The other night I had to stop my four year old from praying.
Every night I gather at the head of her bed, just as I do with her sisters, and we pray together. I let her go first, as usual, and listen to her four year old pleas to God. Normally they revolve around the same things: thank you for this day, thank you that you’re big and strong, thank you for our food, help us love you, etc. But that night she prayed something different.
“Father God, help us to be good so that Jesus won’t be angry with us, because we know that if we make Jesus angry then he won’t love us anymore.”
What? Where did she hear that from?
In truth, she didn’t hear it from anyone, but it came from her own heart. All of us, by nature, see God this way. We think that his love for us is based on us behaving a certain way. If we’re good God loves us, but if we’re bad then he doesn’t.
What a damnable heresy.
I stopped Ellie, grabbed her hand, and told her firmly, lovingly, joyfully, “Ellie, what you just said is not true. It’s a lie. Jesus doesn’t love you because you’re good. In fact, the Bible tells us that while we were sinners – while we were bad, Jesus loved us and died for us. The reason Jesus loves you is because he wants to – it’s based on his desire, not your being good. If you really believe that Jesus is God, and that he was raised from the dead, then you can’t make him angry with you. You’re his daughter and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”
I dont’ know if she “got it” that night. She didn’t say anything else, just started praying again, more in line with her usual prayers, which she punctuated by rubbing my face and pinching my nose.
I went to bed that night thinking about how many people within the church feel the same way Ellie felt. They live their lives in fear and doubt, wondering if God is really pleased with them. But we can be sure. We do not have to live in fear or doubt because God’s love for us is not based on what we do – at all. Not one bit.
That’s why the Gospel is such great news!
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4
That day I also ran across this short video, in which Matt Chandler sums up this truth perfectly. Watch it. Read Romans 8. Believe.