Friday, December 01, 2006

Unconditional Love?

It seems to me that many people confuse the love of God and the holiness of God. God is love - period! End of point! And nothing can separate us from that love whether we are believers or non-believers. But God is holy too! Holiness cannot coexist with unholiness or it's not really holy! Are you with me? It's the love of God that provided a way for unholy "us" to have a relationship with a holy "Him"! While love is unconditional, to enjoy the benefits of His love we must meet the requirements of His holiness. Fortunately that is what grace does. His grace declares us holy because of what Jesus did in the cross. That is why He had to die there and why God had no alternative. Grace is the free gift of God, but it certainly is not unconditional. It requires faith; it requires walking in the light; and it requires a seeking heart (because that is what God rewards - Heb.11:6)

Now isn't that impressive theology? I'm not trying to impress, but I am trying to be emphatic. One of the most overlooked "conditions" in all of the Bible, and one of the most difficult spiritual qualities to consistently develop is forgiveness. Jesus said it first, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15) That's one of the toughest "ifs" we will ever face in our life. How can you forgive someone who hurts you so deeply? Jesus did it - at the cross! How can you forgive someone who hurts someone you dearly love? God did it - at the cross. Doesn't that show us that it's not easy? Doesn't that show us that forgiveness doesn't mean freedom from pain and suffering? What it does mean is that forgiveness is something we must do to be like Him. It's not an option. There are no "scriptural exceptions" no "innocent parties". There is no way to just move on and ignore it. Jesus said do it or lose it!

The most difficult thing I've ever done is forgive people who've hurt me. It's harder than struggling with greed, pride, and lust. I think the reason for that is because it's truly just between me and God. Especially when forgiveness wasn't asked for or sought by those who did the hurting. Real faith is when we do what Jesus would do and it's clearly not for anyone else! And I can see how He used those "forgiving times" to mold my heart in ways that never would have happened without that spiritual challenge. It's easy to receive forgiveness. It's somewhat harder to accept it at times (because of our tendency to embrace guilt). The hardest, and every bit as essential, is giving it. When we do - well, that's when we truly understand the Cross.


MaryAnn said...

I loved what you said about growing and learning spiritual truths in those times of forgiving others. God NEVER said being in relationships would be easy or that we wouldn't have to go through conflict and forgive. THAT IS HOW WE LEARN TRUE LOVE!!!! WHAT a humble and beautiful way to know Christ! Thank you for sharing this today.

elizabeth said...

Dad, I'm honored to know the man behind those words. Thank you.

deborah said...

I think one of the hardest things for me to do was forgive those people who've hurt you too. I can forgive people who hurt me, but when they hurt those whom I love the most...that's a different story. Thank you for this post.