I heard my good friend, Bruce Frye, tell a story on his Christmas CD, and for the next several days I meditated on the meaning of God’s love. It became apparent to me that we have developed a language without love. The story line was as follows:
On a cold, dark night in the city of Chicago, a blizzard was setting in. A little boy was selling newspapers on the corner; while the people were in and out of the cold. The little boy was so cold that he wasn’t trying to sell many papers.
He walked up to the policeman and said, “Mister, you wouldn’t happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you? You see, I sleep in a box up around the corner there and down the alley and it’s awful cold of a night. Sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay.”
The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, “You go down the street to that big white house, and you knock on the door. When they come out the door you just say, ‘John 3:16,’ and they will let you in.”
So he did. He walked up the steps to the door, knocked on the door, and a lady answered. He looked up and said, “John 3:16.”
The lady said, “Come on in, son.”
She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace and she went off.
He sat there for a while, and thought to himself, “John 3:16 … I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm.”
Later, she came back and asked him “Are you hungry?”
He said, “Well, just a little. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days, and I guess I could stand a little bit of food.”
The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn’t eat any more.
Then he thought to himself, “John 3:16 … Boy, I sure don’t understand it, but it sure makes a hungry boy full.”
She took him upstairs to a bathroom and a huge bathtub filled with warm water, and he sat there and soaked for a while.
As he soaked, he thought to himself, “John 3:16 … I sure don’t understand it, but it sure makes a dirty boy clean. You know, I’ve not had a bath, a real bath, in my whole life. The only bath I ever had was when I stood in front of that big old fire hydrant as they flushed it out.”
The lady came in and got him, and took him to a room and tucked him into a big old feather bed and pulled the covers up around his neck and kissed him goodnight and turned out the lights.
As he lay in the darkness and looked out the window at the snow coming down on that cold night, he thought to himself, “John 3:16 … I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a tired boy rested.”
The next morning, she came back up and took him down again to that same big table full of food. After he ate, she took him back to that same big old split bottom rocker in front of the fireplace, and she took a big old Bible and sat down in front of him and looked up at him and she asked,
“Do you understand John 3:16?”
He said, “No, Ma’am, I don’t. The first time I ever heard it was last night when the policeman told me to use it.”
She opened the Bible to John 3:16, and she began to explain to him about Jesus. Right there in front of that big old fireplace, he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought, “John 3:16 … I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe.”
You know, I have to confess I don’t understand it either, how God would be willing to send His Son to die for me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing. I don’t understand it either, but it sure makes life worth living!!
There are probably fewer words in the modern English language that have been more distorted, misused, abused and overused than the word “love.” As a consequence, the word love has lost its meaning. This is not only true within the current culture; it is also true within the church. We have a wonderful language, yet it has been administered far too often without a trace of love.
As I read 1 Corinthians 13, I felt the inside persuasion of God’s Spirit saying, “Ben, you’ve never yet come into the fullness and joy of My love. You have the theology right – but you haven’t yet experienced the delight and rest of keeping yourself in My love. Up to now, you’ve only been in it up to your ankles. But there’s a whole ocean of My love in which you may swim.”
First Corinthians 13:1-2, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”
Could Paul be saying, “If I speak with the tongues (same word we use for the word language) of men and of angels and have not real agape love, I am nothing”? I think that is exactly what he is saying! Every scenario between the words though and nothing is showing an extreme. Everything I do, no matter how small or grandeur, without a demonstration of His love being shown through me, it is nothing. Nothing is a zero with the rim rubbed out!
Agape love is the sacrificial giving of oneself for the benefits of others without thoughts of return. John 3:16 certainly met those qualifications. O, the love that drew salvation’s plan. In John 13:1, Jesus was meeting with His disciples for the last time. At the end of the verse, John says of Jesus, “…having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” The Greek literally says, “He loved them to perfection.” In other words, He loved them to the limits of love. He loved them as far as love could go. Take a bath in that one! I, too, have pressed His love and found it has no limits, no boundaries known unto man. In John l5:9, Jesus said, “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you; continue ye in My love.” How had He loved them? By coming into the world and dying for them. Now look at verse l0a: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love…” In other words, love toward God is the act of sacrificing or crucifying my will to do His will. That’s it. Love is an act of self-sacrifice.
I pray I am done loving people with my love. It is nothing. It is worthless. It profits nothing. I wonder how many sermons are preached without a trace of His love in the heart of the speaker. I wonder how many meetings and conversations we have had with others without even a hint of God’s love coming forth not only in word, but deed. No wonder so many people are doing everything they can to take a break from reality. No wonder drowning your sorrows is still such a popular thing. I trust you will wade out a little further into the love of God. Do not neglect it any longer. Truly you can then say with the song writer, “You know, I have to confess I don’t understand it either, how God would be willing to send His Son to die for me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing. I don’t understand it either, but it sure makes life worth living!”