It means a great deal to us that God’s love comes no strings attached– matters greatly that the love of the Father is unconditional, if only because love like that is so hard to find. The people we care about have immense power to harm us, precisely because they can pull their love out from under us in the turn of a word, smash our hearts into a billion little pieces. Relationships are terrifyingly fragile, for all that we treat them like fortresses. The worst of it is, we know we aren’t perfect, can’t always measure up to people’s expectations and wishes, and it is only a matter of time before they see who we really are and turn away. I wonder how much of life for most of us is trying to be enough to deserve the affection we desire. But God is different than that. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) It is the very picture of love undeserved.
And yet, our understanding of what that means gets a little fuzzy in everyday use. Somehow no strings attached translates as no demands in our thinking, until we get to feeling like we are pretty lucky to have this great gift and still be able to pursue a good life by making people happy….like maybe this is the one relationship we will not have to put effort into. But while unconditional love may mean that there’s nothing I can do to gain more or less of it, it does not necessarily follow that unconditional love will not require something of me. Love doesn’t have strings that manipulate, but it very definitely has ties that bind; and although God doesn’t require me to do anything to earn His love, still I will be working gladly to honor that great gift for the rest of my life. Anything less would disrespect the Giver.
Grace means that God accepts me right where I am, knowing full well that I am not enough and can never measure up. But He is not about to leave me in that sorry state. As Paul explained it to the first believers, “God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity He restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him. After God made that decision of what His children should be like, He followed it up by calling people by name. After He called them by name, He set them on a solid basis with Himself. And then, after getting them established, He stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what He had begun.” (Romans 8:29, The Message) That is a pretty big agenda, and not optional, much to my frequent surprise.
So from the moment of my adoption He was already working to change my life. Grace is a relieved freedom from trying to get somewhere on my own, but it is hardly freedom to do what I like. God’s love allows me to become who I was always meant to be, and that person was designed and created by Him to be whole and healed and beautiful in Jesus’ light: alive with His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His gentleness, His self-control. It costs me nothing to receive, but it will cost everything to live it out.
And we will not regret it even a little.
God gives you grace and acceptance before you overcome your sin.
Because it’s His grace and acceptance that let you overcome your sin.
You don’t overcome your brokenness to have God’s love.
It’s God’s love that has you overcoming your brokenness. (Ann VosKamp)
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)