Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Aaron says, “God’s love is like that.”
February 3, 2011
Rewind: Love; it’s a word that has become watered down and overused, especially in the English language. It’s weird to think that most of us use the same four letter word to describe how we feel about pizza, chocolate, our favorite sweater, an interesting class, a movie star, our best friend, our pets, the snow, our parents, and our God. With all of those things wrapped up into our conception of love, it’s sometimes hard to understand what it really means to believe that God loves us. Try as you might – and I’ve tried a lot, because I really like words – words just don’t seem to cut it when it comes to describing love. But that doesn’t mean that God’s love has to remain a mystery.
Last night, Aaron took a page out of Christ’s play book (Matt. 22:1, for instance), and taught in word-pictures, stories. So, what is God’s love like? “Well,” Aaron said, “it’s kinda like…”
There was a guy named Randy who really had to use the bathroom. He dashed into the first men’s room he found, and went about his business. As he was washing his hands, however, he heard a voice call out, “Help!” It was coming from the handicapped stall. Now, Randy stopped to think for a moment: this guy hasn’t seen my face or even what I’m wearing; really, I could turn around and walk out of the restroom, and no one would know. But Randy didn’t walk out. Instead, he crawled under the locked door of the handicapped stall and helped the man who was stranded between his wheelchair and the toilet. It wasn’t pretty or fun; it didn’t smell pleasant, and they were both embarrassed, but Randy helped the man up, and cleaned him, the floor, the wheel chair, and the toilet. He then waited until the man was done, and helped him back into his wheel chair and out of the restroom. Randy and that man will probably never see each other again. God’s love is kinda like that. “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” Matt. 20:28
There was an airplane that took off just like a million other airplanes, and flew along its path just like a million other airplanes, and, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be like a million other airplanes, until it stopped being like those other airplanes. At some point during the flight, the plane hit intense turbulence and started going down. As you may be able to imagine, people panicked. They cried and screamed and fumbled frantically with seatbelts and the masks hanging from the ceiling. Amidst the chaos, one man, wearing a black outfit with a white collar, sat quietly observing the scene. He saw two small children, ages 5 and 7, crying while their parents freaked out nearby. The priest got up out of his chair, walked over to the kids, and started telling jokes. He comforted them, wiped away their tears, and made them laugh. Picture that for a second. This plane is falling out of the sky, the passengers are all going nuts, everyone is consumed with fear and worry, and there, in the middle of all of that, is a man and two small children, laughing and smiling. God’s love is kinda like that. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7
One in two families go through a divorce now-a-days. A man came home one day to find his wife in the act of cheating on him. After the inevitable argument and a little time, the two decided to go to counseling together. For a while, things seemed to be getting better; they were back to laughing together and holding hands. The man was hopeful that they could move on. But then his wife cheated again. In fact, she cheated at least four more times. It got to the point where this man would go to where he knew she would be, just so he could bring her home again. Eventually, his wife moved out, but the man never stopped pursuing her. His friends questioned him repeatedly. Don’t you know what’s going on? Can’t you see that she has an infidelity problem and it isn’t going to get any better? What are you doing? Why don’t you just let her go? In response, all the man could say was, “I love my wife; I will always love her.” He said he had a promise to stand by her and care for her no matter what, and if she were to come back tomorrow, he would welcome her home with open arms. God’s love is kinda like that.
In fact, God’s love is so much like that last example that there’s a whole book in the bible depicting that same principle of undying love. Hosea was a prophet told, by God, to marry Gomer, a prostitute, and no matter how many times she ran back to her other lovers, Hosea found her and brought her home. Hosea’s relentless pursuit of Gomer’s heart mirrors the Lord’s relentless pursuit of His people who continuously turn away from His love. Just as the man’s friends questioned his actions, one can imagine that the angels sometimes question God. What are You doing? Don’t You know there is darkness in the Church? Can’t You see that Your people will only keep breaking Your heart? Why can’t You just let them go? He won’t let us go because He has made us a promise. He will fight for us, and care for us, and listen to us, and love us forever. He says, “I love the Church, and I will always love her; I will stand by her forever.” Yeah, God’s love is like that.
Pause: There are a few scripture passages scattered throughout the message above that I would strongly encourage you to look up and meditate on, but also read through these excerpts from The Message translation of Hosea. They speak to the heartbreak God experiences each time we turn away, and the unending love He has for us despite our perpetual infidelity problem.
“When Israel was only a child, I loved him. I called out, “My son!” – called him out of Egypt. But when others called him, eh ran off and left me. He worshiped the popular sex gods, he played at religion with toy gods. Still, I stuck with him. I led Ephraim. I rescued him from human bondage, but he never acknowledged my help…” Hosea 11:1-3
“My people are hell-bent on leaving me. They pray to god Baal for help He doesn’t lift a finger to help them. But how can I give up on you, Ephraim? How can I turn you loose, Israel?… I can’t bear to even think such thoughts. My insides churn in protest. And so I’m not going to act on my anger. I’m not going to destroy Ephraim. And why? Because I am God and not a human. I’m The Holy One and I’m here – in your very midst.” Hosea 11:7-9
“I will heal their waywardness. I will love them lavishly. My anger is played out. I will make a fresh start with Israel. He’ll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring… Ephraim is finished with gods that are no-gods. From now on I’m the one who answers and satisfies him. I am like a luxuriant fruit tree. Everything you need is to be found in me.” Hosea 14:4-5, 8
Push Play: If you haven’t guessed already, the book of Hosea is one of my favorite books of the bible. If you haven’t read it, go read it right now, please. It’s only 14 chapters, and it goes by pretty quick. In my opinion, you simply can’t find a better love story. God’s love for us is real and true and far more moving than anything else in the world. When we are filled to the brim with God’s love, it’s only natural that we turn around and pour that love out into the world. True love is an action, after all. That’s why Aaron gave us examples, that’s why Jesus told parables, that’s why Hosea was made to chase after Gomer, and that’s why Axiom does things like Water on Green and Cocoa on the Quad. This week, let love motivate you to choose to serve others and act with grace and mercy even when it’s tough, because God loves you like that all the time.