I’d like to start off by saying that I don’t write this off of the perspective of a woman who thinks she’s better than everybody else. On the contrary, I don’t believe that inasmuch as I believe that I’m simply a person who searched for truth and found a Saviour who just so happens to be that Truth, and the Way and the Life as well.
I started following Jesus when I was 13 years old. I attended a church camp in the summer of 1999 (forever grateful to my aunts for the idea that was suggested to my mother), felt God’s undeniably tangible love and presence one night, and the rest is history.
I’m 28 years of age today, so it’s been 15 years. To say that the journey has been easy or perfect would be a complete lie. Truth be told, it’s been anything but.
I mean, sure, God’s yoke is easy and his burden is light and all that really means is that the joy and the hope and the peace and the prosperity and healing that come with knowing Him are worth the pain and the suffering and the trials and the confusion that seem to exacerbate when one finally makes the decision to take their walk with God seriously. This road towards heaven is indeed a narrow one.
Last night I had the privilege of attending a worship night with Hillsong United. If anyone knows me well, then they would know that United is my absolute favourite band on the planet. No band has been more influential or instrumental (pun totally intended) in guiding me on my walk with God and treatment of others. Not to mention, the music is absolutely phenomenal. It is stellar and whether or not one is a follower of Christ, I believe that their talent cannot be disputed.
I bring them up as I was so blessed and roused by some of the words that their frontman Joel Houston spoke last night. Joel said something along the lines of: “Scandal of grace. Love is war. All of these are completely paradoxical. Yet I find that a lot of the things that God does and says don’t make sense and you know what, that’s exactly why they make perfect sense.”
This cut me to the core because it’s so true. What God is this? A God who showed us and tells us that the only way to real and eternal life is through dying to self? A God who was able to give us everlasting life through the terrible death and torment of His only Son? A God that tells us that in order to attain true riches, we must become poor in spirit? That His strength is displayed most perfectly in our weakness. That true freedom can only be found through total surrender. Trusting and believing without or before seeing. Loving our enemies. Blessing those who hurt us. Turning the other cheek. Praying for those who persecute us. Being thankful when we are mocked for our faith and joyful as we endure difficulty.
(P.S. Speaking of the persecuted church, please pray for Meriam Ibrahim from Sudan who is going to be flogged 100 times in several days if the government doesn’t overturn their unjust sentence because she converted from Islam to Christianity.)
These concepts are all too ridiculous and revolutionary to fathom and even more so, live out. No wonder they killed him, yelled out “Crucify him!”, and hanged him on a tree for all to see. He infuriated the Pharisees — as Jesus called out religiosity and made crystal clear that God isn’t concerned with external appearances or behaviour — all he’s after is and always will be our hearts. This is why I can’t help but love God: as I’ve come to know him and continue to know him through His Word, I’ve found almost all of the answers I’m looking for in this life. Not all of the answers, but most of the answers. And now I know why I’m here on this earth.
What God teaches and requires a true follower of Christ isn’t easy. I can testify to this. The biggest challenge I have encountered in my walk with God has been the call to love others as I love myself. There is nothing harder. Loving my family, my friends, and people that are downright loveable, no problem. It comes as naturally as breathing. But loving the person who has offended me? Cursed me? Disparaged me, annoyed me, cheated me, lied to me, disrespected me, hurt me? Please.
But… enter Jesus. Enter God, who chose to love me when I was unworthy and celebrating my sin and my filth. Who suffered unspeakably for me, on my behalf. Taking the cross and torture that I deserved. In light of that, how hard can it really be to love my neighbour? Even THAT neighbour. It ain’t easy, but that’s why there’s grace. In light of the greatest scandal of grace and story of love that the world will ever know — that the hands that cradle the stars are the same hands that bled for me — in light of that, how can I deny or how DARE I deny others that same grace? Judgment on others was never ours to cast. It’s amidst this overwhelming and overflowing grace that suddenly we begin to see others the way that God has sees them.
Again, in Joel’s words, “Everybody is a celebrity. Everybody is an MVP.” Essentially, the value of a person is based on how much worth you attach to them. Every single person matters to God. The Bible tells us that God doesn’t play favourites. Every single person was made in God’s image and likeness and they are valuable and they have worth. Once I realised this, everything changed.
So yeah, God doesn’t make sense at all. And as Joel said, perhaps that’s precisely why he makes perfect sense. Because what kind of God would he be if we could understand him? This journey is not without challenge, but if it wasn’t worth it, I would have turned my back and dropped this whole thing years ago. I’ve just seen and experienced too much to turn away. I’ve failed so many times yet his mercy remains. Continually beckoning me and drowning me in love and forgiveness and acceptance. I want more, I’ll always want more. I am certain that this life has nothing better to offer me than what Christ does. Eternal life, healing, joy, provision, hope, purpose, strength, grace. Love. Above all, love.
Thank You, God, for loving me and for giving up everything for me. Show me how to love like you have loved me. And forgive me for when I don’t. Amen.