly) accuse Jesus of blasphemy (verse 3), because they are wondering who is this man who can speak with the authority to forgive sins? But Jesus knew what they were thinking (verse 4) and goes on to explain that he has authority to forgive sins and to heal (verses 5 and 6). Next Jesus tells the man to get up, walk and go home (verse 6). The man does so (verse 7), and the crowd was filled with awe (verse 8).
When he healed, Jesus used the opportunity to reveal something about himself, but the teachers didn’t see Jesus when he was right in front of his face. They missed the miracle and revelation of who he was.
(And woe to us, if we think we are safe. We should always be in prayer, asking God to show us areas that are in need of redemption, that me might not be blind to who Jesus is).
But here is what occurred to me, in light of the teaching on Sunday and this passage: that in order for me to accept and fully understand God’s love for me, I must first understand how much I don’t deserve that love. I must have first understood the depth of my depravity (though in reality the true depth of depravity is probably unknown, it is so deep… suffice it to say, we’re really lost). After realizing I was a sinner, then I understood how much God loved me. If I realize how lost I am, what a sinner I am, and that what I deserve is really death, than how much more do I love God for what he did for me? How much more do I stand in awe of his grace and mercy for me, how much more do I hold onto that love? And how much more am I in awe of his justice?
Back when I said “yes” to Jesus, I had some knowledge I was a sinner; but as time went on and the older I got, I realized even more what a sinner I truly was. To accept that Jesus loves me, I also accepted that the judgment that Jesus took on the cross was supposed to be mine.
Don’t people who know God’s love, truly know it and understand it, also understand how much it isn’t deserved? Don’t people who feel God’s love in the deepest parts tremble not only at his love, but also at his power and justice?
Aren’t we, out of love for him, gradually transformed to the place where we love God to the point we follow him because of that love, while still standing in respect and awe of that judgment?
Are we motivated by that love, or the fear of judgment? ( In reality, in a healthy sense, maybe a little out of both?) But eventually– or where I am right now in my life, since I can’t speak for others– I am more motivated out of his love for me. I have a healthy fear of God– I sincerely don’t want to face God’s judgment!– but what moves me, or where I am aligned, is because of His love for me, His continued pursuit and grace.
If we know and feel His love, then maybe we already know about His judgment, too. I’m not saying not to talk about God’s judgment whatsoever; just that in the heart of the believer is the Holy Spirit, a conscience, and a desire to move in God’s will… something is inside to prick us. It’s not that we don’t need reminding– we do, but– therein is the freedom.
So far, I’ve met more people who are longing for hope and to know and hear that God loves them than are aching to hear about His judgment… because of pains and hurts, many have a harder time accepting God’s love. We may think we’ve made too many mistakes, or God has forgotten us, or God doesn’t care, or couldn’t possibly love us. Accepting judgment may be easier than accepting His love.
Talks of hell and damnation and fury and judgment — maybe that will move a person initially, and for me, in the beginning, as a new child walking in faith, it did move me. I had heard a few sermons about going to hell and I was scared. Maybe it helped bring me in, at the beginning, but it wasn’t the complete story then (I did feel like a new creature; there was a newness, an interest in the Bible, etc.), but it isn’t what kept me. Eventually it was understanding how much God loves me and seeing His story unfold in the scriptures, and in my life, and hearing the stories of others, too, that pushed me further in. Eventually it was understanding God’s pursuit of me. How to adequately explain the mystery of His love and His pursuit of us and our response?
But however mysteriously, it does happen, and, people still need to hear how much He loves. Once we know we’re forgiven, we can get up and walk.
Sharing with Michelle
Counting the gifts, #613-624:
613. unexpected lunch with a friend at one of my favorite places, Panera Bread
614. winning a small paper ornament as a giveaway at the Chinese New Year lunch held after church on Sunday (each month a different nation or region is celebrated after church at an international lunch– this month it’s the Chinese New Year). Also enjoyed the food– the steamed, stuffed rolls and some other foods I can’t name. I will save that little paper ornament for next year! Hopefully I will put it in a place that I can find and remember for next year…. :)
615. passing out the little gifts and trinkets we brought from India for friends
616. making up my own jambalaya recipe– it turned out fabulous, according to those who ate it and I have to agree… (from someone who isn’t so fond of cooking… I was glad that something I concocted turned out well! :) )
617. finding another gluten-free resource online
618. worship on Sunday at church
619. adding more books to an ever-growing “need to read” list
620. a time of prayer, laying on of hands… refreshing, healing, renewing to my soul
621. a mild winter thus far; though I’m sure some people are wishing for more snow, I’m quite content with the less snow! :)
622. quiet Sunday afternoon
623. sunshine on cold days
624. all are healthy the past 10 days