lavished

“And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God…” 1 John 2:28-3:1a

I had to hop over to dictionary.com because typing that word in the title bar felt a little weird, but I can confirm: lavish means to bestow generously. In extravagant quantities, Merriam-Webster says, produced in abundance, marked by excess.

What an incredible way to describe the love of God.

As something that doesn’t run out, as overflowing, unable to be distributed in moderation. He loves relentlessly, incomprehensibly, overwhelming, and yes, I know how close I’m getting to a Cory Asbury song here. God’s love for us is an outpouring, undeserved and unimaginable, comforting and constant, and it’s because of Who He is, not what I’ve done.

If you asked any Christian, myself included, if God loves us during our trials and hard times, we’ll say yes. Of course He’s there, or course He wants to carry us, of course He’s by our sides during the storm. That’s what they teach us from Day One: God loves us, He’s with is in our struggles, He shelters us.

But modify that question just a bit—does God still love me if the hard times are the result of my own sin?—and for some reason, the answer is less clear.

Which is really messed up.

I can’t earn God’s love; good behavior doesn’t win me merit in His sight, and He doesn’t begrudge me my struggles only because I’ve tithed and kept Sabbath and held my tongue. He doesn’t hold me closely because I represented Him well; His peace is not a gold star for good efforts.

God doesn’t love me any less, if the trials and hardships I’m going through are the consequence of my own actions. Let me say that another way: my sin does not affect God’s outpouring of love over me.

So why do I think that when my actions have consequences, He’s waiting for me to perform well enough to get back under His wings? I have no problem accepting that He loves during unfair times due to general sin (i.e. sickness, death, financial hardship) but when the hard time is the result of my own mistakes, I set up a mental block that now God doesn’t love me.

Turns out, I’m just really bad at accepting deliverance.

I sin, I mess up, and I confess—a normal cycle. What I do next, though, isn’t surrender. I think of how far I’ve fallen, and I resolve to fix it.

Don’t worry, God, I’ll get us out of this.

As if the reason I’m in whatever predicament isn’t that exact behavior. Trusting myself above everything and everyone else is what leads to sin in the first place. Thinking I know better, thinking I can handle it, thinking it’ll be fine/I’ll fix it later. And I apply that same practice to my repentance, and God doesn’t ask for that.

He asks for us to be His children, to allow ourselves to be transformed and reprimanded and changed by His grace, to become pure in Him. In Him. Not by our own efforts, not by the penance we inflict, but because of His love. Because the righteousness of Christ covers all sin, including mine. God’s love is the remedy to all sin, mine included, and it’s not reserved. Lavished, remember? His love is a generous endowment, an endless outpouring, so absolutely undeserved but so desperately needed.

I can do the right thing all day, and it won’t make me a child of God. Only He can do that, only He can love me so much, only H e can make me confident and unashamed before Him.

In Isaiah, God calls His people to Him, promising to cleanse their sins. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool”. Sometimes I think I have to soak the stains for a bit, put in some elbow grease, bring my stained life before God once the bright crimson has faded to a more manageable color. But He promises complete renewal, from scarlet to wool. Think of that contrast, think of how completely, totally, soaked in sin we are, and how it couldn’t be less of an obstacle to God. He’s longing to help us, rinse us, make us pure in Him, call us His children. We have got to hand over the washing to Him, make that surrender complete, allow Him to work in us.

Our darkest sins are no match for the redemptive love of God. Our darkest sins are no match for the redemptive love of God. Our darkest sins are no match for the redemptive love of God. Our darkest sins are no match for the redemptive love of God. Our darkest sins are no match for the redemptive love of God. Our darkest sins are no match for the redemptive love of God. 

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