He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy.
—Titus 3:5 NIV
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
—Matthew 5:7 NIV
I have always liked the disciple Peter. He made a lot of mistakes, opened his mouth at all the wrong times, didn’t want to have to forgive his brother, and ultimately even denied Jesus—three times.
Yet, Peter appeals to me because I am a lot like him. Like Peter, each of us makes mistakes, each of us has times when we don’t forgive our offenders—and most certainly, each of us has disappointed our Savior. I know I have many times.
We often hear our life of faith compared to running a race or being on a journey. Countless songs, books, and sermons are based on those concepts. As a runner, I find inspiration in the verse “run with endurance the race that is set before us … looking unto Jesus.”1 But recently it came alive to me from a whole new perspective.
Have you ever wondered why the sky is blue and why that specific color gives you a feeling of peace when you look at it? Have you ever wondered why the scent of a pine forest or the grass after rain brings calm and refreshing to your spirit? Is there some magical reason why the simple sound of a bird singing makes you feel happy inside?
God’s unconditional love has no bounds, is unchanging and without limitations. It is given freely, no matter what. Each of us has sinned, and sin brings separation from God. Nevertheless, God loves us. It doesn’t mean He loves all that we do, but He loves us. In fact, He loves humanity so much that He made it possible for the breach caused by our sins and wrongdoing to be bridged through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”1
When I think about how to sum up who God is in a single phrase, “unconditional love” comes to mind. Of course, God is many things and cannot be confined to one phrase or term, but as we know from 1 John 4:8, God is love. That is His very nature; it is intrinsic to who He is. It is one of His fundamental character traits. While that doesn’t mean that He loves everything we do—we are sinners, after all—nor that He overlooks or turns a blind eye to our sin or wrongdoing, nonetheless He loves His children unconditionally and forgives us if we are humble enough to ask Him to.
I’ve always especially liked Easter. While Christmas is a celebration of joy and excitement for the entire world to take pleasure in—even non-Christians—I feel Easter is a celebration of what Jesus did for each of us as individuals.
Easter is all about the relationship between Jesus and me. As a child, I never understood this relationship. Jesus was my friend, sure, but it didn’t really go beyond that. I guess I sort of saw Jesus as a “get out of jail free” card, someone who was there to be leaned on, but only when necessary.
Each year, when Easter comes around, I find myself overwhelmed by the thought of what Jesus went through for us. So much suffering, anguish, and pain He took in the hours before His cruel execution. Not to mention the mental distress of knowing what was coming. Yes, He knew the purpose behind it all, but it was clearly still terrifying. In fact, Jesus requested an exemption from the cross.1
When my youngest was a toddler, each night I would put her to sleep in her own bed. Sometimes this was an easy job and my tired little one would be asleep in minutes; sometimes it was a hardcore showdown of her stubbornness against mine. But always, eventually, she would end up peacefully asleep. (Mom won!)
The other day, I found myself sitting in a restaurant alone, as my friend was running late. As I waited, I decided to jot down some thoughts about what Jesus means to me and what I love most about Him. This is what I came up with: