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Terri Copeland Pearsons
God is love. You’ve probably been able to quote that scripture ever since you toddled out of your first little Sunday school class.
But come on now, be honest. Is God really love to you?
He isn’t in the minds of most people. They think God is following them around with a big stick, ready to smack them over the spiritual head every time they sin.
I don’t even have to ask them to know it. All I have to do is watch how they treat other people. They’re smacking everyone around them with their own little stick of criticism and judgment. They’re constantly hurting and being hurt.
It’s a painful way to live. I’ve tried it. I wasn’t a sinner at the time, either. I was a born-again child of God. I knew about and lived by faith. But I’ll tell you, it was hard work. And it produced very limited results.
Then some years ago, God began to reveal something to me that changed everything. It’s a revelation that is still unfolding to this day. A revelation of His love.
One Man’s Cry
That’s a revelation desperately needed in the Church today. You see, as a body we haven’t expressed to the world the love of God. We’ve told them that He’s moral, that He’s right, that He’s powerful and a hundred other things. But we’ve failed to effectively demonstrate to them the life-changing fact that He loves them.
Yet when you look at the life of Jesus, He communicated love more than anything else. His whole mission on earth was to express—to embody and personify—the love of God.
He went to extreme lengths to prove to even the most sinful of men that God loved them. Luke 8 tells us of a time when Jesus had preached and ministered all day then He got into a boat and said, “Let us go over unto the other side of the lake” (Luke 8:22). He didn’t tell them why He wanted to go over there; He just said Go.
It wasn’t an easy trip. They encountered hurricane force winds on the way that were so strong the disciples thought they were going to die until Jesus rebuked the storm and put a stop to it.
Do you know who they met when they arrived at the other side of that lake? A man so filled with evil spirits that no man and no chains could hold him. A man who lived in the tombs. Who thrived off of bodies and carcasses, cutting and beating himself. A man who wanted to be free but couldn’t.
When that man saw Jesus, he ran toward Him probably intending to kill Him. But when he approached Jesus, he ran into the presence of God and those demonic powers fell on the ground in subjection.
Right then and there, Jesus delivered the madman from the tombs. He drove out the demons and set him free.
Think about the extremes Jesus went to, to reach that man. Why did He do it? Why did He travel across the lake when He was so tired He fell asleep shortly after they set sail? Why did He go through the storm?
I’m convinced it’s because God heard the cry of one desperate man and said to Jesus, “Go get him. I don’t care if he has been living out of the graves. I don’t care how bound up by perversion he is. I don’t care what he looks like, smells like or acts like. I love him, so go get him and set him free.”
Burning Up With Love
Again and again throughout His ministry, Jesus went to extreme lengths to prove to us the love of God. Ultimately He even went into hell for us—a place far worse than any graveyard that wild man ever inhabited. He faced death and the grave. He gave up His union with God in order to carry the sin that Adam had brought into the world.
My friend, God loves you with an amazing love! He didn’t have you born again just so He could get you off His conscience. That may sound funny but when you think about it, many people have that mentality.
They’ve been taught by religion that God saves us just so we can praise Him forever. Just so we can live for Him. In other words, God saved us to satisfy His own egotistical, selfish need to have someone tell Him how great He is all the time.
No! God isn’t like that!
Ephesians tells us He redeemed us in order to restore our fellowship with Him so that in the ages to come He could show us the wonders of His love and grace (see Ephesians 1:7-10).
God’s heart cries out to those who are in sin, to those who have been hurt and put in bondage by it. He wants to bring them into His presence. He wants to be for them all that He is.
He knows how wonderful and marvelous He can cause our lives to be. He has a driving compassion to be with us and to bless us. The Bible says God is a fire from the loins up and a fire from the loins down. He is burning up with love!
Put Away Your Stick
Because of that fiery compassion, Colossians 1:13 tells us that “[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (The Amplified Bible).
Let that sink in a moment. You and I are now native citizens of the kingdom of love! Love should be flowing out of us toward others, just like it flowed from God toward us.
The Apostle Paul said God has reconciled to Himself the whole world and given unto us that message of reconciliation (see II Corinthians 5:18-21). God has made the whole world right with Him. And since you are born of His nature and His love, it should be in you to do the same thing with those around you—to draw them close to you and to love them.
“Well, I couldn’t possibly get close to those people! They’re living in gross sin!”
Get them saved then! Don’t beat them with your judgment stick. Don’t try to punish them for their sin. Jesus already took the punishment for them. As I John 2:2 says, “He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world” (The Amplified Bible).
When we’re tempted to be harsh or critical, we would do well to remember that. To think about the fact that Jesus shed His blood for that person regardless of how ugly they are acting or how wrong they are. Then we should ask ourselves, “Is this how Jesus would speak to this person? Is this the tone of voice He would use?”
When Jesus met the madman at the tombs, He didn’t criticize and berate him. He loved him. He understood that the man was bound and driven by devils. He was a person who needed help—not condemnation.
Keep that in mind when you’re dealing with someone you think is wrong. Consider him. Consider what he’s going through. If you don’t know what he is going through, then do one of two things: either find out or keep your mouth shut.
Don’t hurt his feelings in the name of being right. The presence of God is not involved in that. Love goes out of the way to see to it that people’s feelings aren’t hurt. It isn’t touchy and it doesn’t cause hurts.
A Common Deception
When you’re outside of love you’re outside of the will of God, no matter how justified you feel you are.
I John 2:9-10 puts it this way: “Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother...is in darkness even until now. Whoever loves his brother...abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin” (The Amplified Bible).
Most of us would deny the fact that we hate anyone because hate is such a strong term. But the truth is, if we’re not exercising the love of God toward the people around us, we are hating them. There is no in between, only varying degrees of intensity.
Thus, when we fail to act in love, we’re in darkness. The sad thing about it is, most of the time we don’t even know it. It is, as Proverbs 14:12 says, the “...way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
You don’t wake up and think, “Well, I believe I’ll be wrong today.” No, it often comes under the guise of helping someone. For example, have you ever felt compelled to correct someone “in order to help them”? You may think, This may seem harsh, but it’s okay because they’ll be better off in the long run.
I’ve even seen people in the ministry criticize, step on or hurt those they work with in order to accomplish a certain ministry goal. It’s never all right to disregard people, no matter how just the cause. Even though you cannot keep some people from being offended, it should never occur because of your insensitivity or laziness where the love walk is concerned.
If you are not endeavoring to grow and walk in love with the people around you, you are in darkness and you are deceived. Without love, whatever you do will fall short of the glory of God. And without the glory of God in what you do, you might as well not bother to do it at all.
Choose Your World
Apart from the influence of God, the world has no love! All the “love” it has to offer is full of greed and possessiveness, interwoven with lust.
But you are no longer a citizen of darkness. You are no longer a citizen of this world. You are a citizen of the kingdom of the Son of God’s love.
Yes, you still live in this world which is under the influence of the wicked one. It’s still knocking at your door, putting pressure on you to follow its selfish pattern of living.
The question is, which world will you yield to? Will you be an ambassador of love or will you adapt to the hateful world around you?
If you choose to be an ambassador of love, you’ll have an awesome impact on the world around you. What kind of impact? The same kind that Jesus had when He walked the earth. With every deed of kindness, every gesture of compassion, every word of love, you’ll bring God’s very presence on the scene.
So stand up on the inside and say, “As of this day, I make a decision that I’m walking in love. I’ll not put myself first. I’ll put others before me. I’ll stop criticizing and start reaching out in compassion.”
Then stir up the Holy Spirit inside you by praying in the spirit. Let Him show you how to truly love. He’s so creative. He can tell you how to be loving to the people who give you the hardest time of all.
He’ll give you the power to go and do something nice for them. Do you know what will happen when you do that? They’ll probably be ugly to you again. But the power of love will enable you to rise above it and it won’t matter.
What will matter, however, is that something eternal will have happened. The very love and presence of Almighty God will have invaded that situation. And that love can do things nothing else can do. Love breaks chains. Delivers captives. Heals wounds. Brings people together.
Love makes the impossible possible. Because love never fails.