What have I done to God, that God doesn’t love me?

I’ve been asked that question by many UB students here and other statements like it.

“God doesn’t like phonies like me.”

“There’s no way God can forgive me for what I’ve done.”

“I think I am unloveable by God or anyone else.”

Many people seem to think that God doesn’t want anything to do with them. Or that God is out to get them. Apparently many people think we’re all going to hell in a hand-basket and none of us are worthy of God’s forgiveness.

Maybe they are right? But if they are, then they have contradicted everything that Jesus did in scripture.

Because Jesus loved the unloveable. Nobody was beyond his reach. He loved the poor even though the conventional wisdom believed that being poor was a sign of God’s punishment. He loved the prostitute who everyone said was beyond reproach. He loved the tax collector, a man who betrayed his own people. He loved everyone that polite society thought were beyond the boundaries of God’s love.

And because Jesus loved these people–they killed him by putting him on a cross where amazingly, Jesus loves those who put him to death too.

And one of the forms of love that Jesus shows to people is forgiveness.

In fact, Jesus dishes out forgiveness as a sign of his love, to all of those people who we might think don’t deserve to be forgiven. He heals the guard who gets his ear cut off, even though he’s there to arrest him. He forgives Peter who is brave enough to go to the high priest’s courtyard but then denies that he even knows Jesus…three times! From the cross he forgives those who mocked him and stole his clothes like a bunch of scavengers.

If Jesus could forgive these people than why doesn’t he have the power to forgive us?

And maybe that indeed is the challenge of the cross. Maybe Jesus is just too good at this forgiving thing? Maybe because it’s often just too hard for me to forgive those that have wronged me, that I also have a hard time forgiving myself. Because let’s face it, I know I make some pretty stupid choices sometimes.

I run past the homeless, who are smelly and beg who I have preconceived notions about and who are always looking to me for a handout. I don’t place the needs of the students here at UB ahead of my own,especially that annoying student who just pushes my last nerve.

I can’t even listen patiently to my wife when she needs me some days because I’m grumpy or don’t really feel that much like listening.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, I know that my own soul’s a lot darker than that. I have secret sins that I hope nobody knows that I commit. Perhaps you have one or two faults that you’re really ashamed of too.

And as bad as I am there are people who I think are worse… And I know that I don’t really want to forgive people who have committed horrible atrocities in the world, or abused children in our church, or people who have offended and hurt me directly.

I can’t do it. And so I think neither can God.

But Jesus tells me that I’m wrong to think that. Because on the night before he died, Jesus full well knew his hour was coming and yet, he got down and washed the filthiest parts of his disciples–their feet. And those feet ran away from him just hours after he did so.

What is the dirty part of ourselves that we don’t think that Jesus can wash away?
What is the dirty part of others that we are unable to wash clean? Who is too hard for us to choose to love?

Loving in this manner is hard. It is radical. It may not even be rational. We’re amazed each time we see someone forgive someone else that we don’t think they should. The amish forgave the family of the man who killed little children in a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines. A forgiveness garden has been proposed to be built by families who lost loved ones in the hatred of September 11th. John Paul II forgave the man who shot him.

And for all of those people reconciliation was not easy. There’s always a painful price for us to pay when we choose to forgive and that price does not come cheaply. And because God freely chooses to forgive us for our sins, the price that God paid was the death of His only son.

What more does God have to do to let us know that he has already forgiven us?

Can we finally let go of the things that we beat ourselves up for and take the cross seriously for what it is–a symbol not of pain, destruction or violence, but rather the reality of God’s unending and boundless love for us. The cross is a sign that we wear around our necks and put in our churches that says to others “I am a sinner and God loves to forgive me.”

We need to surrender to that forgiveness starting today and realize that we’re wrong to even ask:

“What have I done to God that God doesn’t love me?”

Or say the misconstrued statements:

“God doesn’t like phonies like me.”

“There’s no way God can forgive me for what I’ve done.”

“I think I am unloveable by God or anyone else.”

For today is called GOOD Friday. And today is Good because we see that even death has no power over God’s love for us.

Is there any message that can ever be as good for us to hear as that?

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