As with many of us, I don’t think I fully understood the concept of “unconditional love” until I became a parent myself. When I gave birth to my baby girl, I suddenly realized why my parents didn’t disown me. There was a fierce and powerful love for my child, even though she had never done anything to deserve it. I knew, no matter what she would ever do, no condition or circumstance could break it.
It’s overwhelming to think that God feels that way about me— but even deeper (Romans 8:15; 8:17; 8:21). His love is not based on my efforts or goodness, but on His mercy alone (Romans 9:16). A speeding ticket, back talk, eye rolls and defiance didn’t separate me from the love of my earthly parents. However, the Bible takes it a million steps further in saying that neither death nor life, angels or demons, the present or future, nor any powers, height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from God’s love for us (Romans 8: 38-39).
That’s a fierce and powerful love.
I bet if you’re reading this, you could classify the love you have for your own child as fierce and powerful. But I bet you also know that just loving your child hard isn’t enough. Fierce and powerful love for our children also means teaching them lessons for living a life that leads to joy and peace.
If my parents had never set boundaries and rules for speeding, there probably would have been many more speeding tickets and accidents. While their boundaries and rules seemed tough as a child, I know now that they saved me from further trials and regret. Similarly, Paul doesn’t stop in Romans 11 with just the foundations of God’s love for us. He continues in chapters 12-16 to discuss the practical applications for living our life out of that love. Paul understood that the practical applications he writes about would lead us to a life of joy and peace as we trust in God (Romans 15:13), rather than a life of trials and regret from trusting in ourselves (Romans 7:5).
God’s love is fierce and powerful. There’s nothing that could ever happen to change the way He feels about us. It is out of that love that He gives us boundaries for protection.
Love and boundaries aren’t adverse to each other, they go hand in hand. Allow His extravagant love to sink deep and saturate your soul, and know every instruction in His Word stems from Him wanting the best for your life.
Growing up in church, Jesus was often compared to these fairytale heroes— making me the princess. I didn’t hate it. After all, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine were strong, independent, and intelligent. Sure, they needed physical or emotional rescuing at some point, but they ultimately played some part in defeating the enemy.
Now that I have a deeper understanding of the Gospel, I realize that’s not at all how God’s love story works. I love Paul’s rich letter to the church at Rome, in which he thoroughly and beautifully unpacks the doctrine of salvation to new believers.
In Romans, He says, “…rarely will someone die for a just person— though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:6-8)
In these verses, Paul makes it clear that when we were saved:
These aren’t the most uplifting facts I’ve ever heard about myself. There’s a prideful part of me that likes to think my good works played a part in the story, or that He chose me because of what I could bring to the table.
But Jesus didn’t rescue me because of any of those things. He rescued me simply because of His love for Me. That’s humbling.
There is only one hero in God’s love story, and it’s not us— it’s Jesus.
Knowing this truth gives us freedom. If God’s love and grace for us is completely unmerited, then it’s not on us to sustain it. This doesn’t give us a free ticket to do whatever we please— As Christ-followers, He invites us into His Great Story.
I’m often prone to get a big head about this, too. I constantly have to remind myself I’m not the hero.
Here are some signs I’m making too much of myself:
I compare myself and my ministry to others.
I feel chained by my Christian “to-do list.”
I allow fear to keep me from what I know God is asking me to do.
Friend, have you made yourself the hero in God’s story? It’s time to give Jesus back His rightful place. Have you doubted Jesus’ affections for you? Remember there’s nothing you did to earn His love, and there’s nothing you can do to lose it.
God’s story is greater than any story Disney (or Lifetime) could ever produce, or that our minds could ever fully conceive. Give thanks to the One True Hero for all He’s done. Go, and grow His Kingdom.
As it turns out, God created us to be reflections of who we spend time with and what we turn our attention to. We were designed for intimacy with Him, and intended to reflect His goodness and grace.
I Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, to contemplate something means “to think carefully or deeply about something.”
The surest way to any transformation is the way we think. We can be transformed for the better or for the worse depending on who or what we contemplate.
How often do we contemplate...
The “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios and become filled with anxiety?
How we’ve been wronged and find ourselves bitter and filled with unforgiveness?
Everything our marriage is not and find our marriage degrading into further turmoil?
How we’ve messed up with our kids and fallen into further burdensome shame?
On what others have (or have not) in comparison to us and become envious or prideful?
The truth is, we become like who or what we behold. The surest way to become who God originally created us to be is to spend our time looking in the right direction. When we look to Him, our perspective begins to change to what is true. When we look at the wrong things, we begin to believe lies rather than truth (much like what happened with my hair situation.)
What if, instead of the negative, we began to contemplate…
God who is with us no matter what life holds for us?
God who loves us, defines who we are, and is the defender of our hearts?
God who fights with us for the good and restoration of relationships?
God who is our Forgiver and the Lifter of our heads?
God who is the One who loves to satisfy us with Himself and teaches us to walk in humility?
As Christ-followers, we should be becoming a little more like Jesus each day. Today, take special notice of what your mind is focusing on. Are they thoughts of comparison, shame, or pride? Or are they thoughts towards Jesus, His truth, His perfection, and His glory?
If we begin to find ourselves wandering towards old ways of thinking, let’s turn our focus back and contemplate the God Who is with us, fighting for us and bigger than any situation we could ever face.
We are conditioned from a young age to think that love is summed up in the magical scenes we see on TV, where people fall in love and families live happily ever after. And while those fairy tales sometimes do come true, it isn’t typically without some sort of hardship. Paul describes for us in beautiful detail in 1 Corinthians what love is and what it is not. He shows us the type of love we are to practice during our walk here on earth, yet, inevitably, we fall short.
As humans, we break promises and hurt those we deeply care for, but Jesus, in His perfect existence and His sacrificial death for us, defines unfailing love. Without Him, we will always falter at His command to love in all that we do. We must have faith when we fail, and when we are failed by others, He is our redemption.
Today, I say to you the same words I share in response to those really hard questions from my foster children:
Precious babies, in the end, even if it all worked out perfectly, nothing will fulfill that deep, innate longing for love within you except for Jesus. I want you to know that even though there is hurt, your birth parents love you so very much. However, their love, like mine, is wildly imperfect.
But wait! This is where Jesus comes in and it gets really good. See, despite our failures as humans, He has never once stopped loving you. He knows how many strands of hair are on your head. He knows what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. He hears you each time you pray for your family and smiles when you show love to your siblings.
He has always been there for you and will always be there for you. You are wanted. You are loved. You were carefully created in the image of your heavenly father, Jesus.
He is the one that will never let you down and will never forsake you, even if other people do. He is the one that loves you so much that He gave his life for you.
Your story is only beginning and you are loved more than you could ever imagine.
I love you, Mama LaL
If so, this proves that you are living your lives centered on yourselves, dominated by the mind-set of the flesh, and behaving like unbelievers. For when you divide yourselves up in groups - a “Paul group” and an “Apollos group” - you’re acting like people without the Spirit’s influence.”
The early church in Corinth was struggling. Like every major city throughout history, it was cutting-edge modern, highly individualistic. New believers were struggling to make their faith work in their diverse culture. As Paul wrote to this body of believers, he wasn’t trying to get them to conform to his identity— Paul was writing to help them understand what it means to be God’s children.
Our emotions are like the eggs in a recipe. They serve an important purpose and function. Our emotions are divinely designed to provide structure and stability to our faith journey, and to our part in community. When we ignore our emotions and let them run unchecked, we become out of balance and unstable. In Paul’s words, we “act like people without the Spirit’s influence.”
We are triune beings; we have a spirit, a soul, and a body. Our soul is the seat of our emotions. It’s our passions, our pains, and our thoughts— all of which direct our attitudes and actions. Jealousy, comparison, offense all are fruit of our soul. But they are bad fruit. When our soul is wounded and left unchecked, it wreaks havoc on ourselves, and our relationships.
Paul’s word to the believers in Corinth is to bring ourselves back under the Spirit’s influence. Practically, we bring those wounded areas to Jesus and let Holy Spirit heal them. This is the process of being Spirit-led (Galatians 5:18). Being Spirit-led, not soul-led, is how we live together in community, united even in our diversity. Allowing Holy Spirit to tend to the wounds in our soul keeps the structure and stability.
Jealousy, comparison, and offense are healed with forgiveness and stepping back into Grace. Without forgiving and releasing people, we are forgetting the glue that holds us together: the blood of Jesus.
Where do you need to step back into Holy Spirit’s influence? Who do you need to forgive and release back to Jesus? Maybe you need to forgive someone in your family, or even yourself. Maybe you need to forgive someone at your church, or your boss at work.
Repent from giving into those comparing and judging thoughts. Give them to Jesus. Ask Him what He has for you. Ask Jesus to give you eyes to see things the way He sees them, and come back under Holy Spirit’s influence.