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Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.—Psalm 136:261
Occasionally, all too occasionally, I sense the truth of grace. There are times when I study the parables and grasp that they are about me. I am the sheep the shepherd has left the flock to find, the prodigal for whom the father scans the horizon, the servant whose debt has been forgiven. I am the beloved one of God.
Not long ago I received in the mail a postcard from a friend that had on it only six words, “I am the one Jesus loves.” I smiled when I saw the return address, for my strange friend excels at these pious slogans. When I called him, though, he told me the slogan came from the author and speaker Brennan Manning. At a seminar, Manning referred to Jesus’ closest friend on earth, the disciple named John, identified in the Gospels as “the one Jesus loved.” Manning said, “If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity in life?’ he would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,’ but rather, ‘I am the one Jesus loves.’”
What would it mean, I ask myself, if I too came to the place where I saw my primary identity in life as “the one Jesus loves”? How differently would I view myself at the end of a day?
Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?
Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles. “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”—Philip Yancey2
As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you. ...
I know you through and through. I know everything about you. Each hair of your head is counted. There is nothing unimportant to Me about your life. All these years I have followed you, and even in your strayings I have always loved you.
I know each of your problems, I know all of your needs and all of your wants, and yes, I also know all of your sins. Still, I will repeat again that I love you, not because of what you have or haven’t done, but because of you yourself, for the sake of the beauty and the value that My Father has given you, creating you in His own likeness. That value that you so often forget about, that beauty that you have covered with sin. I love you as you are, and I have poured out My blood to win you again. …
I care for you, more than you can even imagine—even to the death of the cross for your sake.
I thirst for you. Yes, this is the only way that I can express to you My love. I thirst for you, thirst to love you and thirst after your love. You are very precious to Me. I thirst for you. Come to Me, and I will fill up your heart and heal your wounds. I will remake you into a new creation, and even in all your trials will I give you peace. I thirst for you.
Never doubt My mercy, My desire and will to forgive, My yearning to bless you and live in you. I thirst for you. If in the world’s eyes you are of little importance, that means nothing. In this world, I have no one more important than you. I thirst for you. Open up to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me. Give Me your life and I will show you how much you mean to My heart.
It doesn’t matter how far you have strayed, it doesn’t matter how often you have forgotten Me, it doesn’t matter how many crosses you are able to carry, there is just one thing that you have to remember that is true, that will never change: I thirst for you, just as you are.—Jesus, speaking in prophecy, as penned by Mother Teresa3
The Bible tells us, “God is love.”4 He is not a cruel tyrant, not a monster who is trying to frighten everyone into hell, but a God who is trying to love everyone into heaven! He’s so close, so intimate, so personal, so loving, so kind, so tender, so gentle, so concerned. He is the great Spirit of Love who created you and me and this beautiful world and the entire universe! To show us His love and to help us understand Himself, He sent His own Son to earth in the form of a man—Jesus Christ.
God loves you so much that He gave His most priceless possession, the most cherished thing He had for you, Jesus, “that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”5 He shared His love with the whole world.
God is pictured in His Son, Jesus, a man who loved everybody, even the poorest and the worst of all. He came for love and lived in love and died for love that we might live and love forever. His death brings life, forgiveness, and eternal joy to those who love Him in return.
He loves you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell! You can never understand the love of God. It’s too great, it passes all understanding. You just have to receive it and feel it with your heart.6—David Brandt Berg
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.—Romans 8:38–397
Published on Anchor February 2017. Read by Simon Peterson.
Music by Michael Dooley.