I heard a song on Christian radio recently called “Someone Worth Dying For.” It had some good lyrics, and even a good purpose of encouraging those who are discouraged. My purpose here is not to critique the song but rather just this idea that each of us is somebody worth dying for. Are we? Really?
Starting at creation, we find that God makes us in his image. As image-bearers we are higher than the rest of his creation. It is wrong to kill or hurt another human being. As people in God’s image, we have great worth.
Then we sinned. God’s image in us was warped. We are still valuable as God’s image-bearers, but we are also sinners, depraved, and under God’s judgment. We deserve to die.
Which brings us to the cross. Listen to Paul’s thoughts on this:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:6-8
Does Jesus die for us because we are worth dying for? No. According to Paul we are weak, ungodly, sinners. We don’t deserve to have someone die for us; rather we deserve to die for our sins. So why does Jesus die for us? Because God loves us. We aren’t worth it, but he loves us anyway.
Think of it this way. If we are worth dying for, then God kind of owes it to us to die for us. We are worth it after all! But if God dies for us even though we are not worth it, even though we are weak, ungodly sinners, then this is real love. And this is Paul’s point. Jesus died for us because he loves us, not because we are worth it.
But let’s go further. Consider Psalm 103. In this psalm, David celebrates God’s love, and it is found in two ways, both of which are related not to our worth but to our unworthiness.
First, we see God’s love in his forgiveness of our sins (v6-13). He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. We deserve his judgment, but we get forgiveness. This is the same thread of thought we saw in Romans 5.
Second, we see God’s love in his care for us though we are like dust (v14-19). Compared to God we are nothing. Are we worth God dying for? Even apart from our sin, we are not worth as much as God. To suggest that we are worth God dying for is to suggest that we have greater worth than God. It is essentially to make an idol of ourselves. And it is to miss the point that God loves not because we are worth it, but despite the fact that we are not worth it, that we are but dust compared to him.
To sum up, we are valuable as God’s image-bearers. But we are not worth dying for. Jesus died for us despite our sins and despite our frailty. He died because he chooses to love us. We can magnify ourselves by thinking Jesus died for us because we are worth dying for. Or we can magnify God’s love as we recognize that Jesus died despite the fact that we are not worth dying for.
Amazing love! How can it be? That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me! – Charles Wesley