The Riches of God's Love
by Pastor Dan White
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“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of." - Hal David
Our greatest need is to receive and give love. Deprived of love, physical, emotional, and spiritual health is imperiled. We are born with the need to receive and give love, the unconditional warm, positive regard for another.
No where was this need for love from birth seen more than in the horrible orphanages of Romania under communist dictator, Nicolai Ceausescu, who was executed in 1989 when the people revolted after 25 years of his tyrannical reign.
Ceausescu made laws to populate his country in order to make Romania powerful and populate his army. He began his rule in 1966 with a decree that virtually made pregnancy a state policy. "The fetus is the property of the entire society [the State]. Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity."
He outlawed all forms of birth control and unmercifully taxed young families who had less than five children.
Under his communistic, iron fisted rule, life in Romania was hard. Most were poor, very poor. The average monthly income was $25. There was not enough food for families to feed their children. So, they gave them up to the State by the thousands. Somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 children went into Romania’s state orphanages.
Children were abandoned at the doors of the already full orphanages. The staff was over worked, under paid, and undermanned. There were only a handful of workers per hundreds of children.
One caretaker had to try and care for up to twenty infants or more. They barely had the strength and energy to change diapers and prop bottles in the cribs and often couldn’t even provide that basic care. Meeting the emotional needs of the babies and children was impossible and nonexistent.
After the Romanian Iron Curtain fell in 1989, the inhumane conditions inside the orphanages were exposed to a shocked world.
Journalists, psychologists, and Christian relief agencies found the babies and children living in squalor. Many were sick, and some were at the point of death. They were malnourished and starving.
Moreover, babies and toddlers lived in a catatonic state of shock. They had long ago quit crying for someone to hold and love them. They couldn’t speak, play games, or have fun like normal children.
This condition is called “Failure to Thrive.” Stunted growth including the physical growth of the brain is negatively affected. The body is unable to gain weight. Typical childhood milestones such as crawling, talking, and potty training were not evident.
The emotional causes of “Failure to Thrive” are from a lack of touch, stimulation and love.
God created us from birth with the need to be loved and to love. We are relational beings. A person cannot stand alone whether as a totally dependent infant or as an adult.
Behavioral psychologists well know the power of relationships and have propagated the implementation of isolation to try and change unacceptable social behavior. What do schools use today to try and change a child’s behavior? They order the child to “in-school suspension” where the child sits alone all day in a carrel separated from others. What do parents do today to try and change their child’s unacceptable behavior? They put the child in “time-out,” and deny him/her companionship with the family.
Personally, I’d rather have a few “licks” from the teacher’s paddle than spend a whole day alone without my friends, and I had my share of paddlings. It was quick and over with in a couple of minutes and only stung for a short time. Confining me to isolation for a whole school day would have been cruel and unusual punishment for me!
Inflicting the emotional pain of relationship severance can be a more severe hurt than physical pain. A wife “huffs” off after nagging her husband, slams the door, and locks it leaving the husband alone and feeling abandoned. A husband leaves his wife. She worries that their relationship is over, and she will be alone. A “cold war” breaks out and a spouse doesn’t speak for several hours or even days in order to control the other spouse.
The silent treatment when used to control another person is considered a from of emotional abuse by many psychologists.
Why does abandonment or even the threat of abandonment have so much power to control another person? It is because God created us as relational beings and our greatest need is the need for a loving, healthy relationship with another human being and with God. It’s hard, maybe even impossible, to live without love.
Without love, a rich man is poor.
Without love, a powerful man is weak.
Without love, a popular man who is adored and idolized by thousands is lonely.
Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote letters from a Nazi prison to his fiance, Maria. Four months before Hitler executed him, he wrote in one of his many love letters to her this tribute to her love for him showing the power of human love that makes the human soul happy even alone and unjustly confined in a miserable prison.
“What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances [of prison]. It depends really on that which happens inside a person. I am grateful every day that I have you, and that makes me happy.”
We need human love. We also need the pure love of God. His love satisfies our deepest and most profound longing. “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
God’s love makes us rich.
God’s love makes us strong.
God’s love makes us accepted and affirmed.
Over and over, again and again in the Gospels, Jesus’ transforming divine love satisfied the thirst from the scorching loneliness of the soul.
Jesus sought out the friendless, and they sought Him out. Our Savior is the seeking Savior. His love seeks the unloved. He casts His net to bring in the outcast. He accepts the unacceptable. He lavishes love upon us like the rain pouring out life following a long drought.
All of God’s love is revealed in Christ. To see Jesus is to see God’s love. To receive Jesus is to receive God’s love and every need we have for divine love satisfied.
The life, suffering, and death of Jesus is the penultimate revelation of the love of God. But, in my valleys of trials and despair, I often doubted whether God really loved me or not. “If He really loved me, then why are all of these bad things happening to me?” I expected God’s love to give me the grace of an easy life. Back then, I could not fathom that love was there in suffering, pain, and disappointment when my plans went awry.
Indeed, the love of God was and is a mystery without the revelation of God’s love in Christ because so many, like I did, believe that God doesn’t love them when disaster, loss, and defeat strike.
Christ makes known the mystery of God’s love once and for all and the love relationship with God can be established forever when his love is realized. The Scripture makes this plain. “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known (Romans 16:25-26).
The Lord just didn’t say he loves us. He demonstrated his love by sending Christ to suffer and die for our sins and free us to live in a love relationship with him now and forever (Romans 5:8).
It’s kind of like the upcoming Super Bowl. The offensive coordinator will sit in the booth high about the playing field. With his headset on, he directs the offense, calls the plays, and the quarterback and players carry out his directives. The only problem is that there are eleven opponents determined to stop and thwart the coach’s plans. More times than not, the plans are not carried out. A fumble, interception, a penalty, failure to gain a first down, or score a touchdown are part of the game.
The offensive coordinator is safe up there in the booth. He will never be carried out on a stretcher unconscious from a violent helmet blow to the head. He will not suffer a broken bone, blown out knee, or bruises and sprains that are part of an NFL game.
I sort of think of God as the offensive coordinator. He’s high up there safe from the field of battle directing the game so that it will end like He planned it in spite of the opposition.
But one day, he decided to come down out of the booth, put on his helmet and pads, and he got in the game. His opponents talked trash to him. They hit him, bruised him, and scourged him with a whip. He died and had to be carried off the field of battle.
For God in Christ to come down out of his booth high above the playing field and get in the game with us is the greatest demonstration of love He could ever make.
That God loves us dearly is no longer a mystery. We don't have to wonder any more on whether or not he loves us. He has forever revealed his love for me and you through Christ! He got into the game with us.
So, when I am knocked down on the playing field of life, I look up and see Christ who too suffered and even died. As Dottie Rambo wrote and sang, “He left the splendor of heaven knowing His destiny was the lonely hill of Golgotha there to lay down His life for me. If that isn't love, the ocean is dry. There's no stars in the sky, and the sparrow can't fly. If that isn't love, then heaven's a myth. There's no feeling like this if that isn't love.”
The riches of God’s love through Christ satisfies our need for divine love—the need to be loved by God and to love him in return. The riches of God’s love is a symphony that never fades away and a fragrance that is not carried off by the wind. It is bread that is never consumed by the eating, and an embrace not severed by fulfillment of desire. This is the wealth we receive from the riches of God’s love.
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