Can I take a minute to share with you? Thanks. Extroverted me is brimming at the seams.
I used to think, “I’m not perfect, but God loves me.”
Now I think, “I’m not perfect, and God loves me.”
It might not seem like a whole lot of difference, but to me, these two statements separate moralistic religion and Jesus in my own heart.
You see, the “but” in the first statement always left room in my heart for the hope that somehow, I could really try my best to be perfect for Jesus and He would love me always, even in the times I fell short of perfect. The “but” meant that sometimes, even if hardly ever, I could actually come close to achieving perfection by thinking and doing the right things that I thought God wanted me to do.
The “and” in the second statement means that I. Will. Never. Be. Perfect. At least, not until heaven when I meet Jesus face to face and am made perfect and complete in eternal communion with Him. And that’s the me Jesus came to save – the me who realizes and accepts my serious imperfection and doesn’t try to hide it with a band-aid of well performed morality or religious rules I’ve made for myself.
You might be familiar with Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son. The one where the younger brother runs away with his dad’s money, squanders it on “wild living” (prostitutes, alcohol, partying, etc) and ends up alone and eating with pigs after all his money is gone. So he returns to his dad’s house, thinking himself a fool and unworthy to be a son anymore, and his dad meets him with open arms and celebrates his son’s repentance and homecoming with the biggest celebration of the year.
Meanwhile, the older brother, who stayed with his dad, did his chores, followed the rules, and is pretty sure he’s done a lot better than his younger sibling, is absolutely furious with his dad for welcoming the younger brother back. He won’t even go into the celebration when his dad pleads with him to come and enjoy. The older brother says something to the effect of “I’ve done the right thing this whole time! You never threw me a party! And yet, my brother acted a fool and comes back when his money is gone and you throw HIM a party? That’s not fair!”
Can I admit that even though his argument annoys me, the older brother’s logic made some sense to me? And I found myself nodding and thinking, “Wait…but he did everything right…”
And that’s when Jesus gently and truthfully whispered into my heart that I’m less perfect than I ever dared imagine – no matter what rules I do follow. When you’ve idolized perfection for so long, that’s an offensive truth.
And that’s when the full impact of the gospel hits like a hurricane of unrivaled love.
If I accept how sinful I am (I know, I know. It’s heavy. It’s not fun to think about. It’s offensive, even), then how much more does Jesus mean to me?
All of a sudden, I need Jesus. I love Him even more. I am in love with the Son who loves me with reckless abandon, asking for nothing in return. Never asking for performance. Asking only for my whole heart.
Jesus says this about a sinful woman whom He allowed to anoint His feet with her best perfume, “I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. Then Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ “- Luke 7:47-48.
The truth is, Jesus forgives us all much. It’s up to us to decide whether we will let Him.
If we pretend we don’t need much forgiveness (with the flawed thinking that surely we must have followed the rules better than the next guy), then I suppose we only have the ability to love little rather than love much.
One more thing.
Did you know that when Christianity first spread, right after Jesus was crucified for us, it was considered anti-religious. Yes. Christianity was considered anti-religious. According to Tim Keller, the religious people of that day asked, “Where is your temple?…Where do your priests labor?…Where are the sacrifices made to please your gods?” And Christians would have responded that they did not make sacrifices anymore. Jesus himself was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices” (Keller, Prodigal God).
Keller closes with this: “The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him” (Keller, Prodigal God).
Please here this: God does give us boundaries and rules that breathe life and are pure. They show us how to live abundantly and by so doing, glorify Him.
But I pray we will be a people who admit and embrace with humble hearts our big need for Jesus, so His big forgiveness can take place in our hearts, overflowing into big love for Him and for others.
Blessings and love to you today,
“The men at the table said among themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?‘ And Jesus said to the [sinful woman who anointed His very feet] “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:49-50).