Friday, June 1, 2012

God Loves Us While We're Sinning: Another Reason to Be Rather Fond of The Episcopal Church

I have friends who believe that terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center because of the abhorrent sexual behavior of Americans.

I have friends who believe that they can do things that will separate them from the love of God.

And I have a feeling both of these are connected; both assume that God reacts punitively to our bad behavior.

But my reading of the Bible, through the lens of Anglicanism, leads me somewhere different.  In John 17, Jesus' great prayer of affection, we hear Our Lord praying for his disciples. It is a heart-touching petition in which Jesus pleads that they’d be kept safe from harm and be able to experience the deep joy of God. Jesus is surely aware of what will soon come – Peter denying him and the rest of His disciples abandoning Him. Are there worse sins than these? Yet, in spite of their sin, past, present and future, Jesus is steadfast in his allegiance to them.

And Jesus is steadfast in His allegiance to us.

One of the more difficult notions for you and me to get our heads around is that God loves us in our sin. Sure, we, and the whole world, would be better to stop sinning, but it will never separate us from God. God is not a punisher. God is not a leaver. And Jesus’ ministry, in which He steadfastly prays for those who follow Him, continues to this day. This suggests there is no one who is more firmly rooting for you and me than Jesus.

By all means, quit sinning – now. By all means, embrace the reality that God is not (and cannot) love you any less because of your behavior. God cannot, not love you. That’s God’s job.

In what ways do we need to get rid of the guilt and relax in the knowledge that God really is on our side?

The Rev. Chris Yaw is the rector of St. David's Episcopal Church, Southfield, MI and moderator of this blog.