My children and I play a game, it’s one of those quirky things that you come up with your kids that becomes part of the daily routine. I’m not sure how it started but one day, after telling Marcus I loved him, he said, “I love you more”, then I say “no, I love you more”, and on, and on it goes. Well, one day my highly competitive, then 4-year old ended the non-stop game of one-up about who loves who the most by exclaiming, “I love you the best…I win!” He was so triumphantly emphatic that I had to laugh and agree he did indeed win!
This fast paced competition of who can get to ‘I Win’ spread to all of my children and is now part of our morning and bedtime rituals. It reminded me of a book I had been reading to my kiddos since they were very small. I actually bought it for our oldest daughter when she was four (she’d now be 25), miraculously it has survived relatively unscathed.
The book is called, “Guess How Much I Love You“, by Sam McBratney. It’s a wonderful story about a father and son Hare. The son keeps telling the father how much he love him. Then the father replies with an even larger illustration of love. The book ends with little nut brown hare telling his father that he loves him “right up to the moon”, as the father tucks his son in to bed he replies, “I love you right up to the moon – and back”.
This is such a great illustration of God’s love for us, one that we often have a very difficult time comprehending.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
There is no love so deep, so pure and so complete as the love I feel for you. There is no place you could ever run to that I would not find you. There is nothing you can do that could ever cause me to love you less or more than I love you right now.
My love for you is deeper than the sea, wider than the skies and more infinite than space and time. You may turn your back on me, hide your face from me, run from me and fill your life with false images meant to replace me; my love for you will remain and I will wait for you to return.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b
Our understanding of God’s love is so limited that we content ourselves with quoting scripture like John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Not only did God save us from ourselves, He did so while we were still a mess and in a such a way that our salvation could never be taken from us.
Then He wrote to us… yes, He wrote to us. He wrote us love letters. Letters to share His deepest desires for our lives, His great despair at our disobedience, His provision for our restoration and His unfailing commitment to our future in Him.
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39
No matter how much we’ve been shown love, understand love or our expectation of love, it is nothing compared to what God feels for us, expresses toward us and freely gives us. He loves us to eternity and back, the proof…He was willing to leave paradise and sacrifice Himself that we could be restored to Him.
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“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
I was having a conversation this week with a friend and I said something. Something I immediately regret, regret to the point that it actually left a foul taste in my mouth. I couldn’t think of why I said it or where it came from, but there it was…ugliness in all its glory. After asking forgiveness for my words, I spent time thinking and praying about my heart and where that was rooted. I asked God to help me be more mindful of my heart and my words. Since then, I have been more aware of what I say and how I say it. Words have so much power.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
How many times a day do you find yourself in a situation where it almost seems natural to say something ugly? Whether it’s about a person, place or thing… James really stated it best when he said our tongue is a fire. “In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest ablaze. The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6
It has become so commonplace to speak ill of anything, that we don’t even realize we do it anymore. “That person really annoys me”, “I hate the food there it’s terrible”, “their customer service sucks”, seems harmless enough right? Who are we saying it too? Are we making a statement of our dissatisfaction or a direct judgement? In our culture where we hold so much pride in our freedom of speech, have we gone too far toward mainstreaming hatefulness?
Doing life together means we are all in the same boat. We are all supposed to be rowing together in the same direction with the same goal; celebrating God’s Kingdom here on this world and share His love, forgiveness and freedom with as many people as possible. If that’s true then how important is complaining about customer service or restaurant food you dislike?
This scripture from Ephesians states clearly that we are only to speak words which serve to build up the body and give grace to those who hear. We are to put away ALL bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. We are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving as Christ is forgiving.
We have become so consumed with, ‘shooting straight’, ‘being candid’, ‘speaking our mind’, and ‘not holding anything back’, that we have forgotten how to express love, forgiveness, grace and kindness. Did you ever hear Jesus speak an angry word to anyone, call them a name or rebuke them in front of others, No! He came to build up not to tear down.
People are going to be frustrating, we’re not perfect…none of us! We all have good days and bad days and have survived all kinds of experiences. God loves us each equally, with our flaws, where we are. We need to do the same. If we are going to be The Church, we need to behave like it. We need to strive to not speak a word unless it serves to build up the body, edifies people, speaks kindness and shines a light on Jesus, not us.
We are the body, we are Christ’s Church. We are His example to the world, when we are tearing each other down, gossiping, bragging, belittling and being unkind, what kind of example are we setting?
Finding Jesus in everyone, and everything isn’t easy, and there are people out there that are harder to love than others. It doesn’t make them less deserving, less needful or less desirous of our love and kindness. Doing life together means that everyone deserves our best…everyone.
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.