As a child, I sang “Jesus Loves Me” almost every week at Sunday school. I can still picture the room with its metal folding chairs. We children dutifully sang:
“Jesus loves me when I’m good,
When I do the things I should,
Jesus loves me when I’m bad,
Though it makes Him very sad.”
The errant theology I absorbed from this popular children’s song (if one of the more obscure verses) was that Jesus loved me more — I was more approved and accepted — when I did “the things I should.” When I was bad, however, Jesus stood there with a look of disappointment and maybe even a tear running down His face.
I was an adult before it truly sank in that God’s love was not dependent on my actions or ability to be good. God’s faithfulness and love are completely dependable because they are aspects of His unchanging character. When I am faithless, He remains faithful. He is love, therefore He can be nothing but loving.
As I interact with people around me, I notice that many of us hold some version of this idea that God looks upon us with disapproval and that we must clean up our lives before coming to Him. But since we can never clean up our lives enough to meet God’s standard of holiness, this concept can keep us stuck in our “bad”— feeling hopeless to change or be different.
The real Jesus
I suppose the idea that Jesus is sad when I sin is partially true. But He isn’t sad for himself; He feels compassion for me. When we look at how Jesus interacted with sinners during His ministry, He exhibited care because He saw they were victims of their sin and the enemy’s power in their lives. Matthew 9:36 tells us: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
“Jesus always moves toward the sinner,” a mentor recently told me. When Jesus interacted with the woman caught in adultery, He said, “Has no one condemned you? … Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11). Something that stands out in Jesus’ response to the woman is that He’s not surprised nor broken up by her sinful lifestyle. Instead, He unreservedly offers her freedom to start fresh.
In a similar incident, Jesus interacts with a woman at a well who has come alone (likely because she is a social outcast for her promiscuous lifestyle). Though He knows her story, He doesn’t express disappointment over her sin. Instead, He offers her living water (eternal life), telling her, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14).
Our Savior, who died to pay the penalty for sin and restore our right standing with God, doesn’t stand with arms crossed frowning at our sin. Instead, He waits for us to turn to Him because He is the only prescription that will heal us. That’s the beauty of the gospel: God’s approval of us is based not on our own behavior, but on the righteousness of His Son. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us this beautiful truth, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
God doesn’t hate you — quite the opposite. He loves you so deeply that for your sake, He sacrificed His Son so that you might become His beloved child.
Letting go and reaching out
When I labor under the impression that I can somehow please God and earn His approval through my own behavior, I will inevitably feel depleted and defeated. I may even be tempted to stop trying, believing His love is easy to lose. But when I realize that God approves of me through His Son, it frees me to run to Him for help in trouble and temptation.
If you are struggling in a sin or addiction, Jesus stands by, full of compassion, longing to be the solution to your struggles and the One who satisfies your soul. He desires to embrace you and help you walk a new path of freedom, obedience and joy. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
God loves you. You are not a lost cause. You are never too far gone. Forgiveness and restoration are possible. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, His love and mercy are bigger, and He has a great plan for you. Nothing can separate you from His love. Take that to heart today. Imagine Him smiling, inviting you into deeper love than you’ve ever known. Jesus loves me, this I know. And He loves you too.
Copyright 2023 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.