I’ve been spending my quiet time with God this week thinking about love. As previously noted, it seems that to follow in the footsteps of Christ, one needs to experience love in three ways – and the first of these sounds easy: we need to simply accept that fact that God loves us.
Salvation is not about cause and effect, efforts and rewards. It’s simply a matter of accepting the fact that we – you and I – were created by someone who loves us very much. Just let God love!
While I think everyone would want to believe that, it’s not always easy.
Bad things happen to good people.
Did you hear that Heath Ledger died last week? Personally, I don’t quite understand the level of news coverage associated with celebrity deaths. The fact is, 150,000 people will die today.
But I do know that the reality of death, accidents and illnesses seems by some to contradict the notion of a loving God. If he loved us, wouldn’t we live forever?
Maybe it's like a mid-afternoon dessert. I have three children. They are always wonderful. ;) But sometimes they ask if they can have an ice cream in the afternoon and I say no. (For my kids, that’s their equivalent of bad things happening to good people.)
But guess what. Sometimes I say no because we have a huge dinner and a sweet dessert planned for later. If my kids knew that, boy – they would know how much we loved them for sure.
What about those mixed messages…
Did you ever notice that the Bible is not always so lovey-dovey?
For the wages of sin is death . . . Romans 6:23
This issue – the judgmental-I’m-going-to-punish-you God – could be one of the most misunderstood. And who’s to blame? Perhaps Christians. We do our cut-and-paste jobs on select verses (ht Viola) to demonize all sorts of lewd and sinful behaviors and condemn those who long to feel God’s love.
I am not a Bible expert by any means, but it seems to me that these God-as-judge reminders are directed to those who are well aware of God’s love – his chosen people, his followers – and not the lost sheep. Perhaps we can do a bit better here.
He didn’t mean me, did he?
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Why is it easier to believe that God so loved the world – but so hard to believe that God so loved me?
Love is an emotion. And to know that God loves us, we have to feel God’s love. It’s not enough to know that Jesus loves us because the Bible says its so. Even Jesus felt abandoned on the cross – but he wasn’t.
Kansas Bob heard a similar story when visiting a prison recently and an inmate said: I read the bible for a long time and it helped me very little… but when I began to experience God everything changed.
“When I began to experience God.” I can relate to that. I feel fortunate in that I have experienced God in my heart. There doesn't seem to be a pattern to it. But I know people who say they haven’t – and that makes me sad. Not because I believe they are not loved. But because I’m not sure that my testimony will change anything. It’s not enough to hear about God’s love, they need to feel it themself.
I’ve spoken with a number of people who have felt the love of God. It has been expressed in all shapes and forms. This past week, God’s love has been felt through a scrap of paper, a painting, a smile and a tatoo, to name a few. But the story I want to share was told at church this Sunday.
A woman spoke of her 8-year old autistic son. For eight years now she and her husband have been trying to connect with her son. It has been hard. And she has prayed to God for this very thing.
This past week, while playing together, her son put out his cheek and she offered him a kiss. He presented her other cheek to her, and she kissed that, too. And then he looked into her eyes and said “I yo yu”.
And in that moment, as she embraced he son, she was overwhelmed by the love of God.
Three simple syllables – I yo yu – sent a message that He came not only to save the world, but to save you too.