“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made in perfect love. We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19)
As Christians, it does not come as a shock when we are reminded that we are loved by God. It is an elementary concept, and there are times when we wholeheartedly believe it and we feel the love He proclaims. However, there are also times when Jesus seems silent, and the extent of His love is put in question.
It is in those times when Christians may fall into the trap of trying to earn His love, rather than accepting it as the gift it is. We begin to craft our own internal checklists, and if we accomplish all that is on the list, we allow ourselves to partake in His love. Go to church? Check. Read our Bible? Check. Pray before every meal? Check. Smile at everyone and tithe ten percent? Double check.
The truth of the matter is that most of what our checklists consist of, Jesus does not care about. Not because it does not consist of great deeds, or even things that Christians should be doing, but because each of these acts are usually done with the wrong intentions and motivation.
So, how do we understand religion vs. relationship?
Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Jesus wants our love for Him to be pure, and just like our love for anything or anyone, pure love is derived from simply knowing Him. Jesus wants us to know Him, understand what He has done for us and receive what He offers us. We were given the Bible as a resource to do exactly that, to learn about God and His love and proclaim it to all the nations (Psalm 96:3).
As we grow in our knowledge about Jesus, so does our love for Him. A thankfulness will begin to manifest in our hearts, and we can then express that thankfulness and love through worship and obedience. Experiencing Jesus’ love for us is overwhelming and so humbling. To know the holiness of God, the sacrifice that He made for us, the reality of our sinful nature and that He still loves us, is unfathomable. There is no way we could ever repay Him for what He has done for us – all we can do is to give thanks to Jesus and love Him for the Savior that He is.
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