“Daddy … I love you just the way you are.”
Seriously, y’all … she melts my heart! Is there anything I wouldn’t do for my 3 year-old daughter?! I’m utterly powerless to resist this little one expressing unconditional love! And it truly is unconditional, for I’ve given her plenty of reason to love me conditionally. I’ve put her to bed hungry. I’ve unjustly punished her. I’ve raised my voice in utter frustration at something completely unrelated to her. She’s got the reasons to only sometimes love me, but she doesn’t.
She loves me just the way I am.
It is not unlike God’s love for me, though I still … still … struggle to believe it, for I’ve given Him plenty of reasons to not love me.
The good news, however, is that I’m not alone. God’s people have always struggled to grasp His unconditional love.
Consider Psalm 107.
According to verses 4-6, we were lost in sin. “Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died. ‘Lord, help!’ they cried in their trouble.”
Verses 10-12 describe God’s people as rebellious prisoners subject to hard labor for their sin. “Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them.”
Verse 17 shows them as sick or afflicted due to their sin. “Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction.”
God’s people are prideful traders humbled by His control of the sea in verses 25-27—”He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end.”
These are less-than-stellar, yet truthful, descriptions of God’s people. Descriptions of you and me. Lost. Imprisoned. Afflicted. Storm-tossed.
And yet in each of these stanzas, there is this reminder: “Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them” (verses 8, 15, 21, and 31).
The message could not be clearer. God does not love us because we are good, spiritual, obedient or faithful. NO. God loves us because He is love.
And in His love for us, He leads us to do good. He leads us to repentance. He leads us to obedience. He leads us to stay the course.
He does not love us because we are those things—His love for us leads us to become those things.
Our tendency is to look back on our sinful past and think, “God cannot love me.” In effect, we are saying, “I must be good for God to love me.” But this Psalm teaches us to look back on our sinful past (and ahead to our sinful future!) and realize that God loves us just the way we are because He is love. “Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.” (Psalm 107:43, NLT)