Some time ago there was a seminary student who had done so well in his preaching class that he was asked to give one of the four chapel messages during student preaching week at his school.
Each chapel message during this week is significant in that all the students are present, as well as the entire faculty, administration and board members of the school. It is quite an honor to be chosen to give one of these messages during this week, and the entire atmosphere can be quite intimidating!
When the student got up to speak at the appointed time, he made the statement, “The topic for my message this morning is…” and then, in a deep voice that seemed to come from everywhere, he stated, “…GOD!”
He went on to say, “This is a topic that is so very profound, it is somewhat intimidating to even attempt to deal with it!”
And apparently it was, for at that very moment, the student preacher’s knees buckled and he promptly passed out! And when he fell backwards unconscious, he landed right in the lap of the Academic Dean!
The study of the subject of God can be quite intimidating and at the same time quite fruitful.
In the book of Ephesians in the New Testament, there is one verse there that is literally packed with a seeming multitude of theological and practical treasures. It goes like this: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” (Ephes. 1:3).
In the verses which follow, we read about the fact that God has chosen those who would become His children, He has adopted us into His family. He has redeemed us through the blood of Christ, and He has sealed us with His Spirit, thereby guaranteeing that what He has promised He will do! I am amazed that God would do anything so grand for someone like me.
And then in verses like John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
These words demonstrate something that few of us ever really know, and even fewer experience personally – something called, “unconditional love.”
I must admit, it is hard to picture what unconditional love is like, and indeed any way we attempt to illustrate it seems weak at best.
For example, we live in a community where there are a great many of two categories of creatures. There are a lot of old people, and there are a lot of pets. One cannot drive too far without encountering both.
As a pet lover from way back – well, let’s say, as a dog-lover from way back, it is my astute observation that here anyway, there is, in general, more unconditional love demonstrated towards pets than towards spouses.
In fact, one of the recent top stories on NewYorkTimes.com was a look at what pets can teach us about marriage.
Now at first glance, this article sounds like something you may simply dismiss as some space-filler on a not-too-busy news day, but a closer look emphasizes something that is alarmingly true: There are a lot of people who demonstrate more unconditional love to their dog, cat, bird, ferret, or hedgehog than they do to their husband or wife.
It is not too difficult to find a story of unconditional love for our pets, but to find one for a mate is even rarer.
The story of David Roevers is a tremendous illustration of God’s unconditional love for us.
Dave Roevers was in the army, serving with the infantry in Vietnam. Dave was out on patrol one day with his squadron when they were ambushed by the enemy.
During the fighting which followed, Dave was seriously injured by a grenade that exploded just before he could throw it. The entire left side of his body was blown away, including the left side of his face.
He was quickly evacuated to a field hospital and eventually to a medical unit stateside. His wife was summoned to his bedside, and he looked forward to her arrival, although he was very unsure about her response to his appearance and his injuries.
His fears were heightened one day as he witnessed and overheard the wife of his hospital roommate, who had suffered similar injuries in the same skirmish. She came into the room, took one long look at her husband, and said to him, “You’re not the man I married. I didn’t agree to marry an ugly invalid. I am not a nursemaid! I will not stay in this relationship.”
And with that she removed her wedding band from her finger, threw it at her husband and stormed out of the room!
That incident traumatized Roevers, and he was therefore quite concerned as the nurses prepared him to meet his wife a few days later. When his wife finally did arrive, he took one look at her and thought she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.
She walked right up to him, bent over his face and contorted her lips to fit his own twisted lips, and gave him a big kiss. He simply exploded in tears. He told her he thought she would leave him too because he was so very ugly now.
She looked at him, and simply said, “Oh, Davey! I love you! It doesn’t matter what you look like!”
Then, after a pause that seemed like eternity, she added, “And besides, you weren’t all that good-looking to begin with!”
Now THAT is unconditional love! That’s exactly the way God loves us.
And when we talk about that very deep subject called “God,” we must not forget that in Christ, He loved us even when we were unlovable. He sent His Son to die for us!
And all He asks us to do is simply trust Christ!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.