The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
God always remains faithful. This is often hard for us to believe. Undoubtedly, every other person we’ve ever met has broken our trust in some way, small or large. And we can certainly agree that we’ve been faithless many times. But God’s faithfulness is greater than our faithlessness. Not only is He always waiting for us to return to Him and receive His blessings, but He actively searches us out and calls us back to Him.
Why would God be so faithful to us? What right do we have to come back to God and ask His forgiveness time after time? In truth, we have no more right to ask His forgiveness now than we do at Baptism. God’s mercy has always been a free gift. We have never had any rights to it. Moreover, we have proven ourselves untrustworthy with the gift he has given to us. God knows all our sins, past and future. He knows all the times we turn aside from His glorious gifts and His marvelous love, choosing instead a passing trifle or an ephemeral desire. So why is he so faithful to us?
God cannot deny Himself. He detests our sins, as he is Justice itself. But also, God’s love for us can never cease, since “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And both of these, His love and His justice, are wondrously united in Jesus Christ. Consider that in justice, there must be consequences for our unfaithfulness to the covenant we have made with God. But those consequences are too dire for us to bear, since it is impossible for us to make satisfaction for our sins. Still faithful to His justice, God showed his great love love for us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die on a cross for us. He sent His Son to pay the debt of our sins on our behalf that we might be forgiven. This same Jesus Christ is our constant intercessor at the right hand of the Father (Rom 8:34). Will the just and loving Father deny us forgiveness when His own Son makes the request?
Because “the saying is sure,” have hope. God is faithful not only to His justice, but also to His love for us. Never despair of both God’s desire and power to forgive every sinner who comes to Him with a contrite heart. In baptism we died with Christ. Let us live now with Christ. If we now cease to deny Him, God will not deny us who are washed anew in the blood of His Son. Let us turn away from our own faithlessness and be strengthened by turning to God, whose faithful mercy endures forever.
Image: El Greco, Christ on the Cross