By Tamra Dalbey
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
How radical it was for Emmanuel to be a friend of sinners. This was intentional. Despite all the judgement He received for attaching Himself to these people socially, Jesus was teaching… always teaching, a better way. He taught us how to love our enemies; and then He showed us how.
Just ask Mary of Bethany. She was a sinner. Everyday, disapproving looks reminded her of her filthy lifestyle. Not to mention the dark, hopeless kind of self–talk she must have had. What was it then that prompted her to bring this costly sacrifice to Jesus (potentially worth one year’s pay!)? She had been listening to the Rabbi from Nazareth, and her life would never be the same. She was deeply moved by her first taste of unconditional love. In Luke 7 we read the account. Through tears, she poured out the expensive ointment on His feet and wiped them with her hair. She abandoned any kind of social norm and humbled herself beyond belief. What a risk she took— what boldness. His love had made her brave.
Witnessing, were her accusers and judges (the upright and “holy men”). They thought it was unacceptable and couldn’t get past her bad reputation to see the beauty in her act. Jesus confronts their condescending thoughts with a rhetorical parable, validating her actions. It was about two men who owed money. One man owed way more than the other, yet the moneylender cancelled both their debts. Jesus asked them which man would love the lender most, to which they agreed it’d have to be the one that owed the most. He gave this statement, “Therefore, I tell you, her sins which are many, are forgiven— for she has loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
How these words have stayed with me! I don’t ever want to lose sight of how desperately I need Him. Lord, that we would be deeply impacted by the great debt You forgave us. That our remembrance of it would stir in us a great love for You. There is no price for freedom… to Mary, He was worth it all.
I think Heaven will be filled with individuals aware of their weaknesses, knowing that their Lord’s patient love was the only thing that could’ve possibly reached them. Sinners. And the pages of scripture are filled with them. God didn’t try to hide their sin, but used it as a piece in His redemption story. This is so encouraging to those of us who know that we can’t go more than a few steps without stumbling in some way.
“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4). Apart from Christ, no good thing inhabits our hearts. Why would He even want to be near us? Yet He seeks reconciliation. This is a great mystery. Even angels don’t understand. He alone is the lover of our souls.
Not only did His great love save us… but He’s still fighting love’s battle for us even in our sanctification.
To His child who struggles with condemnation, Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The blood is able to refute any word against us… even in our own thought life. You can’t argue that the blood of Jesus only covers to a certain extent. It is enough to saturate — reaching any area we deem as untouchable. Our miracle maker wants to work in those impossible places… His glory even bigger there.
Let His completed forgiveness wash over your life, and over that one relationship that’s struggling, and see what happens. He’s excited to move on our behalf. He loves and lives to make intercession for us.
He wants to set us free from our sin and addictions. Even the addiction of self —the God of Love is powerful enough to take on even that bondage. Because, it’s “for freedom that Christ has set us free”. (Gal 5:1)
Sin often camouflages itself as a really powerful force. It’s not. It says, in 1 Peter 5:8, that Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion…” the key word here is “like”. Satan would have us think that he is a lion to be feared; but we know better. We know the authentic and original: The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He is fierce, and His roar is truth. On the cross He destroyed sin and death, rendering it powerless. The darkness can only lie about sin’s power over our lives. Even in this He is love. He has defended His children from what didn’t take our soul, but what would try to cause us torment and steal our joy in this life. He has broken the shackles and silenced the “liar”. What a good Father.
Since you were born, Love has been pursuing you. Innumerable times, many you aren’t even aware of. Tiring work, one might think— but not to Love. He never tires of us.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending,
reckless love of God
Oh it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found
leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give Yourself away
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me.
– Cory Asbury
His love is absolute. We aren’t worthy of it, yet He isn’t dissatisfied with His bride… because the Father looks at us and sees the blood of the Son. Let this be the love we have for others who, like us, aren’t worthy. May we follow His example, even when it’s tiring, and love them His way.
Think through these words and hear the Father’s love: Grace. Reconciliation. Propitiation. Adoption. Sanctification. Father. Friend. Redeemer. Healer. Comforter. Defender.
The next time you feel He’s far off, remember all He’s done. How He climbed Calvary on our behalf. How He embraced the cross the entire time, because we were the joy set before Him. He thought of us, seeing our faces, as He bought us back. Our Good Shepherd carries His lost sheep home on His shoulders. He brings us to His table of communion. He’s not distant— He’s close. God of Love, what else can we say but thank you!
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23).