February 14, 2011
Monday, 6:00 p.m.
Letter #166: Love … Just as I Have Loved You
Happy Valentine’s Day! I didn’t wear anything red today—that choice being made for me by the nice folks at Florence Correctional Center. I wore instead a lovely sky-blue coordinated pantsuit that really brought out the blue in my left eye. (The other eye is green, but not “with envy” for having missed out on the opportunity to be an optical accessory to my unicolor wardrobe. And yes, the similarities to felines ends with my mis-matched eye color. I do not have cat-like reflexes, and the only thing I find fascinating about laser pointers is that people still use them.)
That I get to wear blue is a blessing at this facility, since other units of Californians here are bedecked in pumpkin orange and fire engine red. Which would be awesome in October or any month you wish you had a fire engine in your cell.
I’ve been in the book of the prophet Jeremiah recently. Since my college program has me reading through the Bible twice a year, I’ve chosen the New Living Translation on this journey through.
In Jeremiah 31, the Lord says that those who ran from God to serve idols and walk in wickedness will one day approach God saying, “Turn me again to You and restore me, for You alone are the Lord my God. I turned away from God, but then I was sorry. I kicked myself for my stupidity! I was thoroughly ashamed of all I did in my younger days.” (Jeremiah 31:18–19)
Then, the Lord speaks His response in verse 20, saying in part, “Aren’t [you] still My son, My darling child? … I often have to punish you, but I still love you. That’s why I long for you and will have mercy on you.”
This really hit me today—to read so clearly about our finest example of true love: God’s love for us while we were yet in sin. When He has every right to write us out of His inheritance, to doom us forever for our willful sins, or to make us grovel at His feet for an eternity before accepting us back, He chooses love instead. God’s love defies logic and contradicts original thought.
The songwriter, F.M. Lehman, penned these words in 1917, capturing the concept of the last verse in the book of John:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Yes, the full love of God for you is more vast than you will ever fully realize in this world. Romans 8:39 says … “nothing in all of creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.” God’s love for us is not a conditionally biased temporal love that we experience often in human relationships. He does not “fall in love” with you and then “fall out of love” days later when you forget to open the door for Him.
His love is based on His changeless character and revealed in Jesus Christ. You won’t find that kind of love here on earth. (A dog is the only creature on earth that will love you more than it loves itself.) And yet, we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and Jesus took it up a notch when He taught us to love those who hate us. This is really only possible through the love of God being in us. As I John 4:12 says, “If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us.” God’s love for us becomes an outpouring of love to others, an evidence of and response to His love.
The world’s finest example of God’s love is Christians’ love for each other and for the lost. I am convinced that we don’t need so much to take classes in how to witness, how to defend our faith, or how to friendship evangelize as much as we need to demonstrate the love of God in us to those we come in contact with. God brings opportunities every day, and others constantly monitor our character. We can choose to be harsh or loving, forgetting we have faults, too—or forgiving the faults of others.
I wondered today if I really love the world around me (for me, a bunch of criminals) enough to step outside of my little comfort zone and be in theirs. I questioned myself, if I am willing to “waste time” becoming a friend with someone just so I can make an opportunity to share Christ with him, or would I rather just stick to what I know and hang around people who like me and present no challenge?
Please pray that I be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s direction in the days ahead … I want to be used up for the sake of Christ, available to reach those in need, generous with my time and resources that I might, “by all means,” win some with the very love that God first loved me with through Jesus Christ!