Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jesus and Sinners (Namely Me)

I had a lousy day the other day. And by that, I mean I was lousy. Undisciplined, unfocused, lazy, thoughtless, self-indulgent, careless, wasteful, self-absorbed, uncompassionate . . . all the things God's been working on in me. For a day there, I let it all fly to the wind and just didn't care how naughty I was.

And here's the thing: I don't think God was disappointed.

Disappointment involves a feeling of being let down -- of expectations not being met. You're disappointed in your child when you think she's matured to the point of being able to share her toys with a playmate and instead, she grabs back her Barbie doll and conks her friend over the head with it.

I don't think God was disappointed with my naughtiness because He expected me to be naughty.

Not in the sense that I'm a scum-of-the-earth worm incapable of righteous behavior and he knows it, but in the sense that he already knew how lousy I was going to be that day. God not only knows all the sins I've committed in the past -- He knows all the sins I'm going to commit in the future. When He looks at me, he sees the full gamut of my lifetime of wretched behaviors, thoughts, and motives. And still loves me unconditionally.

This is exactly what the Bible teaches. This is also the church's explicit teaching over the years, too, even though implicitly we may be taught otherwise. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had a hard time believing it . . . this scandalous idea that God loves sinners, while they're still sinners, before they have the chance or inclination to clean themselves up. Maybe because I don't love sinners very much. Maybe because I don't love myself when I'm sinning very much. But mostly, I think, because I think if God really loves me even when I'm lousy, I have no reason to be good.

This is religion. A man-made construct designed to keep humanity in line and under control so we don't all kill each other for each other's Barbie dolls. This is the dark side of the historical church. This is the hijacking of Christianity. But this is not Jesus.

Jesus is about a relationship -- a relationship He initiated with me before I even cared about him. A relationship that is genuinely for our mutual benefit: my joy and His glory. A relationship much like that of a parent with a newborn in that He has all the power, all the knowledge, all the love and He showers it all on me and in me so I grow to be like him . . . not SO He will love me, but BECAUSE He loves me.

I've always been a Good Girl. But I'm not a Good Girl anymore to make God love me. I'm a Good Girl because I'm so awed at how much He loves me already, and I love Him back.

Even after thirty-five years, I still need to be reminded what the Gospel -- the Good News -- is all about.

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