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A Different Kind of Love

posted Feb 6, 2017, 12:58 PM by Kelly Griffin   [ updated Apr 24, 2017, 3:56 PM ]
Alfred, Lord Tennyson reminded us, “In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."
Well, it’s not Spring. But it’s nearly Valentine’s Day which prompts its own thoughts of love.

But you don’t have to be very old to discover that human love has limitations. For example, during a high school halftime show, one young band member stepped out to play a trumpet solo. His father, sitting high up in the bleachers, turned to his neighbors and proudly announced, “That’s my boy!” But about that time the boy, who had been playing so well, began to hit some sour notes. "Well," the man said, "maybe not. They all look alike from up here.”

Human love, you see, has a selfish core. We love for some attractiveness or endearing quality that we find in the other person. Take that quality away, and love fades in like manner.

That’s one reason we have difficulty relating to a transcendent God. We ascribe to Him the same qualities that define us. But His self-revelation in the Bible expands the picture. There, in the words of Brennan Manning, we find a God who loves not for what He finds in us, but for what He finds in Himself.

That’s great news because in our saner moments we realize that while we may “play our trumpet” well and with good intentions much of the time, there are enough sour notes of selfish indulgence, ego-driven ambition and shameless compromise to create a yawning chasm between us and an infinitely holy God. If He were not also infinitely loving, all would be lost.

Thankfully, He is not just infinitely holy, but also infinitely loving. So King David could say in Psalm 6:4, “Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.” His appeal is to God’s steadfast love, not to his own flawed performance. He knew divine love was his salvation.

On August 28, 1982, 20-year-old PFC Joseph White, stationed in Korea, ran across the minefield of the DMZ, heading to North Korea as fellow soldiers pleaded with him to turn back. Officially, he defected “for motives that are not known,” although fellow-soldiers reported that as a result of a dispute with his sergeant, his freedom to visit his Korean girlfriend had been pulled. They believed he may have gone AWOL to be with her.

When the Army released its official report confirming the defection, his parents held a press conference near their home in St. Louis. His teary-eyed father said he accepted that his son was indeed a traitor: “He has lost his credibility in this country, and even with me.” But then he continued, “But I still love my son, and I want him back.” I want him back.

Multiply that a million times and you have a glimpse of the heart of God. He wants us back from the brokenness that separates us from Him. So while His holiness creates the unbridgeable abyss between us and Him, His love provides a way. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:8, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners (in a state of defection), Christ died for us.”

Because of His love, He Himself paid the price His holiness required to pave our way back, if we will just place our life in His hands by faith. Joe White never made it home. He reportedly died within three years of his defection. That need not be us. Although we, too, have defected, the way home has been bridged by His love – not for what He finds in us, but for what He finds in Himself. That’s a love worth having, and it’s ours -- if we just believe in Him (John 5:24).

Dave McNeff is Pastor of Eaton Congregational Church (part of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference)

Published in The Tribune on February 4, 2017