It is a universal fact of human nature that we all want to love and be loved.
We all want to belong.
But how will we do it? By law or grace?
Why do young men join gangs? Usually because they live at the margins of society where they have little significance in the eyes of the world. A father is usually absent. The home is usually broken. They join a gang to belong, to matter to somebody, to have some sense of personal significance. But what is the basis for joining a gang? You usually have to go through an initiation. You have to do something to prove yourself worthy. Maybe you have to commit petty theft or beat someone up, or even kill someone. And then, to stay in the gang, you have to do what they say. You have to keep on stealing, selling drugs, and committing other crimes. And if you don’t? You pay the price.
Young men join gangs to be part of a family—but that family is based entirely on law-thinking. You get in and stay in by works. And if you fail to live up to the standard, you get rejected.
Some of you grew up in families based on law-thinking. The only tool your parents had in their relational toolbox was law. You had to live up to their expectations of what a son or daughter should be. And you failed. And what happened then? The only thing that can happen when you break a law—you were met with judgment, criticism, and rejection. If you ever did anything to earn your parents’ approval, it was only temporary. It lasted until you failed to meet their expectations again. That’s how law works. It doesn’t create relationship—it creates rejection. Law waits for an excuse to push you away. It’s a quest that only produces anxiety and bitterness.
So what’s the alternative?
Grace-based relationship sees your neighbors for what they are and loves them anyway. No conditions. That doesn’t mean being blind to their sin. That doesn’t mean there is no room for correction or improvement. But it means you accept them and love them for who they are, not for whom you expect them to be.
Isn’t that the kind of love and belonging that you are looking for? Don’t you want to be loved unconditionally, even at your worst?
I think the first time I consciously experienced that kind of love was when I met my wife, Abby.
As a young man, I worried that I would never find someone to love me. I’d spend sleepless nights thinking and over-thinking all the reasons why I’d probably end up alone.
And then she came along.
Abby saw me. She knew my problems and foibles and sins, and she loved me anyway. She loved me for me, without any overt reason to love me. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have room to grow. But she loved me. And I loved her. That’s grace-based. Whenever Abby and I get into an argument, grace is the bottom line. Grace is what we go back to.
Do you see the difference between law-based relationship and grace-based relationship?
The Apostle Paul wanted the Galatians to understand the difference.
Judaizers had come, teaching that God would not accept the Galatians based on faith alone. For the Judaizers, relationship was Law-based. If the Galatians wanted to be in relationship with God, they had to keep the legal covenant, starting with circumcision.
Paul said that was a lie. That was a false gospel. Christ came to establish grace-based relationship. Jesus was born under the Law, fulfilled it perfectly, and redeemed believers from its demands so they could become adopted sons and daughters of God, through faith, not by works:
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26).
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Gal 4:4-7).
Are you longing for family? Are you looking to love and be loved for who you are, not for what you’re expected to be? Have you been broken down by the demands, judgments, and criticisms of law-based relationship? Then let Paul’s message sink into your spirit. Believe it and rest in it: you are a child of God!
God loves you. He took the necessary steps to secure your adoption. He sent Jesus to die for you to redeem you. And then He sent the Spirit to regenerate you. And because of that, you don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to be isolated. You don’t have to be rejected. That was never God’s intention for you. You can have an eternal relationship, with the everlasting God. Through faith in Jesus, you can call God your “Abba, Father!”
Jesus takes orphans and makes you His family.