March 10, 2018
READ: Romans 8:1-2,14-16
You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children (vv.15-16).
Although God’s unconditional love is the foundation of faith in Jesus, really believing in unearned love isn’t easy. As Dale Ryan, CEO of Christian Recovery International, points out, even jokes depicting St. Peter’s questions at the ‘pearly gates’ reveal an assumption that God’s love is extended based on our beliefs.
But, as Ryan puts it, “If you find yourself at what you think are the gates of heaven and they pass out a quiz . . . . You have gone to the wrong place. . . . You will know you are approaching the real gates of heaven when—long before you arrive—you notice that there is someone in the distance running towards you” (see Luke 15:11-32).
This breathtaking image of God’s outstretched love is one that, for many, feels too good to be true. People typically understand God based on what they’ve experienced from others. If, for example, parents extend their approval conditionally, unpredictably, or not at all, children learn to see God the same way. Instead of freely running to their heavenly Father’s arms, unloved children become adults who are constantly afraid they’re unworthy of love, one sin away from being kicked out of God’s family.
But the family of God is nothing like families consumed by fear. “While we were still sinners,” God loved us so deeply He sent His Son to draw us back to Him (Romans 5:8). Now He invites us to be His own children in a family where we’re never condemned (8:1), free to enjoy a love nothing can “separate us” from (8:35; see also 5:11).
Healing from the wounds of others doesn’t happen quickly. But God is with us in the journey. Through His Spirit, He reminds us “how dearly [He] loves us,” each day filling and healing our hearts with His love (5:5).
365-day plan: Judges 13:1-25
Read 1 Corinthians 12:31–13:7 and reflect on how the church can be a family that displays God’s love.
When in your life have others showed you God’s unconditional love? In what ways might you extend that kind of love to others?