Unexpected Love

Do you deserve Jesus’s love?  Are you putting the work in to receive it?

No matter how clear scripture is about the nature and availability of Biblical Love, our minds think like this: to receive love, we believe we must deserve it and work for it.  This mentality often leads us to either over-exert ourselves and lie about our condition, or give up and become hopeless, because not one of us is perfect:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:10-12

In other words, you do not deserve Jesus’s love, nor can you do enough to earn it: and yet, Jesus loves you deeply and freely.

This reality is beautifully captured in the story of the woman caught in adultery:

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
John 8:2-11

The woman was not looking for Jesus — she was even in the midst of sin — and Jesus saw, loved, and restored her.

Her story should be an encouragement to you in those moments when you feel you least deserve God’s love, when you try to hide like Adam and Eve, when your mind is so distant from God because it is so focused on sin; when you are not looking for and even actively opposing him, Jesus faithfully sees, loves, and desires to restore you.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

This woman was not pursuing Jesus, and in a moment that should have led to death Jesus brought life; not because she deserved it, not because she had asked for it, but because he loved her deeply and knew she was created for full life.  Jesus did not condone her adultery, and also did not condemn her; he knew the law existed to reveal that without him we cannot please God:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
John 6:46-48

The teachers of the law and Pharisees had convinced themselves they were pleasing God, pointing to the ways they upheld the law while pointing out the ways others didn’t; with one phrase — “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” — Jesus revealed their deficiency.  They had not seen or sought God, because they could not see His Son.  They elevated themselves above Jesus and the woman — largely out of self-preservation — and in so doing walked away in shame.

Meanwhile, the woman — who may not have sought God a day in her life — found herself on the cusp of death, with no way to defend or protect herself; she knew she was in the wrong, and undeserving of anything.  It was from this humble space she was able to see the eyes of Love — which the rest mistook as the eyes of a mere human — and not only receive mercy but the invitation to a new life.  Jesus sees you amidst your missteps; he loves you despite your harmful choices.  He extends his Love before you’ve made things right, even before you fully understand your need for him, and then invites and equips you to become a new creation:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Here’s what’s truly amazing: his statement “let any one of you who is without sin” means he did not just see and love the woman, but everyone in that crowd.  This isn’t a story of a singular sinful woman, but a crowd of sinners amidst Love in human form.  However, only one — the one they’d least expect — saw him, for “those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”  The difference was they saw they had something to lose, and walked away before they did; the woman had already lost everything, and so had open hands to receive Jesus’s love and a new life.

Jesus sees and loves you; right now he sees your brokenness, and offers an invitation.  You can choose to protect yourself, or you can embrace vulnerability before him; one path leads to shame, the other new life:

“But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
John 6:50-51

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