I once read a story of a family of three: mother, father, and daughter. The teenaged daughter became pregnant. The father, in his pride, embarrassment, and anger, declared to the daughter that she was no longer his child. He bitterly denounced her for her sin, which was a point of great embarrassment to this Christian family. He went so far as to take the family Bible, in which all the family members’ names had been written, and with the blade of his pocketknife he cut her name out of the family record.
He thoroughly disowned his daughter.
The mother watched this scene with tears streaming down her face. Her heart was torn into shreds, not only because of the results of her daughter’s disappointing behavior but also because of her husband’s fierce emotional rejection of their daughter and, by extension, their unborn grandchild.
The brokenhearted mother went to the daughter and told her, “What you’ve done is a terrible sin, and we are so disappointed. But I love you and forgive you. You will always be my daughter.” Her love for her daughter was greater than her disappointment in her sin. She wouldn’t, couldn’t, disown her child.
Isaiah 49:15 asks and answers a serious question: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely, they may forget, Yet I will not forget you” (NKJV). Unlikely though it may be, it is possible for a parent to forget a child. But, rooted in His great love for humanity, God will not disown us or forget us.
The disciple John tells us that God is love; the very essence of His being, His character, His personality is love. No, not the sentimental love we see on the Hallmark channel, but the everlasting, pure, unselfish, principled love that is exemplified most closely in our daily lives by a mother caring for her children.
The feelings that welled up within Audrey and me when we held our firstborn for the first time are indescribable. With awe, we recognized that she looked similar to us. We were overwhelmed to see in person this child who was born of the love that we had for each other.
The love that we had (and still have) for this new creature was (and still is) amazing, irresistible, powerful. I marvel at the thought of the Father’s love for all of humanity. God loves us all as His children, on a much higher plane than I could love my child.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), wrote a famous poem, “How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43).” You can probably recite the first line by memory: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
If we were to try to count the ways God has loved us, we might be attempting an impossibility. Certainly, we each have long and personalized lists of evidence of God’s love, which will differ in as many points as our life experiences differ. However, the commonality of God’s love would cut across our individual experiences. We would admit that God has loved us when we were most unlovable. At our lowest point, in the grips of our deepest sinfulness, God has loved us. His love is incomparable because it is eternal. “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you’” (Jeremiah 31:3, NKJV).
God’s love for humanity began long before Creation. The Bible teaches that Yahweh formed the first person out of the dust of the earth; with love He breathed the breath of life into the inanimate form, and man became a living soul. God didn’t speak us into existence as He did the sun, moon, and stars. He didn’t separate humanity from the elements as He did the dark from the light. But, as the Bible tells us, with loving care He fashioned humanity after His own image with His own two hands.
We love our children for many reasons, and we have loved them at each stage of their lives. In every stage of their personality development, I have appreciated who they are—and now I admire the amazing adults that they have come to be.
God loved us even before we were born. He recognized that we had the power to choose right or wrong, that we had the propensity to sin, that we could accept or reject His principles. So, out of His love, He had in place a plan to rescue us from our sinful choices. He provided a Savior and salvation.
God took affirmative action in that, while we could not help ourselves, He designed a detailed plan within His own timeline of eternity in which He would demonstrate to the universe, and forever to human beings, His great love for sinful people. He did this through the Incarnation—becoming one of us, becoming part of humanity, becoming the Child who would grow up to die for our sins.
Oh, what love God has for us, that He would take on humanity, dwell among us, live out the principles of His true love, and then, out of His fullness, die for the sins of humanity.
“With lovingkindness have I drawn you.” Ah, how gently, how tenderly, sometimes mysteriously, but ever in love, He draws us to Himself.
In 1846, J. H. Evans preached a sermon on Jeremiah 31:3 in his church in London, saying: “All the blessings of present salvation spring from God’s everlasting love.”
This love is everlasting. Time never knew its beginning; eternity shall never know its end.
Now we experience the love of God “through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Sin obscures our vision and comprehension. But that doesn’t prevent us from getting a glimpse of God’s great love for us, as the Cross reveals His love for us. Jesus was an offering of love for the benefit of all.
So, do we merely receive the love of God? Don’t think so. We have the opportunity to share it or “pass it on,” as the song says. When we let other people know about the love we have been blessed to receive, this love can radiate from us to those around us.
The love radiating from our hearts prompts us to focus on bringing others into this loving relationship. This is the mission of Adventism: to share the love of God with all whom we come in contact, introducing them to the God who is constantly calling and wooing people to Himself.
“The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world is a revelation of His character of love” (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 415).
We must share this message of mercy. The churches in the Pacific Union are invited to reveal the loving character of God. Quite a task, isn’t it? But it is achievable in God’s Spirit.
Ricardo Graham is the president of the Pacific Union Conference.