by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
This month (June, 2005) marks the second anniversary of the day we got our family dog, Teri, a female Australian Cattle Dog mix. Teri will be two years and five months old. We don’t know much about Teri’s short life before we adopted her at the age of five months from the Bowling Green (Missouri) Community Animal Protective Association but animals that end up at the APA usually have a history of abuse or other problems. Teri still shows evidence of having been abused (probably by a man) and abandoned. Teri has bonded with my wife, Charlotte (not that I blame her) and there’s no doubt that Teri is Charlotte’s dog. Teri is anxious and distrustful around strangers, particularly men. Occasionally, when I approach her, she will cower or tremble, or otherwise act as though she’s afraid of me. She seems almost prepared to receive a beating.
Although Teri is an affectionate, intelligent, loyal animal, I’m sometimes disturbed by her behavior toward me. I wish that somehow I could communicate to her that she has nothing to fear from me, that I simply want to pet her or play with her. I want her to know that I’m a nice guy who loves animals, especially her. Her previous treatment may have caused her to believe that she is somehow unworthy of love, and I wish there was some way to undo the damage.
God had a similar predicament many years ago. How to communicate God’s love to God’s creations? But God had a solution I don’t have: I can’t become a dog but God came to Earth in human form to show God’s love for humanity. Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Later, he told the disciples, “No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27 NIV).
It may be that we sometimes feel unworthy of God’s love. Certainly, the woman who had been accused of adultery and brought before Jesus by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees (John 8:3-11) had no reason to believe that she was loved by anyone or that she could obtain mercy. But Jesus sent her accusers away and then told her, “‘Then neither do I condemn you, . . . Go now and leave your life of sin.’” (John 8:11 NIV). The “woman who had lived a sinful life” (Luke 7:36-50) did not consider herself worthy to even talk to Jesus but instead “. . . wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” (Luke 7:38b NIV). But while Simon the Pharisee thought to himself that Jesus should know that she was a sinful woman, Jesus told her, “‘Your sins are forgiven.’” Another woman, Mary Magdalene, had been afflicted by seven demons (Luke 8:2b). She probably had no reason to believe that God thought of her as “special,” even though she was one of several women who were helping to support Jesus and the disciples. But she was the first person to see Christ alive after he was crucified (John 20:10-18).
Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8 NIV). We don’t need to worry about being “good enough” for God or about “deserving” God’s mercy and grace. In the same way, John wrote, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9 NIV). Eternal life is God’s loving gift to us (Rom. 6:23b), purchased by the blood of Christ.
Someone near you is feeling unloved, unlovable. Someone near you needs to know about the love of God that purchased our salvation. You can tell him or her. You can tell about the love of God that doesn’t need to be earned–the love that can’t be earned–and about the love that moved God to send Jesus as a ransom for our salvation.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:9-12 NIV.)
© 2005 by David Phelps