Summary: God demonstrates his true love for us in sending his Son to die for us even while we were still sinners.
“My father died today. I do not want to celebrate my father’s life right now. I want to mourn his death, and the dirty trick that was played on him. I do not want to trade sentimental anecdotes or well-intentioned euphemisms to hide from the fact that a terrible thing has happened. We live in an infantile culture that lies about death, denies it, … We too often resort to “positive” thoughts, healing affirmations, and Bible chat about “all things working for good.” We relentlessly cheerlead ourselves on in the “victorious life.” We do not speak of death because it means defeat, and we believe only in winning, our true national religion. … For the record, my father did not pass on. Death is not a part of life. It’s not for the best. And there is no reason for it. My father died today. … And no, I cannot simply let go, accept, fall back on an ostensibly benign Providence. Because between the Last Supper and Easter Sunday falls a descent into hell. Because God terrifies me. And life terrifies me. And death terrifies me. Because my father died today.”
A man by the name of Anthony Sacramone Jr. penned those words that summed up the last 6 ½ years as he watched his father slowly disintegrate as he succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease and finally to death. On Friday I read those words on a website (www.beliefnet.com) dedicated to things spiritual and things religious, and tears welled up in my eyes.
This past Tuesday I received an e-mail message from our District President and one of the former pastors of Hope, John Guse, entitled “ God be with Pastor James and Heidi Borgwardt.” James Borgwardt is the pastor of our sister congregation in Savannah, GA. The message read, “Our gracious God, in his wisdom and love, called Elijah James Borgwardt from his mother’s womb to himself. Heidi Borgwardt carried her infant son for about 21 weeks when a condition called an “incompetent cervix” occurred, her water broke and she was unable to carry her son to term.” Tears trickled down my cheeks.
Yesterday little Elijah Borgwardt’s body was laid to rest in the earth. His eyes had never opened to see the light of day. His lips had never moved to utter even a single cry. Tears streamed down my face.
These situations beg an answer to our greatest question. After all if God is love as he claims through the pen of John then how could he take a father away from his son and a son away from his father and mother? I’m having a hard time calling these situations, “acts and evidence of true, divine love.” Anger and resentment build because you and I know what love is –in fact, we just held a holiday in its honor - and we definitely know that neither of these situations would qualify as loving in our book! So where was God’s love in these situations?
You can search every page of Scripture, but you will not find a specific answer to that question. God will not tell you why Anthony Sacramone Sr. and Elijah Borgwardt were taken from this world when they were. But God is not silent on the issue! He stands before us this morning and through the inspired words of John gives us an answer to our question. Do you want to know how God demonstrates that he loves us? Do you want proof of God’s love? Then listen to what he has to say, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world” (1 John 4:9). There’s the evidence! God has substantiated the fact that he loves all people by sending his Son into the world. But does that really answer the question?
Not quite! God has some more to say in answer to the question in verse 10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” God bestowed his undying love on us by sending his Son to die for us. Jesus was the sacrifice made on our behalf to remove the guilt of our sins.
Do you see what that means? That means God loved me when I was unlovable – when I was covered in sinful haughtiness and accusation, when I stood in judgment over him and accused him of being unloving. That means he loved me even a few moments ago when that sinful attitude reared its ugly head yet again. That means I didn’t have as great a handle on what love is as I thought I did. After all if Christ had to go to the cross to pay for my sins – then who was unloving to whom? If I really knew what love is all about all the time – Jesus wouldn’t have had to die for me. Tears of remorse well up in my eyes because I realize that I’m the one who unjustly caused him to suffer. I’m the one who helped put him to death. Lord God, forgive me, for the wretched man that I am! I am not worthy to stand in your presence. I am not fit to serve in your temple. I am undeserving of anything good from your hand.