November 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 4
God's Love Letters
By Rev. Msgr. Frank Wissel
The New Testament is a collection of 27 different writings. It contains biography, history, theology, philosophy, ethics, poetry, prophesy, economics and psychology. But first and foremost, it is a love letter - God's love letter to his children.
The Gospel many times gives us a letter in condensed form. For example, it says, "God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life." With that sentence as our guide, let's take a brief but serious look at God's love letter.
Notice first that it is addressed to the world. It is sent to the entire human family. No one is left out. For many of us, this is a truth that is almost worn smooth by pronouncement. We can say it or hear it without feeling it traction on our lives. Which only means that we need to remind ourselves of the bigness of God and oneness of our world.
The tendency is forever with us to localize our concepts of God and of life. This was the failing of the Pharisees in the first century. Their God was too small. They wanted to build a fence around him and keep him in Palestine. They wanted him to love all Jews and reject all Gentiles. Then Jesus came into that narrow, provincial environment and began to talk about God's love for the world. Not only did he talk about it, he lived it. He started loving people whom the righteous and respectable avoided.
It was the scandal of the first century - a prophet who claimed to speak for God, and yet he was utterly indiscriminate in his choice of friends. He went to banquets that nice people did not attend.
He befriended despised tax collectors. He championed the cause of a fallen woman. He made a Samaritan the hero of one of his most famous stories. He talked comfortably and freely with prostitutes. The ministry of Jesus from start to finish was a revolutionary movement of love. He simple started loving people that had either been ignored or despised. Everything he said and did challenged the existing concepts of God.
If we take him seriously, his revelation of God will be as radical today as it was in the first century. We will have to deal with it in all the delicate and complex relationships of life.
In questions of race, we will have to remember the color blindness of God. That black or white or brown means absolutely nothing to him. He loved them all.
In business dealings, we should remember that our competitors are included in his love. That he is concerned for their dignity and well being just as surely as he is for ours.
In domestic relationships, we will look at that frustrated and frustrating teenager through different eyes. We will remember that to God, this teenager has more value than the material universe and everything in it.
It is a difficult idea to assimilate, but the statement in our test is clear. God's love is universal. It includes all people everywhere. And any serious attempt at Christian discipleship must somehow come to terms with this basic truth about God.
We must also note that God's love letter is personal. It speaks specifically to individuals. It declares his love for the world, but then it switches to the singular pronoun "whoever." And we must remember that his letter was hand-carried and personally delivered by his only son.
Let me ask a question. How many people do you know who, if they knew all there is to know about you, would still love you? To how many people would you dare reveal every secret thought and every secret deed?
We know that to really to be known is to run the risk of rejection. And we wonder if there is any person who we don't need to impress, if there is any place where we can afford to just be ourselves.
Finally, God's love letter is purposeful. It is intended to redeem. That is to say, it has to do with love and it has to do with eternal life. There are people who have never heard the Gospel. They live and they love and he wants us to live and to love without regard to race, class, culture or social attainment. In the Sermon on the Mount he says that we are to even love our enemies.
In an age such as ours, love may seem like a weak sister. This is a power-oriented world. We are geared to think of space flights, supersonic jets and atomic weapons. What chance has love in a time such as this?
The answer to that question is simple. Love let loose is still the most powerful influence in the universe. It can lead people where force could never drive them. It can open doors that have would never batter down.
Love is the most powerful, the most permanent, the most redemptive force on earth. It is God's plan for redeeming the world. You and I can be part of that by opening ourselves to his love, and going out to love others as he loves us– his children.
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