Jesus loves us according to what we need, not what we deserve. If He loved us according to what we deserve, we’d all have nothing, waiting in terror for the judgment we’ll have when we face Him in all His glory.
Did you notice I say ALL of us would suffer? Not one of us is perfect. Each one of us has committed a sin, and sin separates us from God. Realizing this makes many of the arguments people have about lifestyle choices and actions superfluous. We all stand in front of the prospect of God’s consuming wrath except for the saving grace of believing in and accepting Christ as our Savior and LORD.
When Jesus offered the love that people need, He found all kinds of sinners willing to embrace His ways of doing. The woman living in sin presumably went home to leave the man she currently lived with. Taxpayers and prostitutes welcomed Him to dinner. One wayward woman poured expensive perfume on his hair because she realized the breadth and depth of His salvation gift.
He also found sinners not ready to accept the love they needed. The young man Jesus encouraged to sell his worldly goods to follow Him walked away from the greatest treasure of all. The money changers at the Temple ignored Jesus’ promise to fill their needs so that Jesus was compelled to tear apart their selling booths. Peter denied Him three times. Judas rejected Him and the promise of salvation by betraying Jesus to the cross.
Too often, we approach others offering what we think they deserve instead of approaching them with what they need in mind. Unfortunately, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Our attempts at love are tainted by a deserve approach instead of a need approach because looking at people through a lens that only sees them in light of what we think should happen to them based on their actions is really our natural approach to most interactions.
No wonder movements that want to help people turn from actions that may ultimately hurt them too often dwindle into finger-pointing and yelling. No one stops to listen to the other side. No one is thinking about what the other side actually needs. No wonder too many people say that religion fails them.
When we think about people in terms of what they deserve, we put value judgments on everything they do. We let what we think about their actions taint what we convince ourselves they need from us. But what they really need is for us to think about the situation from their point of view. When we are in a quandary about sin, we don’t want someone to judge us. We need someone to try to see things from our point of view, as if they are literally walking in our shoes.
When we look at people through eyes that want to see a need as opposed to what someone deserves, we open our arms instead of holding up rules to block the distance between the two of us. We talk about the joys of knowing God, about the positive things we’ve learned from our study of the Bible. We quote verses about God’s love and patience, not about His judgment as if we are supposed to mete it out.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of trying to choose need over deserve is putting to the side your conviction that you are right and the other person is flaunting God’s law. But only God is the true judge. There are many steps between the words a fellow sinner needs to hear and the ultimate truth we all will face on the final day of judgment. Too often, we confront others from a deserve perspective, forgetting that they need something entirely different from us.
If we want to love like Jesus, we must approach others thinking about what they really need from us, which means considering what we would need from them if our roles were reversed. This approach doesn’t include lying to others just to make them feel more comfortable, though keeping our lips sealed might sometimes be best. We must always speak God’s truth when asked, but we must also always trust God to impart His truth when someone truly accepts Jesus as Savior.
Next time you catch yourself treating someone like you think they deserve instead of like they need, take a breath, apologize, and change your tactics. One-on-one and one by one, we will make a Jesus difference in this world.
We need it even though we don’t deserve it.