A Love Beyond Understanding

Picture with me coming across a young boy, distressed and disappointed.  More than that, in fact, he seems to be consumed with sorrow, even perhaps despair.  Immediately, your heart goes out for this poor kid.  You don’t know what led him to feel this way, but your instinct is to find a way to cheer him up, to rectify whatever brought him to this heartbreaking state.  But before you buy this kid an ice cream cone, there’s context to be uncovered here.

If we take a moment to dig a little deeper, we learn that this pitiful boy is not depressed because he’s fallen victim to an angry parent, a schoolyard bully, or some other difficult circumstance.  Nor is he “weary in well doing”, as Galatians 6:9 warns us can happen.  No, this young boy is overcome by pessimism, simply due to his immaturity and self-centeredness.

Roll back the tape a few hours and you would see that this boy was “caught with his hand in the cookie jar”.  Rolling back the tape a little further, we see that this boy’s parents simply asked him to clean up his room, the room he plays, sleeps, and makes messes in.  During this instance, his toys were everywhere and his bed in complete disarray. The whole room was a war zone.  This really isn’t something unheard of, but his parents were good at teaching their kids to clean up after themselves. Mom even added a tasty reward, prepping warm, delicious chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen ready for him after he picked up his mess. Not only did their son stubbornly refuse to clean his room, choosing to disobey his parents, but he also stole a cookie, assuming he deserved something that wasn’t even his.  After looking a little more carefully, we now have a better glimpse of things, hopefully adding more light to our perspective.

From afar, walking up to a kid kicking and screaming, you might see a victim, a helpless child that no one loves.  Talking to him, you begin to question his parents, wondering whether they are protecting him or treating him poorly, wondering if you should intervene.  He selfishly declares that nobody loves him, yelling with fist in the air, that he is never treated fairly.  He’s upset and demands respect. It’s often easy to make a judgment with no understanding of the actual circumstances.

This is a simple illustration of just how wicked our hearts can be.  But you might be thinking, “C’mon, he’s a kid?  It’s just a cookie. What’s the big deal?” Well, let’s dig a little deeper. We can’t really understand the severity of this issue without knowing the parents’ motives.

This couple loves their child with a sincere love and earnestly desires that their son learn thankfulness, hard work, responsibility, selflessness, and humility.  It begins with the smallest of things.  Without consistency in teaching the small things, their child will neither learn to share with others, nor be gracious and generous. He will not learn to be content, resisting the temptation to covet things that aren’t his. He will find it difficult to resist his pride, boasting foolishly over everything he wants and has.

Training a child to be selfless and learn responsibility is an essential step in helping him grow into an adult that is honest, honorable, and putting others above himself. And most importantly, this all will eventually allow for a soft heart that joyfully surrenders to Jesus.

Now, let’s look at the same boy. But instead of having parents willing to carefully correct and encourage him, he now has parents who surrender to the idea of giving him whatever he want every time he cries.  Fearing how he will react, they dance around his emotions, allowing him to create his own world of self-love, mistakenly thinking the way they treat him is out of consideration for his feelings.

This self-centered boy is now older, living just the way he was raised, never being corrected, never being taught right from wrong, always proud, and confident that his ways are right.  He’s always boastful and wanting more, never learning contentment and never truly satisfied.  Relationships are always self-serving, and he never esteems others before himself.  This man is literally miserable.  The same emotionally driven heart that produced so much rebellion in stealing that cookie is still present 25 years later because he never learned that correction is good, and that selfishness is wrong. He is angry at the world and ultimately, at God.

He feels completely alone because he’s pushed everyone away.  He is angry, bitter, and self-loathing. He has a victim mentality, feeling completely justified in his own thinking since he assumes he can never be wrong.  It’s a lonely road this man walks, and there’s no happiness in sight. This man is set in his ways, and there is no end in sight, no clarity, no virtue.  Simply said, misery.  But his pride won’t let him understand. His pride refuses to turn.

Love has such a deeper meaning than some fleeting, self-centered emotion.  It’s more than permission or acceptance.  It’s far greater than tolerance and coexistence.  Love has no bounds and is not defined by the momentary satisfaction one person gives another.  It most certainly can have fruits that look as such, but true love isn’t merely motivated by outward circumstance or emotional whims.

1 Corinthians 13:4“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant”

Jesus Christ, being the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), sets the highest standard of love. When Jesus came to His people, Israel, many sadly misunderstood his actual purpose. They thought he was there to liberate them from Roman tyranny and occupation. Instead, He showed us in our darkest and most haunting times that God’s love is far more than liberation from an earthly despot. For all their demands, for all their crying to be set free from the Roman reign, you would think, if the Lord was like us, he would have eventually relented, giving in to Israel’s selfish demands.

Praise God, He is nothing like people! Not only did He not give in to their cries, but He also took time to lovingly correct and redirect them.  He even rebuked His very followers for ignorantly attempting to prevent Him from accomplishing His salvation plan.  Jesus likened Peter to Satan after explaining what would happen as He gave his life a ransom for the sin of the world.

Matthew 16:21-23 – “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus knows far greater than any other what it means to love the unlovable (Romans 5:8), to die for the unworthy, and to offer His marvelous grace even to those who may never receive Him.  But how can the God of truth literally continue to give such an amazing gift so graciously as Himself? So many have denied that He is the Christ. If we’re honest, we should number ourselves with those Romans who literally spit in his face on the day he laid his life down (Luke 23:34). Jesus is the only willing and perfectly pleasing sacrifice to the Father of Glory.

Although the historic demonstration of Jesus’ love given through joyfully obeying His heavenly Father by willingly laying down His life upon the cross 2,000 year ago was prime (1 Peter 2:21), we can still embrace His faithfulness and love today. Even today, we desperately need the power of God through His Word and Holy Spirit as we seek to more biblically love our family, friends, and every person we come across in this dark world.

Parents should be ready and willing to sacrifice the desire to be their child’s friend. Instead, we should care about the eternal souls we’ve been entrusted with to train in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. God calls us both to share and to demonstrate this kind of love.

The self-centered love that the world demands is the exact opposite.  I’ll say it again. The love that the world demands is the opposite of God’s love and in actuality, literally impossible. One person cannot love another with the demand of others always making him happy. To sit back and allow the world’s beliefs to lead us is foolish and often dangerous.

Parents cannot correctly love with the demand of always letting their child do whatever he wants. What if a 5-year-old wants to grab a knife or play with poison under the sink because it looks like it tastes good?  True love opens its mouth, operating outside of self-centered emotions. True love cares more about the truth than any potential personal offense.

Naturally, telling someone “no” or “don’t” can come across as offensive, especially in today’s postmodern arena.  Letting someone know he is wrong, that he is going the wrong direction is often said to be offensive. It’s no different for a parent caring for his child than a person knowing there is a bomb inside a building. The only way to save people’s lives whether they believe you or not, is to take them out.  It will most likely offend and agitate and could even cause them to hate you for the next few minutes. But when that building explodes, and you are safely out of the way, they will understand.

This is a core difficulty for a Christian when operating in this world. In this world, some will never understand.  I personally cry at night, praying the Lord will change the hearts of some of those I know as they shake their fist at the Lord, demanding I respect their beliefs.  There are relationships that are on thin ice simply because I know the moment I bring up Jesus, the true Resurrected Jesus, the conversation will go cold.  Some roll their eyes. Others turn their heads, and some even leave the room.

I know that some are tired of people telling them that the God of the universe died for them. Their hearts have become so seared and calloused that they actually believe the Christian is their enemy.  This, of course, is to be expected, right?  Doesn’t our Lord give us this very warning?  I mean, we should expect these kind of responses, right? (John 15:18)

The problem is they may never understand.  I will never accept it, but we must learn this and give it over to our Lord.  We don’t mute our lips; we do not concede and give over to the idea that those we love may not accept Christ. But we do learn and grow with the Holy Spirit within us, knowing that there is a single reason they push us aside.  Regardless of people’s responses, we have a personal responsibility to continue lovingly sharing the truth of God’s Word with others. But let their disapproval never cause us to remain silent or perhaps even worse, compromised in what we say and do. In Peter’s epistle, the Lord reminds us that people may hate us, but let their hated be toward the Gospel, not toward anything we have personally done. Do not fret when some hate us for love’s sake.

1 Peter 3:16-17 – “having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

To the lost, I pray you read this.  I ask you to hear this ramble and hear my heart as I write this.  My plea is that you carefully consider those who say they love you. There are those who literally go out of their way every day to do things for you, those whom you claim would never do anything for you, but you know that’s not true. Please, look beyond yourself.  It’s true that people are fallible, people do err. But when you have built a fantasy in your mind and cannot find any sensible way to explain why everyone is against you, I ask that you consider the possibility that the Bible might actually be right.

To the church, to the born-again Christians that are reading this, I plead with you to seek the Lord and surrender your ways to Him.  The worldly ways that are touted today to draw the lost to Christ do not glorify our Heavenly Father.  We can try the cool music they listen to, maybe share a drink with them, have a laugh at an inappropriate joke to seem sociable, and maybe even compromise the truth to appear caring.  But I promise, if the world satisfied, they wouldn’t need to add “Christianity” to the pot of “Secularism”.

The only propitiation for our sin is Jesus Christ Himself (1 John 2:2).  He alone satisfies the hungry and thirsty soul (Mark 2:17).  No matter how angry a person gets, no matter how far they push you away, do not compromise the saving message of our Risen Savior.  He sets men free by his unwavering love and unfaltering Word of Truth.  His love sent Him to the cross.  It had him speak words like a sword out of his mouth that cut through the marrow, hitting straight to the heart (Mathew 10:34, Hebrews 4:12).

To the lost, know you are loved. You are loved so much that God refuses to let you stay in your sin. I pray that you desire His truth. We exclaim that it is not our truth, but God’s Himself. His Word, the Bible, is certified, verifiable, and worthy to be praised (Isaiah 1:18)! You choose to stand firm in your arguments, insisting that God does not love you. But then you say, “If God was so loving, he would never send me to Hell. If he’s so loving, he will have to forgive me.” And since He is so loving, you might even believe you can selfishly continue in your sins. But I beg you to surrender those rebellious thoughts.

Search the Lord!  A loving parent should never allow his child to continue in his error. His love is far greater than his desire to see his child temporarily appeased (Matthew 23:37).  To tell someone you only wish the best for him is a far greater cry than what most think.  I truly want my family to know the love of Christ and accept His work on the cross before any earthly treasure (Matthew 16:26).  Some find that offensive, and some would wonder why they can’t have both. But when you know Jesus Christ, the God of true love, the One that showed His ultimate sacrifice by dying the torturous death on a Roman cross, eternal understanding begins to shine in.

Until then, there is only darkness and confusion.  You may feel alone but choosing the path of rebellion and selfishness will never lead to the truth. But there is hope, His name is Jesus Christ.  He can bring 20/20 vision to the blurry place we call life.  It only takes humility and surrender.  I know I still have my pride, often wondering why I haven’t figured it out by now.  One thing I know for sure- God hasn’t gone anywhere. We turn our backs and declare we know better than Him, when in reality, before we’re born again, we are spiritually blind with scales over our eyes.

To anyone reading this, true and eternal love is real.  It is far greater than any image the world can paint.  It does not accept anything aside from the truth.  This selfless, Jesus-focused, Bible-centered love is truly a breath of fresh air. There are no more hidden agendas, no deceptions, no man-made judgments, only God’s love, mercy, grace, truth, and humility.  When you ache for something to quench your spiritual thirst, God’s love is there as an overflowing fountain, not an earthly puddle of sludge.

We all must humbly turn to Jesus, asking for His full and free forgiveness found solely in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Only then will His love truly make sense. When you humbly look Love in His eyes, you will know that it was Jesus on the cross, pouring out His blood for you. And then, after laying down His life, Jesus victoriously rose again, being the Only One to defeat death.  I mean really, who defeats death?  That drug you so desire, the one you swear makes you feel better, does it truly set you forever free from your misery? Can it rescue you from eternal death?

Jesus defeated death, destroying Satan’s stranglehold. He declared any who cannot find rest for their souls, any who have a thirst that no earthly thing can satisfy, anyone who craves a relationship that will eternally satisfy, to come to Him. Only when we find the true God and Savior will we truly understand that God is love. (Matthew 11:28)

Only this love makes sense- a love that knows you and yet loves you anyway; a love that graciously invites you to know Him; a love that understands, and a love that can empower you to understand Him.

The question is… will you come before it’s too late?

Proverbs 15:5 – “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.”

1 Peter 2:21-25 – “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls..”

Jeremiah 9:23-24 – “Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Roman 5:8- “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

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