“Give Grandma a hug!” The toddler refuses, hiding behind mom’s legs. Now what?! Mom is embarrassed of her child’s behavior and feels bad for Grandma. Even worse, the little one has disobeyed her Mom. Some parents proceed to give awkward public lectures or vain threats and bribes. Others swoop their kids off to another room for discipline. The tear streaked grandchild returns to give a reluctant hug.
How does Grandma feel about all this? “Leave her alone,” she says, “It is alright. She’ll give me a hug when she’s ready.” Does Grandma want a forced hug? Of course not. Grandma wants love, not just a hug. True love is freely given; you cannot force someone to love.
Since God created us to love him, he also created us with freedom of choice. We can choose to love and relate to God, or we can choose not to. When God created the first two humans, Adam and Eve, he gave them a choice. Since God wanted a love relationship with them, he gave them the choice to trust and obey him, or to do things their own way. Adam and Eve made the wrong choice. The Bible calls this failure to love and obey God sin. Sin has been a part of human life ever since.
Sin is the rejection of God and all that is good and right. God loves us and what he tells us to do, or not to do, is good for us. God is beauty and goodness and love. When he tells us to trust and love him only, he is doing what is best for us. He is giving us himself. And what God tells us to do, or not to do, is not only good for us, it is right. He tells us to love others, which means that we do not lie to, steal from, or harm them. Everyone knows this is right behavior.
All of us have failed to love God and obey him. All of us have failed to love others as God has said. All of us have sinned.
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way”
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
What do we do with people who steal from or harm others? Even people who don’t believe in God believe in justice. This is why we have justice systems that punish people who commit crimes. Because of this, it is not difficult for us to understand God’s standard that those who disobey his law must be punished. Much more than human laws, God’s laws are good and right. And so we may expect consequences and punishment for our sin. The Bible teaches that punishment for sin is eternal separation from God in hell.
Now, let’s see where we stand. God created us to love him. He gave us a choice to love and obey him so that we might enjoy his life and goodness. However, all of us have chosen to disobey instead of love God. We are therefore guilty of sin and deserve to be punished.
This is where the good news (the Gospel) comes in! God loved us so much that over 2000 years ago he became a man, Jesus Christ, and died on a Roman cross to take the punishment for our sin. Then he came back to life and went back to heaven.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
We were hopelessly separated from God and heading for eternal punishment. But God wouldn’t have it. God is able to fulfill his purposes. He is able to fulfill both love and justice. There is now a way to know and love God again. We must confess and repent of our sin, believe that Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sin, and receive by faith his forgiveness. Our choice remains. We turn back to God and receive Christ’s payment for our sin or we must pay for our own sin in hell, separated from God forever.
“But [God] is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish,
but that all should reach repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9
Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation? Have you restored your relationship with God through Christ and determined to love him? If you have not, do it now. Talk to God and confess your sin to him. Express your faith that Christ paid for your sins on the cross. Express your desire to love and obey him with the rest of your life! Receive his forgiveness and rejoice in his love!