June 26, 1991
A young father told us how he disciplines the rebellion of his little boy. After spanking him, he tells him he didn’t enjoy doing it but is correcting him because he loves him very much. As he assures him of his love, the child bows his head and says, “I is sorry.”
One day this father was enjoying his boy at play and spontaneously threw his arms around him exclaiming, “I love you.” Much to his surprise, the little fellow quickly bowed his head and said, “I is sorry.”
While some fathers might have been horrified at that response thinking it was some kind of conditioning, this father saw how it illustrated a Biblical principle: the connection between love and repentance.
First, our heavenly Father does love us very much. Jeremiah 31:3 says: “The LORD hath appeared saying... I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” God’s love is everlasting -- it never wears out when we misbehave.
Not only that, God’s love caused Him pain. “For God so loved the world, He sent His only begotten Son...” Death on a Roman cross is not an enjoyable way to express love, but He did it anyway.
Thirdly, God’s love is assured to us because it does not depend on what we do or fail to do. We don’t deserve it; as the Bible says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We don’t earn it because we are like disobedient children who don’t seek God or desire to do His will (see Romans 3).
But God loves us anyway, so much that He became one of us, dying as our substitute. In Christ, He offers us forgiveness for our rebellion against Him, power to overcome sin, and a secure future with Him in eternity. All is free, graciously made available to us because of His love.
Fourthly, repentance relates to love in two ways. First, Romans 2:4 says it is God’s goodness that leads sinners to repentance, even though His goodness is not deserved. In other words, the general blessings from God are motivation for many to turn away from sin. Then, when turning from sin and turning to God, sinners find that the punishment deserved for their sin was inflicted on Jesus Christ. Instead of God’s wrath, kindness and mercy are again freely offered. So repentance is simply a contrite sinner’s response to God’s double expression of love.
Once God forgives us and we become Christians, He is still concerned when we sin. He says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten... therefore repent.” So becoming His child is for sinners and becoming His obedient child is for Christians who then spend all of life turning from sin and turning to Christ. We do not despise His correction but recognize even an earthly father corrects his children. In fact, if a person is not being corrected by God, he (or she) is not a child of God at all (Hebrews 12).
If asked, the young father would say his purpose for a spanking is not merely punishment. He corrects in kindness, to make his child a better child, set free from foolish behavior. Just like an undisciplined child, we also need correction. Our foolish behavior, if left unchecked, will destroy us.
So how do we respond when we hear that God loves us? Do we interpret it as giving us freedom to do whatever we please? Or do we realize that along with His love, He desires to purify our lives? If so, do we receive His love in an attitude of repentance?
Put it this way, when was the last time we sang “Jesus loves me, this I know...” then bowed our heads and said, “I is sorry”?