God Really Loves Us
By Pastor Wally Odum
Charlotte Mortimer described her adult education, creative writing class. The teacher asked all the students to write “I love you” in 25 words or less, without using the words, “I love you.”
The class was given 15 minutes to complete the assignment. Charlotte wrote that one woman spent about 10 minutes looking at the ceiling and wiggling in her seat. Then the last five minutes, she wrote frantically. Later she read her composition to the class. It consisted of three loving statements:
“Why, I’ve seen lots worse hairdos than that, honey.”
“These cookies are hardly burned at all.”
“Cuddle up-I’ll get your feet warm.”
It tells us something about her husband. It also tells us something about the practical side of love.
I don’t know if anyone else spends much time wondering why God loves us, but sometimes His love is a mystery to me. I know my inadequacies and shortcomings. I also know that God loves me in spite of them. Moses’ words to Israel in Deuteronomy 7:7-8 comfort me. He explains God’s love for them to the Israelites:
“The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt.”
Our might and importance have nothing to do with God’s affection for us. He just loves us. John 3:16 may be the most memorized verse in the Bible: “God so loved the world...”
A book that touched me was Love Beyond Reason, by John Ortberg. In the book, Ortberg describes a doll, Pandy, that belonged to his sister, Barbie. By the time he knew Pandy he says, “She had lost a lot of hair, one arm was missing, and she’d had the stuffing knocked out of her.” Not impressed with Pandy’s beauty, he felt that she was too damaged to be even given away.
He remembers his family going to Canada from Illinois for vacation. On the return trip they realized that they had left the doll in Canada and had to drive all the way back to Canada to retrieve her. Pandy was that important to his sister.
When Barbie married and had a little girl of her own, Courtney, his sister had Pandy restored and kept her as Courtney’s doll. Ortberg’s reflection on Pandy’s story impacted me deeply. He wrote, “When Pandy was young, Barbie loved her. She celebrated her beauty. When Pandy was old and ragged, Barbie loved her still. Now she did not simply love Pandy because Pandy was beautiful, she loved her with the kind of love that made Pandy beautiful.”
That’s what God’s love has done for us. He doesn’t love us because we are beautiful, His love makes us attractive.
Sometimes it is hard for us to receive undeserved love, so we try to earn it. Richard Bellinger, a young boy in South Carolina, was the son of a Baptist minister. One Saturday night, Richard decided to shine his father’s shoes. The following night his father put a silver dollar on the bureau of his son’s room with a note commending his son for what he had done, and telling him that the dollar was his reward. The next morning, when the father put on his shoes, he felt something hard and metallic in one of them. When he took the shoe off and reached inside, he found the silver dollar he had given to his son the night before. Along with the dollar was a note that simply read, “I did it for love!”
What God has done for us, He did for love. Instead of trying to understand it, or deserve it, or pay for it, He just wants us to receive it and say, “Thank you.” When we do that, His love begins to change us. And does His love ever have the power to change us!
Gwen and I pastored outside Baltimore, Maryland early in our ministry. I was drawn to a story I read about a college in that area. One of the local college professors gave an assignment to his class. He asked them to go into the economically impoverished communities to get case histories of 200 young boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future. In every case the students wrote something like, “He hasn’t got a chance.”
Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study. He decided to use his class to follow up on the previous survey in order to see what had happened to those boys. With the exception of 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen.
The professor was astounded at the results and decided to pursue the matter further. Fortunately, the 176 men still lived in the area and his class interviewed each of them. They were asked the question, “How do you account for your success?” In each case the reply came with feeling, “There was a teacher.”
Investigating, the professor learned that the teacher was still alive. He personally went to speak with her. He asked her what magic formula she had used to pull these boys out of the slums into successful achievement. The teacher looked at him, broke into a smile, and said, “It’s really very simple, I loved those boys.”
God loves us. When we are about to step into heaven because we have believed in Him, if someone asks us why we made it, we can confidently say, “He just loved us.”
The kind of love God has for us cost Him dearly. John MacArthur told of an incident that occurred during Oliver Cromwell’s reign as Lord Protector of England. A young soldier was scheduled to be executed. The girl to whom he was engaged pleaded with Cromwell to spare the life of her beloved, but Cromwell was resistant to her request. The young man was to be executed when the curfew bell sounded.
However, when the sexton repeatedly pulled the rope to signal the execution the bell made no sound. The soldier’s fiancé had climbed into the belfry and wrapped herself around the clapper so that it could not strike the bell. Her body was smashed and bruised, but she did not let go until the clapper stopped swinging. She managed to climb down, bruised and bleeding, to meet those gathered to witness the execution. When she explained what she had done, Cromwell commuted the sentence.
A poet beautifully recorded the story as follows:
“At his feet she told her story, showed her hands all bruised and torn, And her sweet young face still haggard with the anguish it had worn, Touched his heart with sudden pity, lit his eyes with misty light. ‘Go, your lover lives,’ said Cromwell; ‘Curfew will not ring tonight.’ ”
God loves us. His body still bears the scars from His suffering so we would not die. He wants us to believe that and allow His love to change us. When I know God loves me that much I can never give up on myself.
© OBX Nation, Wally Odum. Used with permission.
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Pastor Wally Odum has been in ministry for 30 years and loves to share the Gospel. He brings a relevant, inspirational approach to the Bible. Wally values relevance, but he also values authenticity. His goal is to make Biblical truth relevant to the lives of all who hear him.
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