Does God like you?

I heard a sermon recently on the topic of anger. The preacher said something quite profound:
It has taken me many years to understand something that has melted away layers of pent-up anger: God likes me!
Has the preacher fallen prey to pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking? Is he right - does God actually like him? Here's another question - does God like you? The answer is of great importance.

The preacher was relating his personal struggle with a performance-based religion that says God relates to us based on how well we are (or are not) doing. This legalistic view suggests that God is never quite pleased with us - even when we are on our best behavior. This is a common view of God as our judge (and a harsh one at that) - a God who is a sort of cosmic Santa Claus, "making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice."

One could hardly view this sort of God as liking us.

However, the God revealed to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ is utterly different than this legalistic, judgmental God. The God revealed in Jesus is said in Scripture to be "love" - pure, unmitigated, unconditional love.

And what is that kind of love like? Notice how Paul defines it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. As you read this passage, substitute for the word "love" the word "God." Here is what emerges:
  • God is patient
  • God is kind
  • God does not boast
  • God is not proud
  • God is not rude
  • God is not self-seeking
  • God is not easily angered
  • God keeps no record of wrong
  • God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
  • God always protects
  • God always trusts
  • God always hopes
  • God always perseveres
  • God never fails       
This truly is what God is like in his inner (triune) being, which is love. And this is how God relates to us, for in his being and doing, God is love (God does what God is).

Now notice carefully (and please let this sink in) - this God, who is love, "keeps no record of wrong." Paul says it this way in Romans: "...There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (8:1). No record of wrong; therefore no condemnation. None!

The good news (we call it the Gospel) is that God is NOT keeping a record against us in order to "get the goods on us" and thus condemn us. God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, does not relate to us like an accountant balancing the books (keeping score). Instead, he relates to us as what he is - the God of love.

The love that God is does not ebb and flow on the basis of our performance. Indeed, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make him love us less.

On the basis of this truth, revealed to us fully in Jesus, we can say with confidence and assurance: "God likes us!"

Now, say that to yourself: God likes me! Yes, you - really!

Say it again (and again and again). This is not some sort of pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps psycho-babble. This is gospel truth. And it's true because of who God is and because of who he is, what he has done (and is doing).

Now ask yourself this: What would it mean to me if I fully accepted and was embraced by this truth? What would it mean if this truth became the foundation of  my life (including how I relate to myself and to other people)?

Think about having your self-image shaped by the reality of God's unconditional love that he extends to you in and through his Son, Jesus Christ, by the power of his Holy Spirit. Wouldn't your life be transformed?

Yes it would, and that is the point the preacher was making. And he was right on. So, let me say it again: God likes you! (Really).