DID YOU BELIEVE I LOVED YOU?
Brennan Manning (1934-2013):
“In the 48 years since I was first ambushed by Jesus in a little chapel in the Allegheny mountains in western Pennsylvania, and then literally the thousands of hours of prayers and meditation, silence and solitude over those years, I am now utterly convinced that on Judgment Day he Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only one question:
Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?
The real believers there will answer, “Yes, Jesus. I believed in your love and I tried to shape my life as a response to it. But many of us who are so faithful in our ministry, in our practice, in our church-going are going to have to reply, ‘Well frankly, no sir. I mean, I never really believed it. I mean, I heard a lot of wonderful sermons and teachings about it. In fact I gave quite a few myself. But I always knew that that was just a way of speaking; a kindly lie, some Christian’s pious pat on the back to cheer me on.’
And there’s the difference between the real believers and the nominal Christians that are found in our churches across the land.
No one can measure, like a believer, the depth and the intensity of God’s love. But at the same time, no one can measure, like a believer, the effectiveness of our gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred and despair that block God’s way to us.
Do you see why it is so important to lay hold of this basic truth of our faith?
Because you’re only going to be as big as your own concept of God.
Do you remember the famous line of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal? ‘God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment’?
We often make God in our own image, and He winds up to be as fussy, rude, narrow minded, legalistic, judgemental, unforgiving, unloving as we are.
In the past couple of three years I have preached the gospel to the financial community in Wall Street, New York City, the airmen and women of the Air Force academy in Colorado Springs, a thousand physicians in Nairobi. I’ve been in churches in Bangor, Maine, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, San Diego.
And honest, the god of so many Christians I meet is a god who is too small for me. Because he is not the God of the Word, he is not the God revealed by Jesus Christ who this moment comes right to your seat and says, ‘I have a word for you:
I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet.
I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship.
And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are, and not as you should be. Because you’re never going to be as you should be.'”
I had not heard of Brennan Manning until this morning, when this video stilled our church for nearly four minutes. I stared at his blurry face while his precise words brought my heart to its knees and begged it to answer truthfully: