One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 103. Why? Because the love of God doesn’t trickle out of this psalm like pour-over coffee. It bursts forth like an opened fire hydrant. And in a pensive, introspective, navel-gazing theological tribe like mine, an opened fire hydrant is a necessity. Sometimes it can almost be fashionable to indulge in emo-band-like self-loathing. Psalm 103 cuts through all that noise with unmistakable clarity: God loves you, deal with it! God’s love is all over this Psalm, but in this article, I’m concerned with what we find in verses 8-14.
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust” (Ps 103:13-14).
And here’s where things get really personal. God’s a dad. For those of us who are in Christ, he is our Father, and he knows us. This means that there is no need for pretense in our imperfect service to him. There is no need to work for his affection. He knows us. How comforting is it that God “knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust?” He knows us, and he still loves us. If this doesn’t stagger you, just imagine if your thoughts were live-streamed.
God’s not stuck with us, Christian. He knew our weakness and neediness before he reached down to sign our adoption papers with the ink of Christ’s blood. There was no false advertising. He knows our frame. And yet, he loves us with tender, fatherly affection.
Friends, we have to learn to get over ourselves and just accept this reality. I say “get over ourselves” because sometimes—though we would never say this out loud—we can come to believe that the truly pious person is the one who receives the love of God with a little bit of suspicion. Almost as if it’s virtuous to say, “I just know my sin too well. I feel it so much that sometimes I just can’t really believe that God loves me. The gravity of my sin is too great to believe that God’s love could reach all the way to me, a poor, wretched, worm of man.” And we are all supposed to respond with, “Oh, how very pious he is—he truly grasps the gravity of sin.”
But what about when God steps down and insists upon his Fatherly love for us? Do we dare argue with him? Do we say, “I know that God has told me that in Christ, I am loved and adopted and tenderly cared for, but I just don’t know”? I just don’t know?! That’s like saying, “I just don’t know if Christ is really enough.”
We are not at all pious for refusing God’s love because we insist that his standards are too low to let us in. His standards are the robes of Christ’s righteousness—they literally cannot be higher. We do not honor God when we disagree about his appraisal of us in Christ. If we say, “I am a worm, not even a man, don’t smile upon me.” and he responds, “No, in Christ, you are righteous. You are my son or daughter. Lift your head and enjoy time with me. Receive my love.” We dare not retort, “No, no, I’m afraid I cannot accept your invitation. I am a worm, you see. You are wrong. I’m the worst.”
To argue with God like this does not make us pious. My sons do not honor me when they doubt me when I say, “I love you.” They honor me by receiving my love and growing in it. When they bask and grow in my love like a flower basks and grows in sunlight, they honor me. Many of us today just need to be reminded: God loves you. In Christ, he’s your Father. He loves you like a father, deal with it.