Links Daily Devotional

Our Love and God’s Love, Part 1: Our Love

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:3-4, NIV)

Serious golfers are well-known to be perfectionists and self-critical. You’ll often hear coaches counseling their players to not be so hard on themselves.

I recently was talking to a fellow player. She revealed how hard it is sometimes to understand and receive God’s love when we find it difficult to love ourselves after making a few bogeys or stupid mistakes. I agree that this love of God is difficult for us to properly understand, because our love falls so far short of perfect love. Let us consider this predicament.

What the apostle Paul described in today’s passage is a total reliance on the Lord to pass judgment. This may seem like a harsher sentence than self-criticism, but we will soon see it is not.

Self-criticism has a few problems. First, we must acknowledge whose performance this criticism is focused on—ours. There is an unhealthy spotlight on the self when one is completely distressed by failures in performance, achievement, and daily obedience. Second, self-criticism often comes with the standards we put on ourselves, or burdens and expectations from others. I am reminded of the account in Luke 10 of Martha making many preparations, then finding out from the Lord that only one thing was really necessary. She had overburdened herself and the result was not only self-discontentment but also her criticism of Mary, who was sitting and listening at the Lord’s feet. When we put our “performance expectations” above the Lord’s will, even though they seem good to us and proper service to God and others, they become idolatry and sin. Third, there is an obvious problem with the flip side of self-criticism: self-praise. When we feel good about ourselves and “love” ourselves for what we have done, it often means that we have “judged” that we have done something good and we are proud of that. This is saying that we think we have met God’s standard through our own work, attributing praise to ourselves. The kind of obedience God requires does not simply consist of outside acts and rituals and service, but he requires a perfect, holy, loving, joyful disposition of the heart in performing these things (2 Corinthians 9:7). How then, you might ask, can we ever love ourselves amidst this sin?

Let’s look into today’s passage for the answer. Why would Paul not care about how others thought of him or judged him? Why would he not even judge himself? Why would his conscience be clear even though he was not innocent? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer. Paul knew he was a sinner, describing himself as the worst (1 Timothy 1:15); that is why he was not innocent. But his conscience was clear because he believed he was justified through faith, having peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). He had the approval of God, not because of anything he had done, but because Jesus’ record was substituted for him. Faith in the saving blood of Christ freed him from human judgment, including his own. Paul let us know in Galatians 5:4 how devastating it is to put our trust in anything other than Jesus’ work: “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

Grace is such a beautiful gift. Yet we pollute it so much. We (our laws, worldly expectations, and judgments) and other people (who are imperfect by nature) are always harsher than Christ; our love always falls short of divine love. You see, to ask how we can ever love ourselves is the wrong question. It is still all about us. Paul dismissed it and cared nothing for it. The question that brings wonder and joy and praise is: how could God ever love us amidst this sin? The answer: Because of who he is and what he has done.

Isabelle Beisiegel

July 15, 2013

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