Summary: It’s easy to love those who love us, but what about those we find it difficult to love? What about those who don’t like us? How do we still love and respect them as God’s people?
I want us to pay particular attention this morning to verse 6 and 7 – ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ And again verse 10 – ‘For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!’
Beauty and the Beast
I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with the story of beauty and the beast. There are a number of variations of the story around, probably the most popular of which is the Walt Disney version. But basically it’s the story of a poor peasant man who was stealing some food from the grounds of a huge castle which was inhabited by a beast. The beast catches him and says, "I’m going to put you in my dungeon and you will be my prisoner forever, unless you send your beautiful daughter to live with me." And to cut a long story short the daughter decides that she would save her father by going to the castle and living with the beast.
Now of course, unbeknown to everyone, the beast is really a handsome prince who’d been turned into a hideous beast by a fairy after he refused to let her in from the rain, and the only way that the curse could be broken was for him to find true love, despite the way he looked, despite his appearance, despite his ugliness. He had to be loved as a beast before he could return to being a handsome young prince.
And in the closing scenes the beast lies dying from a wound inflicted by his enemy, Gaston. And as he lays there dying, Belle the beauty, confesses her love for the beast and just in time gives him the kiss that breaks the curse. Let’s just remind ourselves of that closing scene.
Just think about how simple and yet how profound a fairy tale can be. He had to be loved as a beast before he could return to being a handsome young prince. Now listen to this… ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… when we were still God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son’. He had to be loved as a beast before he could return to being a handsome young prince.
The great thinker and write, G K Chesterton, was a big defender of fairytales. He said that “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” And his favorite fairy tale was this one, Beauty And The Beast because it teaches that the "unlovely must be deeply loved before they become lovable." He said that, ‘the noble lesson behind the fable of the Beauty and the Beast is that one must be loved in order to become lovable... Someone treated like an animal will become an animal, someone treated with worth, dignity and beauty as a human being will become a human being.
The unlovely must be deeply loved before they become lovable. ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… While we were still unlovely because of our sin, Christ showed his love for us by dying for us.’ Loving the Unlovable.
Human love is conditional
Now unfortunately, most of the time the love that we have to give out to others is conditional! You know what I mean? We only tend to love people who are beautiful, or who have great personalities, or who we find attractive in some way. You know, there’s something about them that draws us to them.
We tend to live by the philosophy that there is something out there that is worthy of our love. It might be a person. It might be a car. It might be a place, doesn’t really matter what it is. But it’s so attractive and so alluring that I will give myself to it, and I will bond myself with it because of its beauty, because of its worthiness of my love. That’s the condition – somehow and in someway that person or that object is worthy of my love and attention. But if that object changes, if that object becomes less beautiful, less attractive, less worthy of my attention – then my love for it also changes – because our love is condition.
There was a story of a woman who was badly burned in a house fire and she said that her husband saw her in the hospital and said, “You’re not the woman I married,” and he left her to marry someone younger and more beautiful. You see, human love says, If you change, my love for you will change! Because it’s conditional.