“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
Drop this statement on me, and I will consider you a terrorist. That one little sentence will sit on my psyche all day, quiet and menacing. Like an unmarked, unattended package at my local airport, I will be afraid to open it. My greatest hope is that it will contain little more than packing popcorn and static cling.
Why do I display such animosity in the face of such a wonderful truth, you ask?
Because used car salesmen have said the exact same thing to millions of gullible, first-time customers. “I have only your best interests at heart. Take a look at this Pinto! It’s cheap, uses little fuel, and is almost guaranteed to not blow up in your face.”
How many North Americans can hear the words “wonderful plan for your life” and not think of a house, two cars, two kids, a dog, and an early retirement? It’s the American dream, baby, and we just attached God’s love to it. And what happens when we default on the mortgage, the neighbor buys a nicer car, one of the kids gets leukemia, the dog pukes on the carpet and we have to work ourselves into an early grave?!
Kabboom, goes the Pinto.
We cheapen God’s love when we attach anything to it. “God loves you. But in case His love isn’t good enough on its own, I want you to know that He’d be delighted if you joined Amway.”
Back in the day, when God fully demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus, He wrapped the gift in circumstances that forced us to accept His love on its own merits. No tricks. No lofty political promises. No buy-now-pay-later schemes. Quite the opposite, in fact. Just so that there would be no confusing the issue, He threw in a bit of crucifixion and the Roman coliseum. Welcome to the good life!
The gospel according to Jesus is quite a read: “God loves you. If you want to follow me, you have to leave everything else. If they persecute me, don’t think they’ll be nice to you. This is eternal life: that you may know both God and me- because God sent me. Do not be afraid. Peace I leave with you. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, because I have overcome the world…”
Then his disciple Paul tries encouraging the church by saying things like, “…God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Here’s what I’ve discovered: God loves you, and proved it by sending Jesus. Get to know him, and you’ll see what I mean. The good news about Jesus is a matter of Life and death, and Life wins.
“…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)