Most of us harbor, somewhere in the recesses of our hearts, a fear that one day, we're going to mess up so badly that God is just going to cut us off. He's going to cast us out to where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and we're never going to get back in. God is going to be done with us, and we will spend the rest of eternity on the outside, never to be forgiven.
How could God ever forgive a sinner like me? Why would He even want to?
Our fears are not helped a whole lot by reading the Old Testament, where God is giving the law. There seem to be a lot of times when He talks about His people needing to be cut off from the community, or even killed for their transgressions. When we read with eyes that are insecure in the work of Christ on the Cross for us, it's easy to think that this is who God is, that He really is just that ready to have us removed to the barren places, cast out of His presence forever.
But read again.
There's a section in Leviticus 26 that in the Bible translation I'm reading this year is subtitled "Punishment for Not Obeying God." And if you read through that section, you'll discover just how unwilling God is to abandon us forever, even under the Old Testament law. Even before the Cross.
Because what this passage keeps saying is, "If you do not obey Me, I will do this" then, "If you still do not obey Me, I will do this," then "If you still do not obey Me, I will do this." In fact, God repeats this five times, each with escalating calamity that will come. But the point is simple - God's "punishment" is intended to turn us back to Him. God wants us to be restored to Him. God wants us to come home.
There is no one-and-done. There is no oops, I did it again. There is no sin so bad that God doesn't want you back. None. God will give you grace upon grace upon grace - yes, sometimes in the form of punishment (or rather, natural consequence, really), but not always. Grace upon grace upon grace to turn back and to come home. The point of every bit of God's discipline is to bring you back into His arms, not to push you away from Him.
That's good news. At least, it's good news for a screw-up like me.
How about you?