Relentless Love

Our kids have always attended public school. Grade Eight Social Studies was interesting for each of them. In our system, that is the year they study Catholicism, the Crusades, Islam as well as other events of History. The history books present a clear bias, some teachers have also been very biased in their presentation of the facts. It has been very interesting for us as parents to walk each of our kids through this history of “Christianity”. For each of them it has been a time to evaluate their faith, observe the reactions of others and seek clarity. It seems if people claim to do things that hurt others in the name of God, it justifies their actions. I guess if you hurt others in the name of God, you consider yourself blameless.  This is not so.  A lot of evil was done in the name of God to hide political motivations for land and power, just as ISIS is now doing great evil in the name of the one they follow, again for political motivations related to land and power. In history this diversion has been effective, the world sees the actions of a few and assume they represent the whole, not only is a religion blamed, but God’s name is dragged through the mud and sullied.

I am always interested to see how each child responds to these classroom situations. Their responses were different according to their unique personalities, but there were also common threads. Each of our kids were angry that people would do such hateful things in the name of God. In their own way, they were so frustrated by the bias which misrepresented the facts. They were bewildered by the lack of logic applied when the Church and Christianity were discussed and began to understand the power of emotion when interacting with information.  They realized that they too needed to avoid the pitfall of emotion when trying to evaluate information critically.

I am always grieved at the pain that is evident in their teachers or classmates remarks. Many must have experienced hurt from “The Church” or from people who claim to follow God. It is the only way I can interpret their words of hate and anger.  I often wonder what went wrong? What happened to them to cause such animosity?  It causes me to evaluate my own life, thoughts and actions and what I do that might misrepresent the great love God has for each one He created.

I have been mulling over the words in John 3:16-17 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.”

If you spent time in Sunday School or Bible camp, you probably know verse sixteen well. I absolutely love Kyle Idlemans’ description of it in his book GODS AT WAR: Defeating The Idols That Battle For Your Heart. In chapter three he writes “and then God, in the deepest and most startling expression of his relentless pursuit, sends his own Son. God is back and this time it is personal-not that it hasn’t always been for him. But now God has put everything on the line. He has given his one and only Son. Being God, and knowing all things, he knew exactly how it would come out. He knew about the arrest, the unfair trial, the beating, the mocking, the crucifixion.The event of the coming of Jesus represents just how far God is willing to go to win your heart. He had to make a choice, a choice between your heart and the life of his Son.”

Astonishing. God went to these great lengths for us. Yet somehow the world has missed this message of love.
Verse seventeen is the verse that has really been stuck in my mind. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. Condemn is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as a verb, to express complete disapproval. I think this scene from the movie How to train you Dragon sums it up for me. Stoick is addressing his son who doesn’t quit fit the Viking ideal.

Stoick: This is serious, son. When you carry this axe, you carry all of us with you. Which means, you walk like us, you talk like us, and you think like us. No more of… this! 
[gestures to all of Hiccup]
Hiccup: [miffed] You just gestured to all of me. 

Even though God did not intend condemnation, complete disapproval is what many expect from those of us who know and love God in a personal way.  I am guessing it is because it is what many have experienced.

Craig and I try to keep what he does for work a mystery when we are meeting new people.  We don’t want them to know he is a Pastor until they are comfortable with us and know us a little. Initially, when they find out where he works and what he does, their eyes go wide and they stiffen up. Their speech gets stilted, conversation dies off and things get uncomfortable. Usually they are doing a mental replay of all our conversations to remember how often they have said a swear word or if they have behaved in a way they think we might find inappropriate. Things get awkward for a while until either, they can’t keep up the “good behaviour” or maybe they realize that we accept them for who who they are.We desperately hope it is the latter!

I am evaluating my life and trying to figure out how I need to love better. How I need to love as Jesus loved.  How can I make sure the message of God’s pursuit of people and His immense love is communicated instead of condemnation?  If amazing unconditional love is what I have received, how can I live in a way that communicates that to others?

We who have received the fullness of God’s love are the ones responsible for sharing it with others.  I don’t know about you, but I know I am inadequate for this task. I am broken, selfish, flawed. I make mistakes and know that I misrepresent the love of God.  It is a good thing I am not supposed to show the world a perfect person, but a perfect God who relentlessly loves imperfect people. 

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