The contestant fearfully strolls up to the microphone. Attempting to stay calm and maintain a certain degree of composure only makes her breath quicken more. She couldn’t have practiced more for this moment, but she inwardly panics wondering if it was enough. With the bright lights blinding, she can hear the crowd offering generous applause, but she knows that if she fails to deliver, the mercurial support could waiver in a moment.
Positioned in the middle of the room, she sees them. Seated at the table, the professional experts are cautiously awaiting her performance. These talent judges will determine a perspective in moments on a skill that she has taken a lifetime to hone. After a few obligatory questions, one of the judges abruptly commands her to begin. It’s now or never. As the music commences, she attempts to give the opportunity the most valiant effort she can possibly muster. In these mere seconds, these judges have the power to start or stop her career. They are unaware she has had a horrible day at work, uncaring she had developed allergies with the changing of the season, and unwilling to wait too long to be wowed. If she is to gain acceptance, she must deliver, and she must deliver now.
Many people’s depiction of God is that of a talent judge. As we perform for him, a blasé expression at first gives us no indication regarding how he feels towards us. God is not the loved one on the side believing in us, bragging on us, and encouraging us to share our gift with the world. Instead, we often view God as the harsh critic demanding perfection. Such an expectation scoffs at the notion of a second chance. He is unwilling to exhibit patience with us when we fail to deliver. His ear is magnetized to our wrong notes more than our good ones. Regarding our performance, he would have suggested an alternate song, key, and wardrobe. In fact, his standard is so high, we wouldn’t be surprised if he shortened the abbreviated song even more than initially intended and just put us out of our embarrassing misery. With a disapproving grimace, he critiques the entire performance, questions even our attempt in this particular field, and refuses to allow us to advance to the next round. Walking off the stage, our hopeful anticipations fade like the stage lights behind us. We will never earn the respect of this God.
God is not a talent judge. God is love.
The Love of God
The love of God is such a foundational attribute that it creates a unique challenge to describe it. While God is obviously aware of our performance, his standard is so high that no one could possibly meet his expectations. So, how is he in a relationship with any person if none of us can bear the weight of his proper scrutiny? The only reason any of us can know God is because he loves us.
The love of God means God has an unconditional and undeserving affection for us.
We struggle accepting an unconditional love in this life. Even if you refuse to admit it, every tenderness we receive on earth has some type of conditions attached to it. The talent judge phenomenon sneaks itself into so many of our personal relationships. The fact of someone’s love for us may not be conditional, but the amount of it surely is. Not with God. Since God’s character and conditions are so high, there is no way for a person to remain still standing upon the stage. His unconditional affection means he loves us just the way we are. He is not waiting for us to impress him with anything.
God’s love is also undeserving. With such impeccable character and worth, it makes no sense to why he would love people as unworthy as us. While his love being unconditional speaks to our inability to exhibit enough positive traits, the undeserving aspect of his passion relates to our ever increasing list of negative qualities. Not only are we deficient in what could make us lovable, but we also excel in what makes us unlovable. Our days are filled with selfish, moody displays of prideful, despicable moments. Our consistent patterns of behavior neglect a needed level of self-awareness. We fail even to acknowledge how broken and busted we are. No wonder we chase people off. Yet God is not frightened by our ugly outbursts. He sees what others see, but he also perceives what no one else does. God is aware of who we are when no one else is around, and yet he still loves us. He beholds what we do, but he can also perceive what we think. Aware of all this incriminating evidence, he somehow still loves us. This undeserving affection is baffling to one who really understands the nature of our unkempt behaviors and chaotic dispositions.
God’s love is based on his person and not our performance. That’s the only reason why God’s love can remain consistent.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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