In our last church, there was a little boy named Zacharias.
He must have been only 6 or 7 years old, to my reckoning, with brown hair and eyes. Nothing really out of the ordinary, but my heart went out to him. He was one of those boys who are full of life, the ones that can never sit still in church or keep silent when they have discovered something, and it brought much condemnation from his parents. Always telling him to be quiet, to stop squirming, to sit down, with threats of dire consequences to follow should he not. "Disobedience!" they said, but his spirit could not be stifled. The saddest thing about it - he was the son of the worship leader; the grandson of the pastor. Such children should receive more love and care from their parents, not less under the guise of "no favorites".
One day after band practice we stepped outside into the cool, spring air. I heard a sound, and looked over to see Zacharias struggling with a large garbage can. "Hey, Zach!" I called. "What are you doing?" "I'm trying to get blessings from God!" he replied. His 17 year old sister laughed, and explained. "I told him the other day that if he did his chores, God was going to bless him. Now he's going around doing anything he can." My heart wrenched. So young, and already under the impression that God's favor must be earned! They say that parents often by their actions shape in us the ideas of God that we carry with us. In this case, I am certain of it.
But from what I read, it was when we were still fighting against God that He took the first step to loving us. His love comes, not from what we've done, but because of who He is. I'm sure that many times pastors quote the verse, "If you love Me, keep my commandments", and then go on to preach a sermon about obedience, while forgeting the reason for the obedience. It should be because of our love for God. How many of us would like to be obeyed because of selfish reasons on the obeyer's part? Obeyed for what we can give instead of a loving motive to give? That is not to belittle obedience, but merely to put it in its proper place. It's love that God wants; love. We show that love through obedience, true, but if we focus on the love, obedience will follow. Then maybe we'll see less people condemed by themselves and others because of their actions, some wrong and some that they should do and don't. We serve a loving God. And as George MacDonald said, "The Master is as easy to please as He is hard to satisfy."
Many point to the message of the Prophets and see it as the anger of a judgemental God, furious because of disobedience. I don't see it that way at all.
To me, it's the heart cry of an unloved God.