A Determined God of Love

Robert and Maureen McQuillan write:

Recently we attended the funeral of a friend who loved Jesus. Held in a local Uniting Church, we were impressed as the minister, Tony Johnson, shared from his heart.

Space doesn’t permit us to detail all that this soft-speaking Geelongite said but we’ll always recall the following– truths that are relevant to every Christian in their understanding of God, their following Jesus and living as he did. And in honouring God’s word and reaching out to everyone.

Tony’s welcome to the mixed gatherers – family, friends and those who were strangers to each other but had known the deceased through her lifetime daily exhibition of love, is a classic.

Quietly and simply but meaningfully, he said: ‘Welcome to all of you – to those who believe, those who do not believe, those who do not know what to believe and those who have been too hurt to believe anything.’ In his eulogy, Tony made it clear that God is the God of determination – that through Christ he showed that he is the God of reconciliation.

Love reconciles
We were reminded of 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Message, ‘God … settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.’
Every Christian has had his or her sins – wrongdoings to God, others and even self – forgiven. It’s now our calling – conveying God’s message of reconciliation – to reach out to those who don’t know Christ as Saviour, friend and Lord and share the love of a determined God.
Christmas, the Christian good news story of God’s Son, Jesus, coming to earth to begin his journey among us to reveal a determined God’s love, will soon be here. But we should take every God-given opportunity now as they arise and not wait until then.

Love demonstrated
Tony, reminding attenders that the departed was a Christian who shared much love to all, then made it clear that love determines a Christian’s status. ‘One doesn’t have to be in church every week to be a Christian. One has to be a follower of Jesus Christ to be a Christian. Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, that all nice but I can’t believe in the fairy stories you guys talk about.” Well, I don’t believe in fairy tales either!’

He went on, ‘I know what the scientists say – but scientists cannot speak of love, cannot describe what love is. Scientists can tell me about biological revolution, about the particles in an atom but cannot tell me what love is. And that’s why I am a Christian – I see in the Christian story a God who is a determined God, a God who could give up on humanity but chooses not to. The Christian way of understanding God is that, as with the apostle John, we see a God who is love (1John 4:8). He reconciled the world to himself through Christ.’
Then he added, ‘You can argue with me about various things but you cannot prove to me that God doesn’t exist – because I know love. The greatest proof for God is not in a test-tube in a laboratory – it’s his gift of love that proves him a reality!’
Love overcomes
Celebrating the life of the deceased, he pointed out that she loved God and was determined to love others because she was loved by God. She loved her husband, family, friends, even the unlovable in private life and in her public career.
‘Every human being, Christians believe,’ Tony added, ‘is an image bearer of God – something divine lives in each life. I believe that in this lady we saw the divine through her endless determination to love. 1 Corinthians 13: 8 says that love never fails. Verse13 talks about faith, hope and love and that the greatest thing is love.’
He challenged, ‘As you walk away today: ‘Love one another! Love the unlovable. Remember and honour this lady by the way you live, in the way you follow the determined God – even as she did. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”’
Love is simple
We came away rejoicing in our spirits that all had heard a message free of religiosity, one that had touched many hearts, whether they knew Christ as Saviour or not. That we all had been challenged in a very simple but clear manner.
We’re confident that Tony Johnson’s words were Holy Spirit-given seed that will stir within and the truth about our determined God to reconcile people to himself will dawn at some point, if not at Christmas. That people will want to know God personally as our departed friend did and lived her life truly following Jesus.
Our own concluding thoughts were these:
When welcoming attenders on Sunday, don’t take it for granted that everyone there is a full-on believer or fully committed dedicated follower of Jesus; that messed-up, mixed-up and hurt people can be present too.
Are we all demonstrating that God is real and that he is love? Do we love others, especially the unlovable, the forgotten, the ignored, the hurt and those who don’t know God personally through his Son Jesus and his personal sacrifice on Calvary?
Many are talking about reaching their communities. Surely being image bearers of a determined God of love and demonstrating godly love determinately is a major key.
God still loves everyone!
(c) 2013.10. Permission granted to reproduce provided source is acknowledged

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