I recently betrayed the confidence of a friend. I may be doing it again by posting this. My friend told me something… and then I repeated it. I screwed up. I apologized but now I feel that what I did has separated us. I can just feel it. I’m sure you know what I mean.
Although we say God’s love is unconditional, we don’t really live like we believe it.
If I screw up and sin against God, I feel separated from Him. I feel like I need to run and hide. I don’t want to approach Him. In a more practical sense, I don’t feel like going to church. I don’t feel like listening to Christian music. I don’t feel like hanging out with folks that seem to have their Christian life all-together.
Does sin really separate us from God? Most would say “Yes, absolutely.” And they’d point to a Bible passage like this in the Old Testament:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. (Isaiah 59:2-3)
But I’m not so sure that sin separates us from God AT ALL. Let me try to explain.
First, a few caveats: God is holy. He cannot and does not tolerate sinfulness in His Presence. And those who haven’t been cleansed of their sins are not, cannot, and will not be able to stand, kneel, or sit in His Presence. (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) Secondly, God is just. He has demanded justice for sinfulness. (See the same verses) I get that. I understand that. I’m not diminishing His holiness or His requirement of justice.
But in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, those requirements have been fulfilled. By the blood of Jesus, our sins have been cleansed once and for all. All our past sins, all our present sins, and all our future sins have been cleansed and paid for by the crucifixion which we remember this Friday.
Yet when we sin… when we rebel… when we “do our own thing”… we think God turns His back on us… we think He frowns on us… we feel as if our actions and behavior has affected the way God feels about us. And instead of running toward God, we run away from Him. We run and hide (like Adam and Eve in the garden – see Genesis 3:8). We think God will punish us if we come clean. So we continue to stay away. We act as if God’s love is conditional instead of unconditional. We behave as if He loves us differently based on what we do or don’t do.
That is simply not true. That is not the God who loved us so much that sent His one and only Son to die for us… to fulfill His requirements of holiness and justice. Out of the love He has for us, He has fulfilled the passage in Isaiah above. He has fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament. We can draw near to God and be assurred that He will draw near to us. This is the Father who looks longingly, waiting for the prodigal son to come home — not to punish him but to have a party and celebrate!
Lastly, this does not give us a license to sin. Those who truly get a revelation of the love God has for them are filled with such gratitude and have such amazing liberty that the old way of life is not given a second thought. It is a wonderful life of freedom — not a freedom to live as they please, but to live as God pleases. It is a (super)natural outflow of an inward transformation.
Unlike our fragile human relationships, the relationship we have with God is unchanging, steadfast, and unconditional. Just read these beautiful words:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)