We may drift away or even run away from God but He never stops loving us. I’ve thought a great deal about this lately and the more I ponder this the more I am overwhelmed with the immensity of the truth of the reality of God’s unconditional love.
Any of us humans can stop loving at anytime. You can hurt me or I can hurt you enough and often enough that your love begins to break down and eventually vanishes. In broken relationships we often say, “we’ve moved on,” or “I’m over him or her,” or “I’m glad that is over.” You’ve heard them all before. But for God there never is a moving on, or I’m glad it is over moment, because the very definition of God is love.
I was sitting thinking about this the other day when a friend mentioned that her friend who is starting to read the Bible thought God had favorites because she read in the Gospel of John where the disciple John said he was the disciple that Jesus loved. There are actually five places in the Gospel of John where this phrase, “the disciple Jesus loved,” occurs. I know believing the disciple was John has fallen out of favor these days but I still believe that is whom Jesus is talking about.
What I find interesting is the idea that the disciple Jesus loved can be translated as the disciple that Jesus kept on loving. That changes the whole idea of the verse. Is John, if it is John, saying Jesus kept on loving me in spite of my mistakes, my errors, my sins and my fears?
When we read the Bible with an open mind and heart we are confronted with flawed characters throughout the entire book. There are few people that we would hold up as perfect role models for someone on a Christian journey, but that is the exact point.
We are all on a journey, every bit as much as was Abraham, Joseph, David, Jeremiah and the disciples. They were flawed characters that struggled, failed, let God down and yet continually responded to God’s call of love. To read the Psalms is to meet a man who knows the depth of his sin and the anguish of his defeats and betrayals towards God, but also the joy of forgiveness and acceptance.
God loves each of us as His children and the idea of just one of us not going into the Kingdom of God must break His heart. He loves us with such an intense love that it led Him to the cross and yet even that is not enough for many of us who continue to refuse to accept such love. God gave His all for us because of no other reason than love.
When you and I go to heaven we will have joy ever lasting. But for God, I wonder if there will ever be a hole in His heart where the lost lives of His loved ones abides. Maybe it is like Christmas dinner where all the family is home except one who couldn’t make it that year. There is great joy and lots of fun and laughter but there is also something missing—the missing person.
Let me quote Brennan Manning again, “God loves you as you are, not as you should be, because you will never be what you should be.” God loves us because He loves us and not because we are more special than anyone else on the Earth. Jesus did not die to make God love us; He died because God already loves us.
God’s love is immense and accepting. There are no conditions, it is given freely and we may embrace it and fall all over it in joy or we can walk away from it. But the point I am making is neither of those responses changes how God feels about us. No matter how much I rejoice in His love He can’t love me anymore than He already does, because I’m already loved with His entire being. And if I walk away from Him and reject Him He won’t love me any less because He loves me with all the capacity He has.
To be lost from the Kingdom of God is a difficult task because it means a person has to reject unconditional love and acceptance. It means that a person has to reject the promptings of the Holy Spirit that the God of the Universe loves that person with all His heart. A person has to become stubborn and make choices not to accept forgiveness for sins and as a result decide they would rather live with shame and pain.
To be lost means that they have to reject God’s love, and refuse to trust in the one who gave His all for them. They must make a conscious decision to say, “No I will never ask for forgiveness and repent for my sin.” They must always decide that to live in the shadows of unforgiven, and unconfused sin is greater than letting it go and finding freedom, forgiveness, and compassion.
Here is my point. We can be people of the above paragraph, but we are still loved. Yes, we reject the love God has for us and we reject the opportunity to be reconciled and receive the joy of knowing real love, but God’s love doesn’t stop flowing to us because of that decision.
Now here it goes – I can’t understand why everyone in the world doesn’t want to be a Christian when we understand that we are loved unconditionally and our salvation is a free gift that we need only accept. The problem is simple, we Christians, don’t always teach, preach, or reflect that unconditional love. We are harsh in our judgments, unaccepting of others, legalistic in our teachings, and all too often indifferent towards the lost.
In the denomination I joined as a young man, as I now, as a much older man look back, I see what I taught was quite a bit different than what I’ve been writing about this morning. I had an agenda and that was to get people to join the church that I belonged to. The result was I taught the teachings of my church and if people didn’t accept those teachings, well so be it and I moved on.
I have often wondered over the years what pain and hurt many of those people felt and yet we never came to the place where we could talk about them because I was so busy teaching them doctrines that had nothing to do with their everyday life or the crisis that made them want to find answers through a stranger sitting in their front room.
God is love and He loves us with an unconditional love. It’s true we can’t love as Jesus does because the very nature of our love is conditional, but we can still love with all the joy, peace, and assurance that lives within us.