First of all, we base too much of our sense of positive or negative personal identity in our performance and other people’s opinions of us. And where we believe we have not or are not living up to their expectations, we judge ourselves critically. But this is not how God thinks or feels.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The point is this: If Christ dying for us while we were yet sinners is God’s example of demonstrating His love for us, then God is loving us unconditionally. His love is not based on our performance, even though it is bad enough to warrant eternity in hell! So then we must ask, “How and why does God love us if it is not based on our good or bad behavior??”
God loves us not on the basis of performance but on the basis of the fact that we are created in His image. We are lovable to God even though we have tarnished the image of Him in us through sin. The image is tarnished but not completely destroyed. Therefore, though it may be vain for a human being to love the image of himself, God loves the image of Himself in us. In other words, we are inherently lovable. It’s not about what we do or don’t do, it is about what God has already done – created us from His perfection – in His image.
To be inherently lovable is vastly different than our common concept of love-worthiness. Our human conception of love-worthiness is based on things like how attractive someone looks, or how they treat us or how they are attracted to us, or how nice they are to us, etc. etc. None of this is unconditional love based on inherent value. The way people usually interpret love is almost always based on some sort of performance. God’s love for us has nothing at all to do with performance.
His holiness on the other hand, has much to do with our performance. The fact is, we could never perform well enough to be found acceptable to God in regard to His holiness. He is perfectly holy, while we are perfect at nothing. So, in His perfect love He has made a way for us to bridge the gap between His perfect holiness and His perfect love – that way is Jesus.
Many of our issues with self-condemnation are centered upon an interpretation of our value based on our performance and other people’s opinions of us (which we naturally equate with love-worthiness). Those mistaken interpretations of our personal lovability initiate false judgments that often usher in self-condemnation, depression and feelings of hopelessness.