Wednesday, October 24, 2007

God loves you

by Nathan Brown

As someone who sends many emails and letters every working day, I have spent a little time reflecting on how to add a simple statement of faith and encouragement to these communications. I wanted something that would be the one thing I would want someone to know if I had just a few words to share with them and one chance to do it. I also wanted something that could serve to remind life-long believers of the core of their faith and might brighten their day a little as a result of that reminder. And one final factor I was looking for was something that, no matter how many times someone read it, would always offer something to think about and be encouraged by.

Thus, many of my emails and letters are signed off with the simple sentence “God loves you.” The statement seems to fit all the above criteria well. But I have wrestled with using it in such a way because it almost seems too glib a usage for so profound a truth. Am I making this life-changing, world-embracing statement of faith too common by tacking it to the end of some mundane form email or letter? Or is that exactly where the love of God should shine, even amid the most ordinary aspects of our life and work?

I suspect the apparently common things of life should be illuminated by the love of God and that perhaps it is in the most ordinary of settings that God’s love is most significant. So, while I haven’t fully answered the questions in my mind—but I continue to do it.

And reasonably regularly someone responds to their “God loves you”—a quick thanks, a reminder in return that He loves me too or a more detailed response.

A friend wrote to me recently, responding to an email of encouragement I had sent to him and specifically commented on this habit: “Somehow I find the phrase ‘God loves you’ almost trite after my eyes have been burned with so much injustice and the stupidity of life on earth. But never at the end of your letter. You, I believe.”

I was humbled by his response—but also challenged. It is not enough to say it; we must also—in our interactions, by our conduct and by our own life of faith—begin to make it real. And to say “God loves you,” places a remarkable responsibility on each of us to be and share some small portion of that eternal love.

Of course, we’ll never get it right. We’ll never live up to the profound reality expressed so simply in those three words, which is why the statement must always point beyond ourselves. But in the humility that marks the kingdom of God we are entrusted with a part to play in being something of that kingdom to those we come into contact with, whether fleetingly or deeply.

And the foundation for this lies in beginning to appreciate what that means for us. What does it mean to us that God loves each of us? Can we begin to imagine what actual impact that has on the way life works? How does that knowledge change our life?

We all—at least, at times—struggle to grasp the significance of God’s love. One practice that helps me begin to realise the magnitude of what we so easily talk about is to sit in a shopping centre, park or airport and watch people going past, noting that every person who walks by is loved, uniquely and absolutely, by God. That changes the way we see others and we begin to see a world that, despite its obvious brokenness, is filled with the love of God—a reality that we can build our lives upon.

Perhaps if—like Paul—I was more verbose, “God loves you” would be expanded to something like: “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:17-19, NLT).

God loves you.

1 comment:

  1. Nathan, I enjoyed this piece about expressing God's love. You bring up an interesting point and that is one of intention. When our words are spoken with intention and conviction they carry weight and have a deep impact. When the words are spoken, "God loves you" and they come from your own inner, deep knowing, they carry the power and force of that very love. When on the other hand, they are spoken only as words--they have little impact.

    You feel this and see this in sermons all the time. When a pastor or speaker talks from their heart and experience, their words have power and influence. When they are spoken only from the head, the words fall cold and lifeless.

    What the world and the church are hungry to hear are words spoken from our hearts of the deep, personal conviction that life with the Spirit changes and moves us deeply. With the sharing of our own transformation and our personal conviction of God's love, people are encouraged and uplifted.

    Thank you for sharing from your heart your conviction of the beauty of God's love.

    Many blessings from the heart--Julie