Forgiveness

How Then Shall We Love?

1 Peter 4:8
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

As the untrusting, pessimistic cynic that I tend to be, I often look around me and notice a multitude of sins. That is, I notice a horde, a mass, a swarm, an abundance…droves, heaps, piles, tons, dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions, gazillions, bajillions (at least, those are some synonyms for multitude offered by Google). I notice the sins of loved ones and strangers alike. I even notice my own sins with a keen sense of awareness that some might consider overkill.

And frankly, those sins—all of them—are difficult for me to overlook, to forgive. It’s especially difficult when they are repeated over, and over, and over again. They might not always be exactly the same. A new day, a new manifestation of the same root sin—you know how it is. But then again, Jesus did say that we should forgive one another “seventy times seven” times (Matthew 18:22). But how?

Peter gives us the answer: LOVE. And not just any love. In 1 Peter 4:8, he says to love each other deeply. And what does that look like? Well, according to Ephesians 5:2, we should love the way God does:

Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love.
Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant.
He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us.
Love like that.”

Until a few months ago, I’d never read The Message version of Ephesians 5:2. But it really spoke to me. God’s love for us is not cautious, but extravagant. I thought of all of the words I could think of to use in place of cautious that would reflect the same idea. For example, God’s love is not reserved. It is also not tentative, hesitant, self-conscious, half-hearted, calculated, insecure, guarded, fearful, or timid. Wow. And God calls us to “love like that.” He calls ME to love like that. Love. Like. That. Word.

The Hearts of ALL Men

Luke 23:42-43
“And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom!’
And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.’”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 is one of my favorite verses because it declares that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. It gives me comfort to know that my own longing for heaven and for home is a God-given desire, and one that need never be stifled for the sake of fitting in or smoothing over. But, as we spend this season reflecting on the significance of Easter and of Christ’s suffering on our behalf, I’m more moved to focus not on the fact that God has set eternity in my heart personally, but on the fact that He has set that same sense of the eternal within the hearts of ALL men—all humankind.

Luke 23:42-43 illustrates this perfectly. It’s the account of the thief on the cross who confesses to Jesus and places his trust in Him. A hardened criminal, if you will, and his last thoughts were of heaven. I can’t imagine he’d spent much of his life considering his eternal condition. And yet, at the one moment that counted most, that was the only thing on his mind. You know what I love even more? That Jesus honored this man’s dying request. God didn’t set eternity in our hearts to be stingy with it, or to snatch it away. He longs that each of us would accept His gift of eternal life. 2 Peter 3:9 (NASB) assures us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

I have to confess that sometimes I do feel like God has been slow to keep His promise to me. Like Moses, I long to see His Glory face to face, pleading, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.” But, if I shift my focus off of myself and on to all men, I’m led to pray instead for His continued patience and dedication to widespread repentance: “Give them one more day, Father, and forgive them—for they know not what they do.”

Like Jesus Does

“All the crazy in my dreams,
Both my broken wings,
Every single piece of everything I am,
Yeah, she knows the man I ain’t,
She forgives me when I can’t,
The Devil, man, no, he don’t stand a chance,
‘Cause she loves me like Jesus does.”
(Eric Church)

There’s a country song that came out awhile back and has been popular ever since, called, “Like Jesus Does.”  I remember a time last summer when I was playing this song, and I took the kids out onto the deck at their grandma and grandpa’s house. They took turns dancing with me and would throw their heads back and laugh, full of joy. At that moment, feeling showered with undeserved blessings, the words of the song and the deeper meaning of the lyrics hit me in a way they hadn’t before.

This is how Jesus loves me. He knows my every dream and my every failure. He knows every sorrow and every sin. And even though the Devil would love to use every bit of my past (and my continued struggles) against me, he doesn’t stand a chance, because Jesus loves me like He does.

No doubt, you’ve heard the saying that “there’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more than He does. And there’s nothing you can do to make Him love you any less.” And truer words have hardly been spoken. God is love. He is grace. He is mercy. He is forgiveness.

What could we possibly do to deserve this? Nothing. All we can do is love Him in return, and love others “like Jesus does.”

And what better time to reflect on these simple truths and powerful convictions than in the weeks leading up to Easter, when God—through His son Jesus—declared this unfailing love for us, once and for all.

cropped-lj-with-mom-51.jpg