I think I finally get it. God loves us.
We are “the world” that he “so loved.” He loved us so much that he gave his son, his only son, to take our punishment for us. Punishment for what? You know. And I know. The stuff no one knows but God. The stuff we flush and hope it never resurfaces. Every body’s got it. The unmentionable. Yes, even that.
Sometimes Regret threatens to consume us. Recrimination tries to devour us. Remorse tears us to pieces. Repentance follows fast on their heels. But then what?
Does God make us wait a while before he forgives us? Does he make us stay in our room and think about what we have done? Does he ground us? Or take away our privileges? Do we get a time-out?
Luke reports a story Jesus told of two men who went up to the temple to pray. “. . . the tax collector stood at a distance . . . would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'” Jesus said that this man “went home justified.”
That is indeed Good News.
David, an adulterer and murderer, expressed in Psalm 51:17 that “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” He should know. He ended up being called “a man after God’s own heart.”
How does God respond to our tears of remorse and anguish over our own wrongdoings? Open arms. Compassion. Tenderness.
Rainbows? Maybe. That’s what it was for me yesterday. I wouldn’t have seen it if the lady down the street had not pointed it out to me. It was obscured by trees on my side of the street and I had to cross over in order to see it. What a welcome sight it was!
God not only loves us in a way that we cannot even fathom; he is also tender-hearted and compassionate. His heart goes out to us when he sees us broken-hearted over a sin that grieves us still, a mistake that cannot be rectified, or a hurt that we have inflicted. He is not aloof and detached. He is right beside us, waiting to give us a hug that restores us.
Or a kiss on the forehead in the shape of a rainbow.