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Disappointed with Me? God's Unconditional Love

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Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time there was a king.  This king was good and wise and powerful.  He cared for his people and his land.  The king also had a son and a daughter.  He was a good Father who loved his children very much.  He took care of them and provided for their needs.  He played with them and enjoyed their company and gave them gifts.  The king taught his children and he was willing to discipline them when it was necessary.  He comforted them when they were sad or sick.  He also encouraged them to talk with him and to share their joys and accomplishments and problems and griefs.  The king was a marvellous father who loved his children with an overflowing love.

The prince and princess loved their father too and they also loved one another.  But there was something wrong.  Over time, the father continued to celebrate when his children grew or accomplished new things.  He also grieved when they were hurt, or when they avoided him, or hurt one another.  The children saw this, and they became confused. The prince and princess were glad that the king loved them and that he was pleased when they were good and forgave them when they were bad.  But they began to think that their father loved them more when they were good.  So they tried to do more and more good things, so the king would love them more.  They tried to impress their father.

The king tried to show them that he loved them regardless of their behaviour and accomplishments.  He loved them so much that he had good hopes and plans for them and was willing to help them reach those goals, but he loved them as they were, and he wanted them to enjoy his love.  The prince and princess couldn’t see this because they didn’t know the father completely.  The boy and girl were confused about their father’s love, so they began to feel badly about themselves.  They were afraid that they didn’t measure up in their father’s eyes.  So, the princess started trying to be better than the prince and the prince started to compete with the princess.  They found it more and more difficult to love their father or to love one another.  The prince and princess both started to hear their father’s rules as things they had to do in order to be loveable.  They stared to think of their father’s hopes for them as a set of accomplishments he expected them to complete.  The children were afraid to disappoint their father.  They looked like good, well behaved children... but the king was grieved for them because he wanted them to love him, and to love one another, and to truly know how much he loved them.

Have you met the prince, or the princess?

Disappointed With God? Disappointed With Me?

A few weeks ago, Pastor Stan led us through a three-week series called “Disappointed with God.”  We talked about how we can feel disappointed when God seems unfair, or silent, or absent.  Stan reminded us that God has acted to correct injustice, to speak to us, and to reveal Himself to us.  While we may sometimes feel disappointed with God, we can trust God’s faith, hope, and love.

But when it comes to trusting God’s love, there is another question to be asked...

Is God disappointed in us

God, who is perfect and holy, sees us and knows us... including all of our faults and fears and failures.  God has said things like “Be holy because I am holy.”  And we know that no matter how much we try, we fall short of that.

So does that mean that God disappointed in us when we fail?

Confused about the Father's Love

Now, most of us who have spent time in church remember that God knew we couldn’t live up to his perfect holiness.  Our sin separated us from God, but God loved us and chose to save us... God the Father sent Jesus Christ, God the Son, to live with us and to die for us.  Jesus became the only human who was able to live a perfectly holy life, and so God chooses to let us share in Jesus’ death and also in his resurrection.  This is the miracle of the Gospel.  This is grace.

We talk about love, and we talk about grace... but we act more like the prince and princess, afraid that God is disappointed in us and sure that God will love us more if only we can live up to his expectations.  It’s like we think that God has a list of expectations that we cannot possibly reach... and He’s watching us to see whether or not we can be perfect.  Then when we fail, God sighs in disappointment and says, “Oh well, maybe next time... I guess it’s a good thing that I can give them grace since they have messed up again.”

Like the prince and the princess, we are confused about the Father’s love.

Consider Your Own Loved Ones

Take some time right now, and think about someone you love.  If you are a parent, think of your child.  If not, then think of someone else whom you love deeply.

What is your love for that person like?  How do you feel about them?  Would you make sacrifices for their good?  What kinds of hopes and dreams to you have for them?  What would you do to help them realize those dreams?  Would you love them more if they fulfilled those hopes?  Do you love them less when they make mistakes?  When they fail at things?  What about when they do something that hurts you?   How would you feel if they started to believe that you required certain things from them... things they couldn’t possibly do by themselves... and that you would love them less if they didn’t manage it? What is your favourite memory that you share with the person you love? How do you show them that you love them? 

God's Overflowing Love

That kind of love is what John was talking about when he wrote his letter.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Most of us love our children and our dearest friends and family with an unconditional love... but many of us have trouble believing that God loves us that way.

But God’s love is wider and longer and higher and deeper than ours.  God’s love is freer and more gracious and more merciful.  God’s love is marvellously and absolutely unconditional.  Not only that, but God’s love is also giving and sacrificial.  Earlier I asked how you show your love to your dear ones. 

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus’ life and death is not simply God’s concession to our sinfulness.  It’s the overflowing of the Father’s love for us and for the world.  This is love... and it doesn’t start with us.  This love begins with God.  In fact, God is love.  All of his actions and his character can be summed up as love. 

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength.  But we don’t have to create that love out of thin air.  We love because God first loved us. Our love is a response to His love... and God’s love teaches us what love means.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  We can rely on God’s love... we can rely on Him to love us as we are, to rejoice when we love Him in return, to celebrate our successes, to grieve with us and comfort us when we hurt, to encourage us, and to have good plans for us. 

We can also know that He will love us when we fail and even when we hurt God and one another.  God loves enough that sometimes, like any good parent, He does choose to discipline us.  But we can trust and have confidence that God’s love for us will see us through... both today, and in the future, when we stand before Him in the judgement.  God loves us and he sees in us the righteousness of His Son, Jesus.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  That does not mean that we don’t love God at all at if we have some fear about God’s love for us. It does mean that we can relax in God’s love... His love is perfect, so we can let his perfect love drive out our fears about whether we are loveable and whether we are good enough.  The truth is that God’s love makes us loveable and gives us worth.  The more we begin to realize and believe that, the more complete and perfect our love will become. 

I have realized recently that although I would never say that God’s love for me is conditional, I have often acted that way.  I have tried to live up to God’s expectations of me... forgetting that God doesn’t have a set of expectations that I must strive to reach.  At times, I have tried to become worthy of the love that God gave me freely.  Perhaps you have felt or acted that way too.  Perhaps you have felt deep in your heart that if God really knew you... if he really saw you... God would decide you weren’t worth loving after all.  If this is so, John gives encouragement in chapter 3 of his letter: This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

God Knows Us and God Loves Us

God knows us and He loves us as we are.  He knows what we are capable of on our own, and He knows what we can do in his power.  God knows all of this... even when our own hearts tell us that we fall short and our enemy whispers to us that God wouldn’t possibly want to love us... God is greater than our hearts.  God chooses to lavish His deep and overflowing love on us.

This love overflows from God’s heart to our heart, and it should then overflow into love for those around us.  This is John’s main point in this section of his letter and it weaves through the entire passage:  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love... Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.... We love because he first loved us. If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen.  And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love one another.

We love others because God loves us... God has called us to love each other, and His love overflows out of our hearts for one another.  This is a challenge, but it’s also an encouragement.  On the days when we do not feel loving, God still loves us... and He even makes it possible for us to share His love with others.

This is the truth... God knows you and He loves you.  God does not have impossible expectations for you... God has hopes and dreams for you and He intends to help you achieve them. God is not disappointed with you.  Even when you fail and you sin, God is saddened for you, but it does not lower your worth in His eyes.  God loves you with an overflowing love, and He desires for you to love him in return, and to love His other children.  God’s love for you is unconditional, and He has shown that by sending His son to live and die and be resurrected on our behalf.  God is our King and our Father... and He has chosen you... you are God’s child... his prince or princess. 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

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