Mike Bryan was an agnostic journalist who decided to write about the mind-set of evangelical Christianity. As part of his research, he enrolled in a Christian Bible college. In his book “Chapter and Verse,” Bryan described a bus trip he took with his fellow students to a ministry conference. During the trip back, student after student walked to the front of the bus and took the microphone to say something about the experience.
One young lady began to weep as she shared her heartfelt concern for Bryan’s salvation. At that moment, Bryan realized that this girl, who hardly knew him yet demonstrated genuine compassion for him, was expressing the heart of the Christian faith.
The heart of Christianity is love. The whole basis of the Christian faith is God’s love for us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God loves us—not because of anything we have done or anything we could give Him. Instead, the Bible says God desires a relationship with you and me for one reason: “because of His great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4).
When we receive God’s love through faith in Jesus Christ, it is only natural that we—like the Bible college student on Mike Bryan’s bus—will extend that love to other people as well. As the apostle John said, “We love because God loved us” (1 John 4:19). A true follower of Jesus Christ demonstrates compassion for others.
As Christians, how we treat other people reveals whether we understand the way God wants us to love. Not long ago, I came across a great quote by Dorothy Day, who put it this way: “I really only love God as much as I love those I love the least.” Love is the basis of everything in the Christian faith.
Love is not a syrupy, sentimental emotion. Love is meeting the real needs of those around us. It may mean expending our financial resources. It may mean sacrificing our time and our plans. It may mean risking our reputation to meet the needs of those around us. May I get painfully specific? Husbands, for you, showing genuine love may mean turning off the TV so you can listen to your wife and meet the need she has for conversation. Parents, demonstrating real love may mean postponing your desire for early retirement so you can meet the financial needs of your children or even your elderly parents. Christians, expressing true love may mean risking your reputation or risking your job to share the gospel with somebody who desperately needs it.
All those actions have as their core purpose meeting people’s greatest need, which is the forgiveness of sins through a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Perhaps you have never felt as separated from God as you do at this moment in your life. You may say, “There is no way God could ever forgive me for what I have done.” If you feel far from God, remember that God doesn’t hate you. He loves you. In fact, He loves you so much that He set into motion the ultimate rescue plan in sending Jesus Christ, His Son, to die on the cross for you. And Jesus died not only for your small sins. He also died for those giant sins in your life, those sins you don’t think God is capable of forgiving.
It doesn’t matter what you have done, how long you have done it, or how far you have wandered away from God. If you will take the first step toward God, then He will come running to meet you and will forgive your sins. That’s what the grace of God is all about. God loves you. He is searching for you. He is orchestrating events in your life right now to bring you to Himself.
Aren’t you glad that God is loving, kind, and compassionate? And this Valentine’s Day, He wants to give you the greatest gift of all: His forgiveness.