The Heart of Unbelief

BY KATHY STRAUCH

The more I heard the song, the more I heard the heart of the Gospel in the song. The music swept through the office like a refreshing breeze. It broke through a playlist which had become stale over time. Repetitively, the words flowed through the air, “let me love you.” 

This is the heart of the Gospel—God’s promised love to us, in and through Christ. The root of unbelief is a rejection of that love.

“The heart of unbelief is to refuse to be loved so much. God can love others perhaps, but not me. Or we may think we deserve God’s love, which is also refusal of His love. We would have God deal with us another way, not with undeserved love but in a way in which we would have ourselves to thank, at least for some of it.” —Norman Nagel

This essence of unbelief is what led Adam and Eve to eat the fruit and sin against their loving creator. The serpent paints deception like a master artist. The portrait painted by the father of lies is often more lustrous to our sinful eyes than the true image of our Heavenly Father who loves us.

My Old Adam would like to believe God’s love is contingent, at least in part, on me. If God is pleased or displeased it must be a result of my works or intentions. After all, the Law is insistent. “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28).

Hymnist Matthias Loy beautifully summarizes the Law in this way, “the Law of God is good and wise and sets His will before our eyes.”  While the Law demonstrates love, it is not a means of earning love. The Law promises death and life, but has no power to save when we fall short of its holiness. 

The grace of God shatters any perception that His love is generated from earning or deserving. The heart of faith is receiving the love God lavishes on us. Faith looks to Christ alone as the source of God’s love.

One of my favorite prayers in the Scriptures is very brief and concise. “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). The prayer wonderfully exhibits the struggle of the Christian life as both saint and sinner.

I do believe; help my unbelief of refusing to be loved on account of Christ alone. Destroy unbelief that would rather earn than receive. Dismantle and kill my stubbornness which believes there is something in me deserving of Your love.

In an email I received from a friend not long ago, there was a line at the bottom of the message that struck me. It was not new information. The text was by no means meant to be the focus of the email. In fact, it was the most basic statement in the message. Still, the words seemed to leap off the screen.  “…remember that God’s love, mercy, and grace are for you too.”

 
The lifeblood of the Gospel is these two words, “for you.”
 

I needed to be reminded that day that no matter what, God’s love, mercy, and grace are always for me. Specifically, and individually for me. Despite my feelings, actions, thoughts, environment, or circumstances, God’s love remained and will always remain faithful.

Christ is for you when you do not deserve Him. He is for you even when you’ve refused His love by trying to earn or thinking you deserve it. God’s love, mercy, and grace will always be for you and for me because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The heart of the Gospel is that we were always and will always be loved by God. His love is persistent. As baptized believers, we belong to a God whose love will never fade, change, or waver. We belong to Him because He loves us.

Kathy graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College with a B.A. in Media Design. She is currently a writing contributor with Christ Hold Fast, Higher Things, and Coffee by Gillespie, as well as a freelance graphic designer. She is the co-author of The Sinner/Saint Lenten Devotional from 1517 Publishing.

Twitter @08Kathy