The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you (Jeremiah 31:3 - NKJV).
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:16-18 - NKJV).
But, as a matter of fact, it matters very little to me what you or any man thinks of me. I don’t even value my opinion of myself (1 Corinthians 4:3 - JB Phillips).
God created us for a relationship with Him. We’re designed by God to relate to Him as a spiritual Father. From Him we are to receive love, nurture and guidance. Of course, sin separated us from God and brought along with it fear and the tendency to hide from God and others. Christ made a way for us to be reconciled to the Father so totally that there is no longer a fear of Him or a desire to hide. We can now approach the throne of God with the boldness of a baby running into its parent’s arms!
The Father gives us unconditional love. That means that there are no conditions that we have to meet for Him to care about us. He loves us when we perform well, and He loves us when we fail. He offers forgiveness and cleansing to us when we miss it. If we confess our sins, He is faith and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
During the time of the crucifixion, Peter denied Jesus three times in the presence of others. When Jesus was raised from the dead, an angel mentioned Peter by name to those who came into Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body for burial. But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you (Mark 16:7). It is as though Jesus told that angel to mention Peter by name. Jesus wanted Peter to know that although he had failed, he was still deeply loved. The Lord doesn’t turn a cold shoulder to us when we miss it and fail. He loves us and offers to us another chance. For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity (Proverbs 24:16).
There is such a freedom in being loved with no strings attached. Most of us have never experienced that kind of love and acceptance from anybody! All we know about love is that if we want to be loved and accepted, meet the conditions. But that is not how God treats us. Listen to Romans 5:7-8 - NLT: Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
In the study course Search for Significance, one of the four false beliefs that are common to man is those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished. We are treated this way in most of our relationships. So when God offers unconditional love, it seems awkward. We feel that we must in some way pay Him back for His forgiveness. But the Father’s love and forgiveness are free gifts to us! We don’t deserve His unconditional love and we can’t work for it. It’s a free gift from Him.
When you learn to accept the Father’s love and forgiveness personally, you are then enabled to give that same unconditional love and forgiveness away to others! It takes a while for it to sink into your thought life that the Father could actually love you and accept you when you mess up! Once you grasp this amazing love He has for you, your relationship with Him will be transformed, and in turn your relationships with others will deepen.
Next time I’ll talk about how to overcome the conditioning that keeps us isolated from others.