Love is hard to define. And yet we know when we’ve been loved.
YPSILANTI, MI – If you said, “Show me a solved mathematical equation that proves with certainty that you love your wife,” I wouldn’t be able to do that. And yet I know, with certainty, that I love my wife. It didn’t take long for me to fall head over heels for that girl. After only one date I got home and wrote in my calendar, “This is the one!” (I’m not making this up. I really did.)
Joy, unfortunately, hadn’t yet received that memo from God. A couple of months after that first date I blurted out my love for her. Her response? “You don’t love me. You don’t even know me!”
Did her reaction cause me to think I had gotten it wrong? Did I say, “I misread that one,” and move on? No way! Joy was worth waiting for. I carefully refrained from using “the L word” and began to persistently demonstrate my love for her. After a hundred little sacrificial gestures she finally came around. One evening after a long talk, she said, “I’ve been thinking about my future, and I realize that I don’t want a future without you in it.”
Yes! That’s why I persistently sacrificed in a hundred tiny ways. That girl became the Joy of my life for the rest of my life. We’ve remained married over forty years now. I think that God exhibits the same kind of tenacious love, offering persistent sacrificial gestures to people who crave a future filled with love and purpose.
The Old Testament reveals well over a hundred sacrificial ways that God persistently demonstrated His love for His “Chosen Ones,” the Nation of Israel. And if that wasn’t enough He sent His only son as the ultimate demonstration of sacrificial love to people who had not yet “gotten it.” But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, CSB) And then because God was so loving and so persistent He empowered a bunch of people as His agency of reconciliation. Those of us who call ourselves “The Church” – those of us who have gotten it – are tasked with revealing God and His persistent love to a world in need.
Often it takes a hundred little sacrifices before someone sees that God is really serious about this eternal love. Like the guy who drove 45 minutes each way one day a week for six months to meet a friend for lunch so they could talk about God’s crazy sacrificial love. That lunch buddy finally showed up in a home Bible study group and months later accepted the grace his friend had been talking about and demonstrating to him.
Or like the lady who hosted a weekly Bible discussion in her home for three years before one of the women in her study says, “I get it now!” When a lot of people who are distant from God first hear someone blurt out how God loves them they might think, “Love me, God doesn’t even know me!” But after a hundred little sacrifices from God’s grace agents, some might eventually say, “I’ve been thinking about my future and I realize that I don’t want a future without God in it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Clark Cothern is grateful to serve as Pastor at Living Water Community Church, Ypsilanti, MI. Living Water is a congregation continuing to learn how to R.E.A.C.H. (Recognize Everyone And Communicate Hope). Clark and his wife Joy live in Milan, MI. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.