What Christ’s Love Did
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Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit … You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.—Romans 5:5–81
You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.—Psalm 18:352
It is interesting to think of the new era of love which Jesus opened. Of course there was gentleness in the world before He came. There was mother-love. There was friendship, deep, true, and tender. There were lovers who were bound together with most sacred ties. There were hearts even among heathen people in which there was gentleness almost beautiful enough for heaven. There were holy places where affection ministered with angels’ tenderness.
Yet the world at large was full of cruelty. The rich oppressed the poor. The strong crushed the weak. Women were slaves and men were tyrants. There was no hand of love reached out to help the sick, the lame, the blind, the old, the deformed, the insane, nor any to care for the widow, the orphan, the homeless.
Then Jesus came; and for three and thirty years He went about among men, doing kind things. He had a gentle heart, and gentleness flowed out in His speech. He spoke words which throbbed with tenderness. … There was never any uncertainty about the heartbeat in the words which fell from the lips of Jesus. They throbbed with sympathy and tenderness.
The people knew always that Jesus was their friend. His life was full of rich helpfulness. No wrong or cruelty ever made Him ungentle. He scattered kindness wherever He moved.
One day they nailed those gentle hands upon a cross. … It was a sore loss to the poor and the sad, and there must have been grief in many a household. But while the personal ministry of Jesus was ended by His death, the influence of His life went on. He had set the world a new example of love. He had taught lessons of patience and meekness, which no other teacher has ever given. He had imparted new meaning to human affection, He made love the law of His kingdom.
As one might drop a handful of spices into the brackish sea, and therewith sweeten its waters, so these teachings of Jesus fell into the world’s unloving, unkindly life, and at once began to change it into gentleness. Wherever the gospel has gone these sayings of the great Teacher have been carried, and have fallen into people’s hearts, leaving there their blessings of gentleness [and love].—J. R. Miller3
It must have been wonderful to spend time with Christ, with Somebody who liked you, loved you, believed in you, and sought a closeness foreign to skin-bound man. A person would feel significant in His presence. After all, those [disciples] who knew Christ personally went on to accomplish amazing feats, proving unwavering devotion. It must have been thrilling to look into the eyes of God and have Him look back and communicate that human beings, down to the individual, are of immense worth and beauty and worthy of intimacy with each other and the Godhead. Such an understanding fueled a lifetime of joy and emotional health among the disciples that neither crowds of people, jeering insults, nor prison, nor torture, nor exclusion could undo. They were faithful to the end, even to their own deaths.
People don’t go out and get tortured and arrested for somebody who doesn’t love them. If somebody loves us we will do all kinds of things in their name, for them, because of them. They will make us who we are.—Donald Miller4
In the New Testament, we are told of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. He, of course, was a terrorist to the Christians. God graciously tracked him down with His love to make him one of His choice apostles. Those who were once [Paul’s] friends now threatened his life. The disciples put him in a basket and lowered him over a city wall that he might escape his tormentors.
For me, the torment was within. God planted the feet of some who lifted me in a basket of love and persuasion and lowered me over the walls I could not scale on my own. Such is the grace of Christ who meets us where we are.
Readers of English poetry will recall the turbulent life of Francis Thompson. His father longed for him to study at Oxford, but Francis lost his way in drugs and failed to make the grade on more than one occasion. Those who knew him knew that inside was a slumbering genius, if only his life could be rescued.
When Francis Thompson finally succumbed to the pursuing Christ, he penned his immortal “Hound of Heaven,” describing the years behind the moment of transaction:
I fled Him down the nights and down the days.
I fled Him down the arches of the years,
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
of my own mind: And in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
Down titanic glooms of chasmed fears
From those strong feet that followed, that followed after
For though I knew His love that followed
Yet I was sore adread
Lest having Him I have naught else beside.
What a wonderful day it was when I stopped running and, by His strength, let the embrace of His love envelop me.—Ravi Zacharias5
One evening … there suddenly came into my heart an intense longing—I felt compelled to cry aloud to some unseen power for help; my broken body was so weak that I could not raise my voice above a whisper, so in an earnest whisper I pled, “If it could be possible that there is a God out there somewhere—reveal Yourself to me; if You are there You have heard what my husband says and how he prays, and You can reveal Yourself to me.” I seemed driven by some power beyond myself to call and call. …
This was unusual, for the simple reason that I had always been rather self-righteous; I had lived a very moral life and was quite proud of it—I was self-satisfied. Whenever I looked back on my past life and remembered the humanitarian work I had done, I was quite content; for had I not risked my life in certain types of rescue work? Even when I had come right to the very gates of death and a great fear settled on my heart, I would call to mind and take much satisfaction in the thought of those years of sacrificial service to man; but now they looked like “filthy rags” to me. It was as though my eyes had suddenly been opened and I saw myself in my true condition for the first time in my life—my past works appeared as nothing. My service had not been as unto God, or my motive that He should be glorified. The burden of sin and self increased until it seemed greater than I could bear, and at length I began to weep.
I wish I could tell you just what took place at that time in my heart, but it is absolutely impossible. The new birth is a mysterious, supernatural work which is done by the Lord Himself, and I cannot tell you how He did it, but He completely changed my heart! … I was not alone any longer, for I felt His presence in that room as real as if some member of the family were standing by my sickbed, and I was talking to Him as naturally as a little child talks to a parent. I told Him all about it, and I knew He heard and understood, for a sweet, ineffable peace, past understanding, and a cool restfulness, came over my troubled spirit. I had seen no vision, heard no voice, nor otherwise evidenced anything with the natural senses, but I had heard the “still small voice” in my heart, and had come into such a real, personal contact with God that I could truly say, “I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.” All my unbelief had fled—God was real, indeed, and I was “a new creature in Christ Jesus”—”The light had broken in!”—Virginia Brandt Berg6
Published on Anchor October 2013. Read by Tina Miles.
Music by Daniel Sozzi.
3 A Gentle Heart (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 1896).
4 Searching for God Knows What (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010).
5 Jesus Among Other Gods (W Publishing Group, 2000).
6 From http://virginiabrandtberg.org/the-hem-of-his-garment/the-light-breaks-in.html.
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