I have a problem. Some people might pridefully think that they are like God. Sure, that seems problematic. Believe it or not, I think my problem is bigger than that. My problem is that I think God is like me. Certainly not in every way. I know he is bigger and more powerful than me. I know that he holds the world in his hands and governs the course of the stars (and that I do not). But I do think he’s like me in this way: he loves with my kind of love.
There are times when I look at myself that I see someone who is hard to love. I see a 23-year-old young man, who, despite his best intentions (and sometimes because of them) repeatedly falls flat on his face. He comes crawling back, only to collapse under the weight of his own issues and griefs. I see a desperate overachiever who is constantly setting higher and higher goals for himself, trying to pack more and more things into a day in order to feel qualified to be studying theology at graduate school and constantly failing to meet his own goals.
When I look at that, I don’t love that person. In fact, I’m repulsed by him; I find him pathetic. And since God practices my kind of love, God must not love that person either.
Maybe I’m the only person who thinks God is like me. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks there’s no way God could love me on my darkest days, because I certainly don’t love myself. Maybe I’m the only one who limits on God’s love based on how I feel about myself. But I suspect I’m not alone in this.
And into our brokenness, and our struggle, and our limiting God, he speaks. He speaks words that continue to blow my mind, years after I’ve first heard them. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
At first, these words aren’t soothing; they are painful. They are confronting words, ripping out my ideas about God, and pointing to the cross, the greatest demonstration of love the world has seen. This, the gospel, confronts me and tells me I’m wrong and it hurts. The effort to tear my eyes off myself and look at the cross is difficult, yet Christ pushes and confronts, whispering those precious words of love.
In reality, God is not like me. He does not limit his love. He is the father who welcomes the prodigal back over and over. He is the shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep and brings him back. He is the woman who throws a party over finding her lost coin. He is the one who would willingly endure the tortures of hell on the cross to show me he loves me.
This week, may we be reminded that God doesn’t love with a limited love. He doesn’t love with my kind or your kind of love that turns away from our own darkness. Instead he sees it, and sends his Son to take care of it, loving us all the way to the cross.
I think all that I have left to say is wow. May we be wowed by the love of God this week.