As the body of Christ, one of the things we struggle with a lot is the negative perception we have amongst non – believers. Hypocritical. Hateful. Self – righteous. These are adjectives that have been used to describe us. The thing the world is to know us for, love, is the exact thing it seems not to see in us. And I know why.
I believe many of us are living our lives from a position of not fully understanding the love that God has for us, & it’s hurting us. We seek to live the Christian life out of grit, seeking to love God and others in fulfillment of a command, and not as an overflowing response to the love the King has for us.
The Bible says in 1 John 4:19 KJV, “We love him, because He first loved us.” The original text for this verse doesn’t have the “him” between “love” & “because.” It’s simply – “we love because He first loved us.” God’s great love for us empowers us to in turn love Him and those around us.
See, it’s difficult to love someone unconditionally if you’re yet to receive God’s unconditional love. If your belief is that God loves you based on how good you are, then you tend to love others based on how good you think they are, treating them based on what they do, & withholding love until they conform to your standard.
God’s unconditional love is revealed to us through his grace. The Bible in 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “For He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” That. we. might. be. made. the. righteousness. of. God. Think about that. Meditate on it for a bit. Jesus – holy, righteous, blameless Jesus, became sin. Not by any sin He committed, but by receiving our sins on the cross. On the cross, God treated Him as a sinner, yet He did no wrong. But then something else happened. An exchange took place. We, who did sin, who didn’t fulfill God’s law, were made righteous. Not by what we did, but by receiving Jesus’ righteousness.
In the times of the Old Testament, the Israelites, as a sacrifice for their sins, had to present a blemishless animal to the High Priest. He would then scrutinise the animal (not the sinner) to ensure that it had no blemish. Once he was satisfies that it was blemishless, the sinner would then place their hands on the animal, and their sins would be transferred to the animal. The animal would be killed as a sacrifice, and the individual would walk away free. And this they had to do every year, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).” [Read Hebrews 10:1-23 for a further breakdown of this paragraph]
This was a temporary solution. Jesus was the real deal.
With Jesus, He came and died once, for all & for all time. He’s not coming back again to be crucified. His sacrifice for us on the cross was final. Jesus went to the cross, was found blameless before God, and was therefore an acceptable sacrifice for our sin. Our sin went onto Him, and we walk away free, having received His righteousness. Therefore, when we come before God, He doesn’t scrutinise us to see what sins we have committed before he decides to bless us or answer our prayers. Jesus took our sin, paid the price, and set us free from that scrutiny, liberating us into a life under grace and being led by the Holy Spirit.
This is the basis upon which we receive God’s unconditional love: Jesus, who never sinned, took our sin upon Himself, & in exchange gave us His righteousness. Jesus became a sinner on the cross by taking our sin and putting it upon Himself, so that we, who could not completely keep the law and were sinners, might be made righteous by receiving His righteousness.
We are righteous in Christ. That right there is something many struggle to understand, say & accept about themselves. We believe that God sees and judges us based on our actions and not as who we are in Christ.
Something we need to understand is this: as human beings, we’re 3 part: spirit, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23). Yes, there’s a difference between spirit and soul 🙂 We are a spirit, that has a soul (mind, will & emotions), that lives in a body. When we get saved, the part of us that is changed, that becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), is who we are at the core, spirit.
And God is Spirit. The reason why we can receive God’s unconditional love is because He sees us as spirits, & in our spirits, we’ve been made perfect in Christ. He doesn’t treat us based on what we do (body), think or feel (soul). He treats us based on who we are in our spirits. It’s in our spirits that we’re righteous, and God, being spirit as well, relates to us Spirit to spirit.
“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
– John 4:23-24 MSG
If we’re always walking in fear about whether God loves us or accepts us, it becomes difficult for us to love others. If we are not grounded in God’s unconditional love for us, if we’ve never truly experienced this unconditional love for ourselves, it becomes difficult for us to extend that same love to others.
The cross is the foundation upon which we’re to live our lives. On the cross is where God’s unconditional love for us is revealed. The more the church grows in its understanding & appreciation of God’s grace towards it, as revealed at the cross, the easier it shall be for it to walk in love and consequently restore it’s initial brand image & promise – to love.