I recently overheard a middle aged woman ask a middle aged man a profound question:
Would you love me if I was fat?
It immediately struck me that this is a theological question, a question at the heart of what it means to be human.
We all live under a sense of judgment. We fear judgment. I don’t just mean ultimate judgment by God, but also the judgment that pervades our everyday lives. Would you love me if I was fat? Do I have what it takes? If people knew the real me, would they still love me? There are judges all around us, in heaven above, and in our own heads.
Life trains us to escape judgment through performance. If perform well enough, stay in good enough shape, study hard enough, etc., then maybe we can receive the gold medal, the A+, or acceptance into the club that would finally remove the fear and the judgment and allow us to rest.
Only Christianity gives an answer of relief to the big question we’re all asking:
Would you love me if _____?
What’s your “if”?
My city, Silicon Valley, is full of people who chase the god of success. We fear not being loved if we are found unsuccessful in our endeavors in this fast-paced, high pressure place. We ask, “Would you love me if my success stopped?”
My city doesn’t need a false Christianity that simply tells people get busy and successful for God. We’re all under enough pressure here, we don’t need more.
The gospel is a message that brings peace, not pressure. Because of the supreme performance of Jesus, God’s answer to our question (Would you love me if ____?) is a big fat “YES!”
God’s love is unlike anything we’ve experienced (though perhaps we’ve tasted a bit of this kind of love in an unusually healthy family or marriage or friendship). God’s love doesn’t have to do with our performance—our goodness, our badness, our fatness, or our thinness—God’s love instead hinges on God’s performance for us.
This is news from someplace else. This isn’t native to us. This comes from Outer Space—from heaven. Jesus came to us from heaven to initiate this new way of living where sinners, and failures, and people who grow fat may be unconditionally accepted and loved all because someone else, a perfect someone else, was judged in our place.
Christianity is about the Innocent One being judged so that guilty men and women would no longer be judged, would be set free, and longer ask questions like, “Would you love me if I was fat?”
This is what the Christian ministry is all about. Novelist Walker Percy has described humanity as “waiting for news.” Your city is waiting for news, for good news that can put to sleep our fearful, anxious questions about conditional love and acceptance.
To me, preaching is simply looking out at a crowded city that’s asking, “Would you love me if I was fat?”, and announcing really good news: “YES! Because Someone else performed for you and was judged for you, you are forever known, forgiven, and loved by God. You don’t have to ask these questions anymore. It is finished.”
This kind of love changes everything. Everything.
Justin Buzzard is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church, a church plant in Silicon Valley, and author of the books The Big Story: How The Bible Makes Sense Out of Life and Date Your Wife.