“God loves each one of us
as if there was only one of us to love.” - St. Augustine
Read: Romans 8:31-39
On Friday, my sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful 8lb., 1oz. baby girl. It’s not hard for me to feel the immense love she and her husband must be feeling right now.
I remember the first time I set eyes on each one of my kids. It was an unforgettable moment; with each one came an indescribable and overwhelming sensation that engulf my entire being.
Because this door was opened for me, I have a better understanding of why the bible uses a parental analogy to describe the Divine, and His love for us.
I’ll admit I sometimes struggle to believe that God really loves me. No matter how hard I try, I can sometimes feel a sense of failure and self-condemnation. It’s relatively easy for me to say that God loves everybody else, but there are times when I have trouble believing it about me. What did I ever do to deserve such a blessing of grace and mercy? Have you ever felt this way?
I suspect there’s a tendency for us to question God’s love; especially when bad things happen to us; when our prayers go unanswered; when God seems silent in our suffering and hurting. It doesn’t help our own doubt either when we compare ourselves with others who we believe God made healthier, wiser, wealthier, or prettier than us.
Today’s reading, in fact the entire letter of Romans, Paul skillfully defines God’s grace that is given to us out of deep love for us. A love that can be hard to understand and even harder to accept.
A few years ago, a minister by the name of Judah Thomas asked a group of 4 to 8 year old to define what love meant. As you might imagine, the answers varied from the amusing to the profound.
One child said, “Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.”
Another believed, “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”
Of course there was the old familiar, “When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.”
I like this one, “Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”
One of the older kids told the story, “When his grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t paint her toenails anymore. So his grandfather did it for her, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”
I believe St. Augustine said it best when he wrote, “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.” To think you are so important to God that even if you were the only person who ever lived, Jesus still would have died for you. That’s crazy love for sure.
Picture all the crazy things people do to win someone’s affection: Poetry, love songs, valentine cards, embarrassing feats on YouTube. None of these things are as crazy as what God did for you through Jesus Christ. All of which he did it with passion, and great purpose.
I recently read about a man in Wales who for 42 years sought to win the affection of a certain lady before she finally said, "Yes." Every week the rather shy, but persistent man slipped a love letter under his neighbor’s door. And every week she refused to speak to him or mend the spat they had over four decades earlier.
After writing 2,184 love letters without ever getting a spoken or written answer, the man eventually summoned up enough courage to present himself in person. He knocked on the door of the reluctant lady and asked for her hand. To his delight and surprise, she accepted. At the ripe young age of 74 the two finally became Mr. and Mrs.
Time and time again, God tried to get this message through to his creation, but with little response. Finally, when there was no other way, God wrapped up His message in person, and came knocking on our doors and shaking up our world. You can choose not to answer the door, or refuse to accept such love into your life, but as Paul states, nothing will stop God from pursuing a relationship with us.
Like a teenager storming off to their room and slamming the door – we reject the love of our Divine parent because maybe we think we know better. We stand stubbornly, behind our closed door, and resist this truth – deciding FOR God, just how wrong He is about us.
Now if one of my kids were to do this, we’d go to great lengths to assure them of their self worth; emphasizing their very important place in this world. We would not give up. And nether does God.
God knows us; knows we are afraid and have trouble letting go. But still God is patient. He will wait. And wait. Knocking and knocking.
For as Paul boldly asserts, “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Death can’t. Life can’t. The angels and demons can’t. Our fears today, our worries of tomorrow, or any earthly powers can’t keep God’s love a bay. Nothing. Not even a closed door, or a stubborn heart.
“Nothing can drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love. Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, hunger, or homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture. The struggles we face in life, the doubts and questions, the fears and worries do not need to faze us, because Jesus loves us.”
Love is the greatest commandment, Jesus said. It was his prime directive—love for God, for self, for neighbor, for stranger, . . . and even for enemy, as he himself modeled. Love took priority over everything else, including his own life.
Before meeting Christ, Paul (then known as Saul) had no time for this kind of love talk. He was into his pious religious-correctness. To guard the purity of his code, he was even willing to kill. But then Paul saw the light, and let go of his religious correctness for love.
Jesus is the perfection of God’s love in the world. And through our faith in him, “God works for the good of those who love him.” One needs to look no further than the Cross of Christ to understand this.
If God can take the very worst of human activity and turn it into the very best thing possible, then I imagine God can take the worst things in your life and use them for good.
Paul argues, the very fact that God gave his Son as a love offering on our behalf means that he will do anything, give anything, to ensure our spiritual flourishing. God did this not because we deserve it or have earned it, but in order to heal our brokenness and our faithlessness. It’s yours for the taking, if you want it.
Despite all our flaws and imperfections, God is still crazy enough to entrust us with his whole heart. But he wants us to use it…to give it away, freely, passionately and purposefully. As the Apostle John says, “Let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”
You are a beloved child of a kind and generous God, who will go to any length… and spare no expense… to have you in his life.
God is standing at our closed door, knocking- asking us to share our life with Him. Whispering through the crack, “I love you” even when we deny Him, or refuse to answer, or refuse to see or to accept his love.
God is dedicated, devoted, and determined to remind us of how special we are, how important, how necessary and how loved we are. All we need to do is open the door and let love in.
Rohr, Richard. Faith Expressed as Love devotional. July 17, 2017
Sermon Illustrations provided by Judah Thomas (https://www.sermoncentral.com) on July 28, 2017.