Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ Loves You – No, I Mean You!

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  (Luke 7:47)

Even if there had been only one human who ever sinned, died and went to Hades, Christ would have become incarnate, died on the cross to save that person.   Jesus is the Good Shepherd and would leave the 100 billion who never sinned to find that lost sheep.  Christ would do this because He is God, and God is love.  God loves every single human being who has ever come into existence.

If you were the only one who ever sinned, Christ would die on the cross to save you from your sin and death, because He loves you.  It is true that God loves humanity, but that love is always personal.  God loves you, not just humanity.  God may love you because you are human, but God loves you personally.

The Son of God dies for you, not just for humanity, on the cross.  Christ is willing to go to hell even for one sinner.  His love is that personal.  He comes to call you by name to raise you personally from sin and death.  We may exalt Christ for dying because of the sins of the world, but He dies for my sins, even if they are the only sins in the world.

It matters little how many or how few sins others commit.  Christ’s love is for you personally, He dies on the cross because of and for your sins and to give you eternal life.

Christ seeks each sinner personally.  So in Lent when the hymns of repentance paint “me” as being the foremost or chief among sinners, or of having sinned more than David the adulterous murderer or anyone else, they are also pointing out that even if that is true, Christ still loves me and dies for me and raises me up from hell itself.

As St. Gregory the Theologian confesses about Christ: “For He pleads even now as man for my salvation . . .”  (ON THE TREE OF THE CROSS, Editors: M Baker, S Danckaert, N Marinides, p 12)

However grave or great my sins may be, Christ still loves me enough to die for me and to continue to intercede before the Father on my behalf.  The hymns which portray “me” as a great sinner are also, and more so, pointing out the greatness of God’s love for me.

I need only to accept His love, and renounce my sins and my sinfulness.

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  (Luke 7:36-47)

If I feel I have sinned little or rarely, then I do not feel much need for Christ.  I will therefore love little, as Christ predicts.  Only when I see myself as the foremost of sinners will I be able to love as Christ loves me.  When I realize that even if I were the only sinner, Christ would die for me – then do I realize the depth of His love for me.  Then I realize how grave my sins really are – not compared to what sins I might commit – but the price that is paid for them:  the death of God the Son on the cross. The Son in His love continues to ask God to forgive me my sins.


What is the Cost of My Sins?

Many feel they don’t need to go to confession to ask God for forgiveness and to receive from the Lord the remission of their sins.

Some claim to confess their sins to God daily in their hearts and say they know they receive His forgiveness.

Is it cheap grace?  Does anyone really need to receive forgiveness through the Church?

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

The forgiveness of sins comes through the death of Christ, the Son of God, on the cross.  Christ showed in His lifetime that he had the power to heal the sick which in turn proved His claim to have power to forgive sins.  And, Christ bestowed through the Holy Spirit the power to forgive sins on His disciples and the Church.   If everyone could simply pronounce forgiveness upon themselves in their hearts, why did Christ bestow such power on the Church?

We may imagine God easily forgives sins from the safety and quietness of heaven.  Poof!  and the sins are gone.

The New Testament however presents it that the forgiveness of sins happens through the death of Christ on the cross.  No cheap grace.  A priceless death occurs to forgive our sins.

All of our sins, not just the sins of really evil people, is paid for by the death of Christ.

We might imagine our sins are not that bad – not as bad as others (as the Pharisee said of the Publican and we think of say the evil men of ISIS).  Many of us think the sins of others are really bad – whether sexual or involving other morality – but we tend to think our sins aren’t that bad.  Yet the price paid for our sins is also the death of God on the cross.

We experience the forgiveness of our sins by being united to Christ in baptism and in the Eucharist and through the Body of Christ in confession.   Confession is another gift given to us by Christ to maintain our unity with all other believers through asking the Church, His Body, for the forgiveness of our sins.

God’s Judgment: Restoration Not Punishment

To answer the question,  “why did Christ have to die for our sins?”, we have to think about what all happens to humanity after the Fall.  In the early Church Fathers, there certainly was a sense that the death of Christ who is God incarnate is necessary precisely because repentance itself was not enough to restore humanity to what it had lost due to sin.  The choice humans had made to disobey God disrupted the very relationship that humans had with God.  Something changed about being human – humanity had lost its union with its Creator.   This disruption in the relationship between humans and God had resulted in humans being more related to the temporary nature of physical creation than to God.  Physical creation which was brought out of nothing into being had a dependency on God for its existence.  Physical creation thus had an instability to it, and was able to disintegrate and be corrupt.    Sin was humanity’s choice not to respect the dependent nature of its relationship to its Creator.   The disruption in the relationship resulted in humanity’s return to the dust from which it was taken.  No amount of human repentance could repair this damage.  Humanity needed to be rescued from where it had fallen to – to death and Hades.  Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian writes:

“For the Genesis story indicates that God expels the first couple from the Garden and from proximity to the Tree of Life only after he speaks to them this last time. And only then does Adam blame Eve for what he has done and Eve blames the serpent for what she has done (Gen. 3:12-13) – excuses and deceptions that seal God’s judgment and invite corruptible death. Since that point, say our sources, repentance alone has not been sufficient to reverse the process of corruptible death. St. Athanasius reasoned as follows: ‘Had it been a case of trespass only, and not of subsequent corruption, repentance would have been well enough; but when once transgression had begun men came under the power of corruption proper to their nature and were bereft of the grace which belonged to them as creatures in the Image of God’. The Teaching of Saint Gregory concludes, ‘For which reason. The God-seeing, holy prophets took care, like wise doctors (of faith), to prepare the medicine of cure for the pain of the illness, to remove and extirpate the scandal (of death) and destroy it completely.’ ” (Life’s Living toward Dying, pgs. 52-53)

God thus saves us from the consequences of our sin.  The consequences were a completely shattered relationship with God – we lost communion with Him.  We became separated and alienated from Him.  In giving up our union with divinity, humanity became corrupt and mortal.  God does not simply save us, but He unites Himself to us in the incarnation, becoming human in order to die.   He dies in order to go to the place of the dead to resurrect them and reunite them to Himself.

Christ came into the world to repair the damage which human sorrow and repentance could not fix.   Christ restores our relationship to God and makes union with God possible for all humans.  Now our repentance enables us to enter into the union of God and humanity found in Christ.   Our repentance cannot undo the damage which sin does to our relationship with God – only Christ reunites us to God.   Our repentance is our entering into the reunion of God and humanity accomplished in Christ.   God achieved in the death and resurrection of His Son the salvation of the human creatures who had lost all communion with Him.  As Fr. Theodore G. Stylianopoulos says:

“The heart of God’s covenant with his people is love and mercy, not cold justice and punishment. God’s judgment always bears a remedial intent toward repentance, restoration, and salvation.” (Encouraged by the Scriptures, pgs. 190-191)

Christ Died for our Sins

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 St. Paul writes:

“I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…”

New Testament scholar Morna D. Hooker comments:

“‘Christ died for us’. What does Paul mean by this” Some commentators assume that Paul is thinking of Christ’s death as substitutionary: they assume, that is, that Christ dies in our place. This does not seem to be an appropriate description of his teaching, however, for Christ’s death does not mean that Christians do not face physical death. ‘Christ died’, he wrote, ‘in order that we might live with him.’ He sees Christians as sharing the life of Christ. This is the idea that we find him spelling out in Romans 6: ‘Christ died for us’ does not mean that we escape death, but that he dies as our representative – the representative of humanity – and those who in turn share his death (to sin) will also share his resurrection. Living with Christ, therefore, implies also dying with him. The same ideas reappear in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, where Paul writes ‘One has died for all’. Once again, this sounds at first like substitution, Christ dying instead of all, but as we read on, we find he explains that what he means is that Christ died as our representative.” (Paul: A Beginners Guider, pgs. 106-109)

The Crucifixion of Christ – You Don’t Have to Pay for Your Sins

Galatians 2:16-20

We know that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!  “For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  “For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.   “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

St. John Chrysostom comments that because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we are no longer under the judgment of the Law.

“And so he establishes three distinguishing features of the new covenant: one, that it wasn’t given on stone tablets but that it was given on tablets of flesh, our hearts; second, that the Word raced with ease and lit up everyone’s mind; third, that, when the law was dissolved, no one demanded payment for sins but each received forgiveness for their wrongdoings.” (St. John Chrysostom, The Cult of the Saints, pg. 131)

Because of Christ, God no longer requites from each of us payment for our sins/debts.  Instead the Law has been set aside and we are given forgiveness for our sins, not the punishment we deserve.

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

that whoever believes in him

should not perish but have eternal life”  (John 3:16).

But God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ dies for us (Rom. 5:8): God, on the contrary, shows the extraordinary degree of his love for us in that the death of Christ happened not for righteous people but for sinners.[…]After  all, if while enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by his life (Rom. 5:10): if while adversaries and enemies we were granted such care that he gave over to death the Son for us, how could it be that with reconciliation made we do not have a share in eternal life?”  [Robert Charles Hill  (Tr.), Theodoret Commentary on the Letters of St. Paul   Vol 1, pg.71]

The Amazing Grace of an Unjust God

God causes the sun to rise on the just and the unjust.

“Do not say that God is just…David may call him just and fair, but God’s own Son has revealed to us that he is before all things good and kind.  He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked (Luke 6:34).  How can you call God just when you read the parable of the labourers in the vineyard and their wages?  ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong…I choose to give to this last as I give to you…do you begrudge my generosity?’ (Matthew 20:13).  Likewise how can you call God just when you read the parable of the prodigal son who squanders his father’s wealth in riotous living, and the moment he displays some nostalgia his father runs to him, throws his arms around his neck and gives him complete power over all his riches?  It is not someone else who has told us this about God, so that we might have doubts.  It is his own Son himself.   He bore this witness to God.  Where is God’s justice?  Here, in the fact that we were sinners and Christ died for us…


The injustice of God’s love.

O the wonder of the grace of our Creator!  O the unfathomable goodness with which he has invested the existence of us sinners in order to create it afresh!…Anyone who has offended and blasphemed him he raises us again…Sin is to fail to understand the grace of the resurrection.  Where is the hell that could afflict us?  Where is the damnation that could make us afraid to the extent of overwhelming the joy of God’s love?  What is hell, face to face with the grace of the resurrection when he will rescue us from damnation, enable this corruptible body to put on incorruption and raise up fallen humanity from hell to glory?…Who will appreciate the wonder of our Creator’s grace as it deserves?…In place of what sinners justly deserve, he gives them resurrection.  In place of the bodies that have profaned his law, he clothes them anew in glory…See, Lord, I can no longer keep silent before the ocean of thy grace.  I no longer have any idea how to express the gratitude that I owe thee…Glory be to thee in both the worlds that thou hast created for our growth and delight, guiding us by the path of thy majestic works to the knowledge of thy glory!”

(St. Isaac of Ninevah  quoted in Olivier Clément’s  The Roots of Christian Mysticism, pgs 306-307)