Many people walk through life feeling unloved. I know of some of them; I have talked with them.
One day when I was just a kid, my friend and I were playing catch in his driveway when the ball went into the flower bed and may have broken off a flower. My friend’s father kicked him severely. The kid ran down the street as fast as he could in excruciating pain, I’m sure. I ran after him and asked if he was all right. “Yes,” he replied. “I’m all right. My father can be very good to me, but he has these temper tantrums. My mother died a year ago, and I have no one to turn to. I think that, underneath it all, my father doesn’t really love me.”
Years ago, my father bought a Victrola record player. I liked to listen to a particular song on it, supposedly written by a man while he was in jail. This is what it said:
“O I wish I had someone to love me,
someone to call me their own.
O I wish I had someone to live with,
I’m tired of living alone.”
Coming from a home where I was very well loved, I couldn’t understand the idea of a person wishing he had someone to love him. Perhaps that was why he was in prison Ð because he had never experienced the love of another person.
When I was in the seminary, a student and I were talking. A fellow’s name came up, and he said, “Well, he’s a little bit different, but he’s a great guy!” When I said what made him different, he replied, “He and I were in the same class once. His father, a high-ranking official of our church, was going to preach in chapel. So I said to him, ÔI bet you are excited to see your father and listen to him preach. You must be proud of him.’ And he said, ‘Not really. Dad will be on campus, but there is every possibility that he will not even see me. He’ll be so busy with the heads of departments in the college that he won’t have time to look me up. Sometimes I wonder if he is so busy with the church that he doesn’t have time for his family.'”
Now I am sure that the father, who was a godly man, loved his children, wife, and all others around him. However, he gave his son the impression that maybe he did not love him.
If you one of those who, rightly or wrongly, feel that you are not loved, then I have some great news to share with you. One of the blessings of being a Christian is knowing that you have a heavenly Father who loves you under all conditions, good or bad. He loves you. And our text for this first Sunday in Lent gives us a clear picture of his love.
Jesus had come down from Nazareth to Jerusalem. John the Baptist was in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The people came out to hear his message, confess their sins, and be baptized. Jesus also came to John to be baptized. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need be baptized by you . . .”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper . . .”
When John had baptized him, Jesus came up from the water. Then the heavens parted, and the voice of God cried out, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Jesus was being told by his Father, “I love you. You are my Son.”
We must remember that Jesus was not only God, he was also man, and he would need those words of encouragement many times. He knew his mother and Joseph, who had raised him, loved him. But words of encouragement Ð that his heavenly Father cared for him Ð carried him through the dark days ahead. In the darkness of Gethsemane, the darkness of Calvary’s mountain, where he was crucified for the sins of the world in order that he might say to those who believe in him, “I love you.” I came to die for your sins. I love you! I love you very much!
Tom Wright, a Bible commentator, writes, “God says you are my dear, dear children. Now you just try to read that sentence slowly using your own name at the start and reflect on it every day.”
“Bob, Jenny, you are my dear child. I love you. You are my beloved.”
Say that every day. “For what God said to the Lord Jesus Christ,” Dr. Wright interprets in his book, “he also says to you and me.”
Wright goes on to explain that Jesus is the Messiah who represents his people. What is true of the Messiah is also true of the people of God. Learn to hear these words addressed to yourself and let them change you. When we realize that God loves us, the brunt is taken off when others do not. We still need someone with flesh and blood to love us, but underneath everything else, we know that God loves you.
Put your name in this sentence. “For God so loved Peter or Mary that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” That is love and it will change your life!
I don’t know how far my young friend matured in his Christianity. He was just a little boy whose mother was dead, and he felt his father didn’t love him. But I pray that he can remember what our pastor told us in confirmation class Ð God loves you Ð for then he could carry it with him, no matter how rough the day became.
If we think that God is a bully, he’s angry, he’s a threatening parent who yells at us, slams the door on us, or kicks us out into the street because we haven’t made the grade with him, we will fail at the first whisper of temptation. But if we remember the voice that spoke those powerful words of love, we will find the way through.
“You are my beloved Son,” rang through Jesus’ ears at Calvary’s cross, for he knew that the Father, who had sent him into this world, was the One who stood by him and would soon receive him again into the kingdom of God.
Some misfortunate people in our world believe they are not loved and no one has ever loved them. But I wonder sometimes, if they feel that way because they rejected the love that was given to them. Their relatives or friends tried in every way to love them, but they rejected it for one reason or another.
If you are part of that group, remember this: God still loves you. It is never too late in this life. If you say, “Well, I turned my back on his love when I was just 20 years old, and just look at my life from that time on,” it is too bad that you lived your life without him and his love. However, his arms are still outstretched. I know, with no doubt, you can still come to him, and his message will always be the same.
How can I be so sure of this? Because it describes me. I came from a home that was anxious to love. I am a much-loved person. I had many friends and relatives who loved me, and I often turned to their love. Yet underneath it all was that love of God that was warmer and more real than the love of a God-fearing father and mother.
The same can be true of those who have not yet placed yourself in the hands of the love of God. If you have resisted that love for a long time, don’t you think it’s time in this Lenten season to stop and think again of all that he ever did for you? It’s a season when we center our thoughts on the love of the Savior. He loves you so much. Simply love him as your Savior and Lord.
As I have watched some of the presidential candidates on television, I see how they cruelly dig up past mistakes in the other candidates’ lives and then drill it into the conversation simply to get a vote. If those candidates will realize that the kind of love we experience on this earth is very superficial, perhaps they would know that what they are doing is not right, and underneath it all is a Father who loves them. Perhaps then they would not think evil things of a fellow member of the human race.
Our text is marvelous; it’s a marvelous season of the year. I hope and pray that, as you celebrate this Lenten season, you will know how much God loves you.