Unconditional love is a concept that we hear about or talk about pretty often. I think that many times we use the words without really considering what they mean. It can be so easy to gloss over the depth of such a concept, especially once it has become such a well-used phrase. This week, the people I encountered were ones who caused me to stop and really consider the meaning of these two simple words.
One morning this week, I was sitting at a table in one of our ministry sites that serves as a drop-in and lunch program. The man sitting beside me began sharing with me about ministry to the impoverished and the heart that he once had for the poor. I was so excited to be able to share in that vision with someone else. He shared with me about going to Bible College and the plans he once had to go into ministry full-time. I was surprised to learn that one of the lunch program’s patrons had held such a heart for ministry. The more he talked, however, the more downtrodden he became. He told me that he had left Bible College because his sins had just been too much for God. He didn’t think he could be useful to God because he struggled with issues in his own life.
Here was someone who was discussing ministry, God’s love, and theology with me and yet he wouldn’t allow himself to accept God’s forgiveness. He was holding so tightly to his own failings and rejecting Christ’s death as atonement for our sins. The entire time we were talking, Romans 3:22-24 was running through my mind: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
I know that God’s love is deeper and wider than I can ever fully understand, but in that conversation I think God allowed me to feel just a tiny fraction of what He feels for this man. There was nothing I desired more than for him to be able to know just how far reaching God’s love is and how complete His forgiveness is when we accept it. God is ready and waiting to drown us in a tidal wave of His love. His desire is for us to know Him and to participate in a loving relationship with Him.
I think part of what impacted me so much is that I didn’t expect to encounter such resistance to God’s love and forgiveness by those who do know God’s character. I expect to hear those stories from those who have known much difficulty, grief, and abuse. This conversation has caused me to reconsider all of my relationships, not just the ones I’m building with the impoverished and less fortunate. It’s causing me to ask myself a lot of questions: How well am I reflecting God’s forgiveness and unconditional love to all of the people I interact with? How many other people who know God’s character are suffering from an inability to forgive themselves and accept God’s unconditional love?
-Robin, CSM Toronto Summer 2010 City Host