I’ll never forget what my former pastor G. Gillum said one Sunday morning while he was preaching.
“I’ve been bad, since I been good”
Profound? Yes, but only if you knew what he was talking about. I knew.
He was saying that since he had been saved (good) he had not always done right (bad). That probably includes 99.9% of us believers. We know what God says, we know what we are supposed to do and we even are aware to some degree of the consequences. Yet, there are times when we disobey and do wrong. Sometimes its error and if we are real honest, sometimes its because we want the sin in front of us.
But out of his will, God is able to love us even when we are bad.
Before I go further, we need to swat some misunderstanding flies.
There exists this false perception that the lives of believers are 100% perfect at all times. I call it perfectionism. Its faulty theology which leads to faulty beliefs about sin and the believer. I’m confident in saying that we’re not supposed to be perfect, but rather we are to strive for perfection (spiritual maturity). I understand that perfection has several definitional nuances.
But the bible doesn’t teach that sin is eradicated in the life of the believer (reference 1 John 1:8). It does teach that the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, gives the believer power over sin and its decaying consequences (Luke 10:19, Romans 6:12,13). Still, there are many mitigating factors involved. Too many, perhaps to go into in this post, but suffice to know that power over does not mean eradication. God’s standard is holiness and it will never change, but the flesh remains a major active source of struggle in the quest to live holy.
Paradox of Pain
With the exception of the Holy Spirit and the law of God now “written on fleshly tablets”, we are not much different than the Isrealites (reference 1 Corinthians 10:11). The cycles of bad and good were played out over and over in the lives of God’s chosen ones. Great lessons can be gleaned if we observe the admonitions of the past.
First look at a “pull out” scripture we all tend to get misty-eyed about when someone recites it.
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3 NIV
There is something deeply moving about God’s everlasting love. But in order to truly understand and appreciate the weight of Jeremiah 31:3 you cant start with that. You would have to look into the previous chapters first. There’s nothing like context when studying the bible.
The context is this: Isreal was at the height of its brazen idolatry when God spoke these words to them through Jeremiah. The problems and sins were deep and widespread.
The dialogue begins in chapter 2 with God releasing a series of probing questions/charges against Isreal for their mounting sins. Some of them are incredulous:
Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. This is what the LORD says: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD ?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.
“Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the LORD. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children.
Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols (vss 4-11).
The great majority of the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah was warning the people of God’s inevitable, unavertible wrath to come. Because of his call, he endured persecutions, was branded as a traitor and outlaw, was emotionally distraught much of the time and even bemoaned his own birth. Yet he faithfully continued to preach against their sins. People only got worse. At one point God orders him not to pray for the people any longer. His was a life anointed with paradoxical pain.
Against that backdrop Jeremiah 31:3 is breathtakingly stunning. You can feel the longing in the voice of God. The softness and tenderness of it against the bleak doom of sin’s consequences is amazing. There in the midst of their sins, God reminds them of his unquenchable love for them, even though they reject him. That’s love.
The word Jeremiah uses ahav is a hebrew word which denotes in essence a “privileged love”. It is significant and rare in the Old Testament and associated with deep sacrifice and overflowing emotion. Compare with the New Testament usage of agape. God is saying what I have for you is love that proves you are in a privileged relationship with me. A relationship of covenant so that when you do not uphold your covenantal promise (to obey me), it will not cancel my covenantal promise to love you.
He does love you, me, everyone. When we are at our worst, he reminds us that though discipline will come it will not change one iota of his love. That should never be a question in anyone’s mind.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-38)
This post isn’t to point out how bad you are, or the possibility of you being bad again. Its to point out that He loves us even when we are bad. If you will agree with him, no matter what you’ve done or how bad it was, that same love will cause you to recover and become whole and fruitful again.