There can be no better news than the message of the gospel- God is for you. Without these simple words we are alone in this world at best. At worst, we find ourselves in the dismal and futile place of fighting God. God will defeat his enemies. Make no mistake about it, the love of Jesus is accompanied by the fact that he is also Judge. This message has never been popular as long as our fathers have proclaimed it, so I will try not to take it personally should you decide to disagree on this point.
For those of you who may not know, I am a part of a community whose main focus is aiding sexual addicts on the road to recovery through the simple message of the gospel. For many of my friends, addiction has been part of their story since they were young children. At the moment we have men and women who are anywhere from divorced to sentenced to prison to diagnosed with diseases that come as a consequence of many sexual misadventures. There are some very sweet, satisfying stories of victory among us as well as some bitterly heartbreaking instances of unbelief and continuing active addiction in our ranks.
As you may well imagine, loneliness, rejection, and shame are the constant evil companions of my friends. Many have been abused by parents, rejected by spouses and experienced public disgrace. The devil seems to have had the final say in the lives of many in our community.
In the past month, I have heard the same question come from several in our community regarding a somewhat unlikely passage in the bible. They have been reading through the book of Romans and have reached the 9th chapter. Suddenly, a question has arisen that, indeed deserves some attention.
My friends say they feel as if God has passed over them. If God loved Jacob and hated Esau, they feel like Esau.
And their concern has troubled me, in turn.
So many of my friends have experienced unspeakable tragedy in their lives. So many of us look back over decades gone by and recognize our constant failure to do things the way we should. It seems there is absolutely no way God could be loving us at the same time that he allows such difficulty into our lives.
The gospel has become, to many in the church, good news for other people. Over the years, history has born out the fact that priest after preacher after pastor has not really believed that what he preached was the message he needed so desperately. We may well believe that God loves sinners but we have long ago abandoned hope that he would love us.
Have you ever felt like that? You look back over the course of twenty, thirty, or sixty years and see nothing but pain and failure. And being convinced of the futility of the past you are afraid to look at the future. At that point, does the present not even seem to be hopeless?
I am convinced my friends and I are not the only ones who have struggled with this question. At times, we all feel as if God is not for us. At best we are to live life as best we can, keeping our nose clean and making our own way. At worst, we see God as our sworn enemy.
Over the next couple of posts we will consider the Apostle Paul’s discussion of Jacob and Esau. Why would he bring up such a terrible and awesome reality? And furthermore, how can we get comfort from God’s ruling hand?
For now though, consider that the question we have whispered into our ear at our weakest point is exactly the same as Satan’s challenge to Jesus in the desert. Three times the devil tested Jesus: if you are really God’s son. In other words, if God really loved you, would you not have enough to eat, security, and power?
Also, consider for now Jesus’ answer to Satan’s accusations. Three times in a row, Jesus falls back on the fact that his Father is for him. Jesus not only knows but so much more, reveals the heart of God.
Karl Barth, one of Bonhoeffer’s teachers, wrote: In Jesus Christ as the origin and end of all his ways God confronts man with nothing but his goodness.
God is coming after you with his goodness in the person of Jesus. Remember that when Satan starts in with his lies.
God is for you.