Love's Effected Purpose
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
I was privileged to attend Sunday School for almost two years when I was in Primary 5 and 6. Then I was living with grandparents during school term somewhere in Sembawang Hills. One of the neighbours came over and invited me to drop by his church, which was at the corner, end of the street. It was a house church with a small but warm and loving community. They were having a magic show as an outreach event.
Like most kids, I was thrilled to be invited to watch a magic show. So I went. After the show, there was a talk about how much God loved us that He was willing to die for us in the person named, Jesus Christ.
I came from a large family of six siblings and that my mother was also busy attending to the needs of the extended family as well. So, she had no spare time and energy other than attending to our basic needs. When I heard of God’s love, I was overwhelmed. I responded by asking Him into my life. Then I was told there would be weekly Sunday school in the mornings. I joined too since I was promised fun, craft, and table tennis thereafter.
I was taught to memorise many Bible verses. To this day, I am grateful to the Sunday school teachers who lovingly and diligently helped me to love memorising Scriptures. Many of the verses are still with me today, though in King James Version (KJV).
John 3:16 was, of course, one of the key verses I was taught to memorise. I love it as it tells me these truths:
GOD – the greatest Lover
SO LOVED – the greatest degree
THE WORLD – the greatest number
THAT HE GAVE – the greatest act
HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON – the greatest gift
THAT WHOSOEVER – the greatest invitation
BELIEVETH – the greatest simplicity
IN HIM – the greatest Person
SHOULD NOT PERISH – the greatest deliverance
BUT – the greatest difference
HAVE – the greatest certainty
EVERLASTING LIFE – the greatest possession
However, many of you, perhaps, are like me, miss out verse 17, which assures us that God’s intended and effected purpose in sending Jesus is to save and not condemn! This is important for the church to know and reflect, that all that God does flows from His nature of love! (1 John 4:16)
Even His judgment of sin is an act of love in ensuring that it does not contaminate and destroy the whole of humanity! Unfortunately, we are known better for being judgmental than loving.
Though I am grateful to the little house church for inducting me to the Gospel and the Bible, I walked away from it with the notion that God was mean and demanding. The church was fundamentalistic and legalistic in its theological outlook. Many years later, when I was “found” again by the grace of God, the notion of God being legalistic and regimental continued to plague me. I always had this fear and worry that God is always waiting and watching for me to do something wrong and ponce on me. I used to see God as a cosmic policeman, ready to catch people doing wrong, rather than complimenting or encouraging people doing right!
Some of us, perhaps, not always, but from time to time slipped into thinking and looking at God as a mean and demanding Father, just always waiting to point out and pounce on us for wrongdoing! This is an unhealthy image of God as it does not promote intimacy. I cannot imagine intimacy whenever I think about the police, judge, and laws! I would rather keep a safe distance from them!
God’s Fatherly love has always been inspiring for me as an earthly father. Of course, I am always falling short. I remember saying these to my boys when they were in the teens: “Remember, no matter what you did out there, no matter what you encountered or experienced, no matter what people did or said to you, come home, please! This is where you will always be welcomed, loved and accepted no matter what! Remember to come home!”
One of the best pictures in the Gospels about God’s love was Jesus parable of the prodigal son (it should be sons) in Luke 15:11–31. I like to think that the father in the story probably said something similar to what I have said to my sons. That was why the prodigal told himself that he must go home and face his father! I am always moved whenever it comes to the part where the father saw the prodigal son from afar, he could not wait for him to come any nearer and started running towards him. It was undignified for the father of that status and age, to pull up his robe and started running across the muddy paths to hug and kiss his prodigal son! But the father care less for all these manmade conventions; instead, he cared more about ensuring his prodigal son feeling welcomed, loved, and accepted, no matter what he did out there in the world.
I do not know your life story. I do not know what you have done. I do not know what you have gone through in your marriage, parenting, at work, and so on and so forth. But, God knows and have taken into account and yet He wants you to come to Him repentant and be assured that you would be welcomed, loved, and accepted – regardless…yes, regardless of what you did out there! Come home, please! This is where you will always be welcomed, loved and accepted by our Father!
In July 2006, in the first few days of my arrival in Melbourne for my year-long sabbatical, I spent alone in my room. I was on my knees, sobbing uncontrollably as I contemplated on the love of God in Christ for me! I may be a pastor for many years. I may have held senior ministry positions in church and denominations. Who cares? The bottom-line was I am a child of God, in need of the Father’s love and embrace for all the hurts and scars in life and ministry!
So, will you join me, in coming home today to experience our Father’s love afresh?