The various religions of the world show us that there are different ways to relate to God (or for some, gods).
Many operate under the assumption that human beings must do the things that God wants in order for God to respond favorably in their lives. Whether that is participating in religious ceremonies or how they conduct their relationships, it is done so that God will dispense blessing, show mercy and not cause bad things to happen to that individual.
There is a smaller group who understand that God isn’t like that at all. They understand they can’t win God’s love no matter how “good” they are. These people know that even on their best day, God is still better.
This group of people also know that God acted on our behalf long before we could ever attempt to do something for God. God always acts first. God created, God loved, God sent, God forgave… you get the picture. Whatever it is, God acted first.
Some act to receive God’s mercy and some act to respond to God’s mercy.
I sincerely hope you are in that smaller group that responds to God’s mercy and not trying earn it. (Spoiler: you can’t impress God.) Heck, even Jesus says as much when said, “God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45b
God shows love to all in various ways, we can’t earn it or somehow force God’s hand to be good to us. God is already in the blessing business! God is hoping that all of humanity recognizes his love, his mercy, his blessings. God is trying to get noticed! He wants all to know who loves us most of all!
Christians, especially Lutheran Christians know that we are in the response business. We respond to the extreme love that Jesus lavished upon us. This includes repairing the rift (the separation) we caused to be estranged from the intimacy we can experience with God. Jesus took away the one thing that got in the way of having a close relationship with God: sin.
I don’t know about you but I want to know where I stand with people. I want to know “the status of my relationship” with everyone, including God. Without Jesus, I wouldn’t know my standing with God. Without Jesus acting on my behalf (yours too) I wouldn’t know what God really thinks of me. Honestly, I would be a little concerned about my future without Jesus.
There are many people in the world who don’t know their standing with God. Some work really hard to make sure God likes them. Yet they never really know if they have done enough. Jesus removes that concern once and for all.
Some may tell you that God hates certain people… don’t believe it. God doesn’t hate. God is love. (1John 4:8b) If God hated people (or groups of people) then God would not be love or even loving. Moreover, God wants everyone to know Him and His love. Guess the best way to awaken people to Christ’s love. By loving them of course!
We aren’t meant to be in the “God pleasing” business but God is in the loving people business (through Jesus). Maybe we should love others too.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1John 4:10