Is there a glaring contradiction in the Bible?
God loves his people Israel, but he sends them into exile. That seems like a strange kind of love. Or take Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” Great, sounds like love! But in the very next verse (38), he says, “Look, your house is left to you desolate.” Hey, what happened to love? Does God love his people or not?
The truth is, God does love his people. God totally loves us more than we can understand. He even loves us enough to withhold the blessing he longs to give us. Dude, start making sense! If he loves us, why would he withhold blessing?
Ok, here’s the deal. Love is unconditional. But blessing is very conditional.It depends on relationship.
Unconditional, Reckless Love
We need to grasp in the depth of our being that God loves us unconditionally. There is nothing you can do or not do to make God love you any more or any less. He poured out his blood for us. That’s love. Did he do it out of obligation? “Oh, bummer, I guess I have to be a good God and go die for those losers.” No, not at all!
Then why did he do such a crazy thing? Think about it. God left heaven and became human for one purpose: Not to rule the world but to die the most excruciating, torturous death ever devised. That’s pretty whacked. What would possess someone to do something so over the top?
Only reckless love could inspire such radical sacrifice. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before him. Even the possibility of relationship with you, with me, made it worth it for him. The thought of relationship with you made his heart leap. It made the cross a small price to pay in his eyes. God thinks you’re worth it. His love is unconditional.
Conditional Blessing — God’s Healthy Boundaries
But we also need to understand that God is a healthy person with healthy boundaries. His blessing is very conditional. Being out of relationship with God blocks his blessing in our lives.
I was mentoring a young man at our local crisis pregnancy center, and he was telling me about taking his 5-year-old son to the movies. The boy wanted candy and a soda before the show. But my client told him, “No, you didn’t eat your dinner, so you don’t get no candy. I’m not gonna let you starve, you can have a hot dog and water, but you don’t get no candy or soda.”
Later in the session, we were talking about sexual purity, and he said, “I get it. God loves you more if you do it right.”
I told him, “No, God’s not like that. He loves you the same no matter what you do. You can’t make him love you more or less. But our sin holds back his blessing.
“Think about taking your son to the movies. Did you love him any less when you didn’t let him have candy? No, you still loved him the same. But his bad behavior blocked the blessing you otherwise wanted to give him.” His eyes opened wide, and I could see the light bulbs of revelation going on in this young man’s heart.
Confession time — I misquoted Jesus in the opening paragraph of this post. I cherry-picked the content I wanted from those verses. Look at the full two verses, Matthew 23:37–38, what Jesus really said:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
Their behavior was blocking the blessing God wanted to give them. Blessing is conditional. Being out of relationship with God blocks the blessing he wants to give us. Eventually. God is very long suffering, and he gives us time to repent and turn back.
He gave Israel generations to repent. Finally, in his love, he brought the discipline of exile they ultimately needed. They wouldn’t repent any other way. He sent prophet after prophet after prophet, trying to turn their hearts back to relationship with him. But they wouldn’t have any of it, so finally, like any loving parent of grossly rebellious children, he had to bring discipline.
It’s the same way with us today. God sometimes withholds his blessing to bring our hearts back to him.
Relationship Unlocks Blessing
Here’s a free tip for the young adults and teens reading this: Don’t expect material blessings from your parents if you’re out of relationship with them. It is actually love for them to pull back and not give you what they otherwise would have, until you’re back in honest, healthy relationship with them. Expecting blessing without relationship is the essence of entitlement.
Now, this post is only covering one part of suffering. If things are bad in your life, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s sin in your life. Look at Job. Things fell apart for him because there wasn’t sin in his life. Out of God’s great, unconditional love for us, he sometimes allows suffering in our lives so he can bless us more, like he did with Job.
But in your heart, you know which it is. Are you living a lifestyle you know breaks God’s heart? Like living with your boy/girl friend? Like having sex outside of marriage? Living a homosexual or transsexual lifestyle? Other addictions? Are you medicating pain in your life that God wants to heal?
If that’s you, God’s unconditional love for you has never changed. But your lifestyle is blocking his blessing. I encourage you to do this one thing.
Share with someone, some other Christian you trust and respect. Not someone who’s going to tell you your sin is ok or someone who’s going to condemn you. But find someone who will stand with you and support your repentance, helping you get free.