“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jer. 31:3 (NIV)
It happened a few years back…but it made a lasting impression on me. Our family had gone to the beach in the offseason and decided to drive down front beach road and enjoy the scenery. As we passed a nightclub we noticed people standing holding signs. My first thought was that they were stranded and needed help, but then I realized they were yelling. The signs they held were covered with these statements: “God hates you, you drunkard!” “God hates you, you whore-mongerers!” And on and on went the signs. I could not help myself. My jaw literally dropped for the space of several seconds.
Whose God were they representing? My God “so loved the world that his gave his only begotten Son.” My God is “not willing that any should perish but that they should all come to repentance.” Yes- He is altogether holy! No- he cannot abide sin. But sinners? His feelings for them are as plain as day. The day He hanged upon Calvary’s Cross and expressed His love with agony, humiliation, indescribable pain and separation from Father God. All as He bore the sins of drunkards, whore-mongerers, and people like me.
His arms were stretched wide as was the custom in that type of execution. But I cannot help but see the beauty and poetry behind it as well. His arms were stretched wide as He paid the price for all humanity. Stretched wide as He reached in love to all the nations; through all generations. Arms stretched wide in invitation. Come! Be restored. Come! Be forgiven!
Today’s verse has a gentleness about it, that woos. He has loved us with an everlasting love. He loved us before our great-grandparents were born. He has loved us when we were innocent children. He has loved us as we made choices that broke His heart. He has loved us as we stood in the crowd and jeered at Him, making fun. Denying his deity. And certainly, He has loved us as we have knelt in repentance and received the free gift of eternal life. He has loved us when we endeavor to serve Him wholeheartedly as well as when we fail miserably.
Preach repentance to sinners? It is our mandate- our mission statement! But the biggest draw He made to humanity was done in loving-kindness. Should not that be our approach to evangelism as well?
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” II Tim. 3:16 (NIV)
Certainly there is a time to teach, a time to rebuke, a time to correct and a time to train. But in all those situations, at the very heart of the matter is the everlasting love of a God, who is love. And a drawing, a calling, a beckoning, born of loving-kindness.
Dear God, teach me to love as you have loved. Teach me to approach people with your heart and your passion. And never let me forget the person I once was before I receive your free gift of salvation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen!
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