God Never Turns His Back on Us

And neither should we on each other.

My wife and I don't fight often but when we do, our relationship changes. We both refer to it as feeling distant. Our excitement upon just being in the same room together suddenly devolves into anxiety and we find ourselves preferring solitude to company--as if an invisible wall has formed between us.

Christians like to call this broken fellowship, and it is allegedly one of the many results of sin. Over the course of the fight, some sin was committed or exposed and it now exists as a barrier to health in the relationship. Only through the offending party's confession and the receiving party's forgiveness can that barrier go poof and fellowship be restored (at least that's how it works in most Kirk Cameron films).

Our relationship with Jesus isn't any different. When we sin, it creates distance between us and him. But unlike our earthly relationships, it's not out of anxiety or awkwardness. God pulls away from us because he cannot tolerate sin. As holy as he is, our dirty selves have no business in his presence; thus, he creates some distance presumably to protect himself. Or his holiness. Or something.

Now it is true that sin separated humanity from God in the past as Isaiah testifies, and John says that while we live in sin, we have no fellowship with him. But the Bible never says that God turns his back on us once we're united with Christ. In fact, Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from his love. If nothing can, then sin can't.

It's odd that any follower of Jesus would think that it could. Unlike the old covenant, the new covenant doesn't depend on our frequent offerings but on Christ's offering once and for all. We no longer have to jump through hoops every time we sin because all of our sin has been covered by that one-time sacrifice.

Even our fellowship with God can't be in jeopardy because his spirit lives in us. Before Christ, the Spirit would only stay with people temporarily, but today, his presence is permanent. If we think that our sin can suppress fellowship--make us less indwelled--we're putting our faith in the wrong religion.

Yet even in the right religion, we still feel distant. It's a lovely sentiment to think that God will never pull away, but it doesn't explain why we feel like we can't approach him. However, the answer is just as simple as it is for most couples. The reason we feel a wall between ourselves and God is because we built one.

No metaphysical force prevents two people from making their wrongs right besides pride. When I hurt my wife, I don't avoid her because I can't; I avoid her because I won't. All of us hate to be wrong and we'll go to incredibly selfish lengths to live in denial. Sometimes that includes creating distance between ourselves and the people we care about just so we don't have to feel the weight of our failure.

Our relationship with Jesus is no different. God can't turn his back on us every time we sin anymore than he can turn his back on his own son's blood. But believing he does is easier than confessing our wrongs. It's better than being wrong. And it's the best way to blame him for how we feel. When his silence is deafening, we accuse him of not speaking with our fingers firmly in our ears.

For some, it's not pride that drives this response but shame. They don't fear being wrong as much as being exposed, but the result is still the same. And in both cases, the God who calls us to approach him with confidence is discarded for a petty, temperamental counterfeit. A scapegoat.

Thanks be to him who doesn't let us indulge our poor theology without accountability. By uniting himself to us and creating the church, God gave us an unavoidable testimony. To our pride, the church says that we owe someone an apology. And to our shame, the church says that we are never unwelcome.

We ought to treat each other with the same level of generosity. Claiming that God breaks fellowship with us over sin is an excuse for us to break fellowship with others. The Bible does make provision for excommunication but only in extreme situations. Besides, if sin precluded fellowship, the church would only have one member.

Comments

  1. Great thoughts! I have a few follow-up thoughts. Ephesians 4:30 says that it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit by the way that we live as we are commanded not to do such a thing (grieve the Spirit). While our sins are forgiven by Christ's sacrifice once and for all as it says in Hebrews 9, it seems that it is possible for us to hurt God by our sinfulness. The question is then, "How does our sin hurt God?" He's obviously not shocked or surprised by it because He saw us do it when we did it. He's not disappointed in us because He knows that we are flawed failures. Why does our sin hurt God? I believe that it is because sin hurts us and as our loving Heavenly Father, He hates to see us in pain. It also causes us to feel ashamed and to put up the wall that Christ tore down (Ephesians 2). Christ made peace with God possible through the cross and yet we put up the dividing wall again and again by our own sense of guilt and shame. I believe that God always welcomes us back into His arms from which we too often flee to pursue sin. We are like Gomer. We run from the security of God's love in order to pursue sinful gratification. He patiently waits for us to come to our senses and is right there waiting to run to us in order to welcome us back.

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    1. There it is: "He patiently waits for us." He doesn't initiate the break or prepare conditions. We have lots of little defense mechanisms like this that keep us feeling sorry for ourselves instead of taking responsibility. Of course God is hurt by our sin. But thinking that he turns his back on us like he did before Christ is not living lives of faith IN Christ. Sometimes it amazes me how unchristian much of our theology is.

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    2. I suppose that it is a byproduct of our own relationship failures. What do we do when someone wrongs us? We break the relationship. We break up, divorce, give the silent treatment, withdraw, etc. God is not like us. His heart is for restoration and reconciliation. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. Rather, He waits. Here's a thought that just came to me - God will never break up with you. That's tweetable! :)

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