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  • Writer's pictureRachel Coyle

Look, Confess, Believe (Romans 5:8)

“[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:8 

“Mommy, do you still love me?” The question came from my teary 5-year-old daughter after I corrected her for misbehavior. Even reproving words can prompt this question from her tender heart. She is afraid that her wrongdoing will undo my love for her because she hasn’t fully grasped that my love is not based on her performance. Embracing her, I reassure her, “I don’t only love you when you obey. I will always love you.” Praying she’ll glimpse God’s grace in my loving discipline, I long for her to know the kind of love God has for each of His children.

Jesus’ death on the cross–the innocent One sacrificed for undeserving sinners–demonstrated to the world what God’s love is like. God’s love toward us in this case is agape. That’s Greek for self-giving love that chooses to prefer others over oneself (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:2). 

While it’s natural to show love to your undeserving child, it’s harder to prefer someone who provokes us. A driver cuts us off and we feel personally affronted. A wrongful accusation makes us quick to defend ourselves. When I ask my son why he shoved his brother, he growls that his brother pushed him first. In his eyes, the push was a serious offense, but his retaliation was justified.

Left unchecked and unchanged by the gospel, it’s our nature to spend our days justifying our own wrongdoing against those who hurt us. We’re quick to rehearse wrongs we’ve suffered. We certainly can’t imagine giving our lives for someone who despises us. But God did.

God revealed the nature of His love in Jesus’ death. God’s love doesn’t depend on us. He loves because of who He is, not who we are. Consider how Romans 5:6-8 describes our condition at the moment when God put his love on display. We were:

Weak–powerless to do what is right, unable to perfectly obey God (v. 6).

Ungodly–lacking any Godward focus, reverence, or desire to please Him (v. 6).

Not righteous or good–unjust, not conforming to God’s standard, corrupt (v. 7). 

Sinful–missing God’s target, continually falling short of what God approves (v. 8).

Some might argue that this description is too harsh. They point to unsaved people who seem to be kind and moral. But in God’s court of law, every person is born guilty. Dressing up our sinful nature on the outside with nice actions does nothing to change our sinful hearts. The only solution to our guilt is trusting in Jesus’ death in our place (Romans 3:23).

Clearly, God doesn’t love us because we deserve it. A quick re-read of Genesis 3, not to mention the morning newspaper, is enough to know we deserve wrath. Scripture tells us that we can’t do anything to earn God’s love. We need only to admit our guilt before the Lord and look upward to the cross. Jesus accomplished what we never could. He lived the perfect life–never doing what God forbids and always doing what He commands. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). 

God’s agape is a powerful catalyst for change in our lives. He loved us while we were weak, ungodly sinners, but He doesn’t leave us that way. In love, He has given His Spirit to transform us, producing change in every area of our lives as He sanctifies us to be more like Christ. 

Christian, if you feel unloved, look to the cross. When you’re tempted to beat yourself up over sin, look to the cross. When you think you can’t handle another day in this fallen world, look to the cross. Look to Jesus on the cross, the place where God put his love on display for all the world to see. Look, confess your sin, and believe.


For Reflection

  1. Are there moments in your life when you feel unloved by God? How can Romans 5:8 encourage you during those times?

  2. Are there people you resist loving because you don’t think they deserve it? How might remembering that you don’t deserve God’s love help you love them?

  3. Ask the Lord to help you love others with the self-giving love He graciously lavished on you.


Rachel Coyle is a biblical counselor, Bible teacher, and author of Help! She's Struggling with Pornography from Shepherd’s Press. She and her husband Philip have six children. Scripture memory plays a pivotal role in their parenting and homeschooling as they sing, write, and discuss the meaning and application of passages. The Coyles live in South Carolina where they're members of Boiling Springs First Baptist Church.


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