Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Why God Loves You

My most recent definition of love called it "desiring the good of another at my expense". While this is both vital and true, it's actually not the whole truth. Another essential part of love is the appreciation of beauty and value in its object.

We try to wiggle out of this. Recently I've noticed people using the phrase "loving on" someone. It just doesn't work. You can sit on, or vomit on, or spill on, or hit on someone - but you can't "love on" someone. You can't just project love outward and let it fall on whoever happens to be around. Yet this is what we tell people God does. Yep, we're so thoroughly worthless - nothing lovable at all, but God just loves us anyway...isn't that the message?

Oh, have we ever missed it! The Bible tells us that to God, we are very precious, each one. In spite of the warping and gnawing of sin, God sees us yet with the beauty he put in when he created us. The Bible makes clear that even before we are redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus and transformed by his Spirit, God places infinite value upon us as individuals. Jesus uses three allegories in Luke chapter 15 to describe just what we as humans are to God. The shepherd of a hundred sheep goes looking for one that hasn't made its way home. A woman with ten pieces of silver (and no income of her own) searches carefully for one lost piece. A father with two sons waits patiently and throws a party when the rebellious one returns.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."

So he told them this parable: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

"Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.

What does God see in us? Why does he love us - each one - even the worst of us? He's not "loving on" us. Rather, he sees in each of us what he - the Creator - has put there. In each of us is a unique, carefully crafted reflection of God himself, creative and personal like our Creator, bearing his image, imagined and designed by Love himself. Our capacity for creating and acting in love and beauty has been witnessed throughout the ages and over the world. Our uniqueness as people, with our vast array of personalities and cultures, is wonderful.

The destructive force of sin is to be feared because there is something of infinite value to be destroyed - something created; something dear to God himself... you and me. What a lie it is that we are worthless or expendable.

Like the shepherd calling, like the woman searching, like the father waiting - God loves us. His love is not general, but personal. Its object is you and me - because he, as no one else, knows the value of what we each are, and what each of us was made to be.

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