Summary: A sermon about the love of God.
“Like It or Not”
A friend of mine told me about an experience he had when he was trying to get his then six-year-old son to bed.
Upset that his father was putting him to bed earlier than he wanted to go, Benjamin said, “Daddy, I hate you.”
Benjamin’s father replied, “Ben, I’m sorry you feel this way, but I love you.”
Benjamin’s response to these gracious words surprised his dad: “Don’t say that!”
His father replied, “I’m sorry Benjamin, but it’s true.
I love you.”
“Don’t” Benjamin protested, “Don’t say that again!”
At which point Ben’s father said, “Benjamin, I love you…like it or not!”
And that is the way it is with God’s love toward us: God loves us…like it or not!
What an extraordinary thing this is!
But this is exactly what our Gospel Lesson for this morning tells us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”
From the way the world often works, we might take it for granted that if God loves anyone, it will be those who love God; but Jesus doesn’t say, “God so loved the Church,” or “God so loved the faithful,” or “God so loved the saintly.”
This good news is about God’s deep and abiding love for the entire world.
And so we can say with confidence, “God so loved the atheist,” “God so loved the murderer,” “God so loved the arrogant,” “God so loved the self-satisfied,” “God so loved the bully”…and of course we can go on to include every single person who has ever lived.
I think sometimes we might do something or be a certain way.
We might hate ourselves and therefore can’t imagine…can’t even get our head around the fact that God could ever possibly love us.
Not too long ago I was in the shower and I do some of my best thinking in the shower.
I mean what else is there to do.
Do any of you know what I mean?
In any event I was in the shower and I was thinking back on my life before gave myself to Christ.
And I was thinking about the self-destructive activities I was involved in…
…I was thinking about how easily I gave into peer pressure in order to try and fit in…
…I was thinking about all the dumb and sometimes terrible things I did just in order to try and impress my friends and it occurred to me and I said it out loud: “Boy, I sure did used to hate myself.”
It is very hard to accept unconditional love when we hate ourselves.
I know I have shared this story more than once, but maybe there are some who haven’t heard it:
When I was a freshman in college, not long after I had my born again experience I was walking across campus when I came upon an older woman who was in one of my classes.
And not only was she in one of my classes, but she also attended the same Bible study I attended, outside, down by a statue on campus.
And we got into a long conversation that day which eventually turned to God.
And this woman, who believed in Jesus, loved God and went to church said to me point blank: “I believe in heaven but I will never be there. I’m not good enough.”
Shocked, I asked her why.
It turned out that she had been abused by her father when she was a child.
When she got older, she married a man who abused her as well and told her again and again how stupid she was, how worthless she was, how bad she was…
…and she believed him.
So, she could not, in her wildest dreams imagine herself being good enough to go to heaven.
That long conversation turned into a VERY LONG all day conversation where we talked about grace and how we are all sinners, we have all fallen short of the Kingdom of God, but God loves each and every one of us no matter who we are, what we have done, what other people think or say about us or how we feel about ourselves.
We talked and talked and talked.
It was a glorious day.
I wonder how many of the people who live in the homes around our church think they are not good enough for God to love them, die for them, save them?
I wonder how many people we pass in the grocery isles, stand in line with, live next door to think that they are not lovable enough to go to heaven?
I wonder how many folks think they are too sinful, have done too many terrible things in their past, have had too many bad thoughts that God couldn’t possibly love them?