So what is God’s attitude toward us when we sin? Early in my Christian life I was taught that when I sin, my fellowship with God is broken at that moment. I lose, at least for a period of time, my intimacy and closeness with Him. It sounds reasonable enough, but I don’t think it reflects an accurate understanding of the gospel.
Jesus experienced on the cross the penalty for all of my sin–past, present and future. All of it. And part of that penalty involved Jesus experiencing alienation from God the Father. That’s why He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God the Father was turning His face away from Jesus, so that He would never turn His face away from us. That’s why the gospel is such good news! His Spirit lives in us as a permanent resident. He never leaves us. He is always loving us, drawing us to Jesus.
But, is God disappointed in us when we sin? My family was discussing this around the dinner table last Sunday after church. One of my sons made the comment that He knew God didn’t leave us when we sin, but he also felt that God was disappointed in us. While this also sounded reasonable, it didn’t seem accurate. As I thought about it, I realized why this word “disappointed” isn’t really accurate as it relates to God’s heart toward us when we sin. If a parent says to a child who disobeyed, “I’m really disappointed in you”, what they are really saying is, “This is all about me. You disappointed me. I had certain expectations and you didn’t meet them.”
I do not believe that is God’s heart toward us when we sin. The Bible says that our sin “grieves” the Spirit. That’s a very different picture. To grieve is to be sad about how our sin will negatively impact our lives. A parent can grieve a child’s choices, knowing the heartache and consequences that will result. That grieving is an expression of love. God grieves as we sin. He is saddened by the impact this will have in our lives–but that grieving is grounded in His love which is unchanging. To say that God is disappointed in us is to say that we didn’t meet His expectation, which is a direct affront to the gospel.
“Religion” is all about trying meet the expectations of a holy God. The gospel is about receiving from a holy God the free gift of forgiveness, love and the indwelling Spirit. God no doubt grieves the impact of our sinful choices, but He never, ever removes in any way His loving Presence. It is that Presence that has the power to transform us in the midst of the sin in our lives.