I love Jesus.
More importantly, Jesus loves me. For the Bible tells me so.
Jesus loves you.
Not for anything you’ve done or haven’t done but because Jesus loves you.
That is the thesis of the Gospel. When Jesus commissioned the disciples to go and proclaim good news, this is what he meant. They were to go into the entire world proclaiming the good news that God did not come to condemn the world (which is a good thing since, well, God created it…) but to save the world—to rescue the world from itself.
Friends, we are created in the image and likeness of God, who is Love flowing between Three—the Trinity. We read this truth in the very beginning of Genesis in poetry from chapter one. It reads, “God said, ‘Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26).
Okay. That’s heavy. So heavy it might cause you… because it has me… to have an existential brain freeze.
If God is who we say God is, then we must be who God says we are—beloved—because God would not lie, has not lied, nor shall ever lie or forsake us, right?
Good. We are getting somewhere.
God is love (1 John 4.16). God created us in the image and likeness of God, Love. For God so loved the world (John 3.16), God entered the world physically in Christ not to punish us or remove us from what S/He created, but to save it. With God’s help, we can rescue the world from itself. Richard Rohr said it more eloquently, “We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. Our core is original blessing, not original sin. Our starting point is ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31) and surely not ‘total depravity’ or ‘sinners in the hands of an angry god’” (We Were Made to Love by Love).
Know what I love most about Jesus?
Jesus met people where they were in life.
For instance, check out Mark 1.23-26.
23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
Notice that Jesus didn’t ask if this person knew the five points of “Calvinism.” Nor did Jesus walk down some Roman road before healing him. And Jesus certainly didn’t ask the man to join his ministry before or after the incident. Instead, Jesus offered peace, life, and love without any condition. Let me repeat it: Jesus [simply] offered peace, life, and love (and here’s the kicker) without any condition.
It’s that without any condition that makes it unconditional love, right?
Did a real exorcism take place? The scripture says so. In fact, it was at this confrontation in the early part of Christ’s ministry where we see his authority in both his teaching and healing. Jesus has authority because God authorizes it. Jesus, who is the face and heart of God, came to liberate God’s people from the demons of oppression by stepping into the realm of opposing authorities, facing the world of other spirits, and opposing the potent power of possession and to say, “God is here.” Christ’s authority broke through the barrier that kept the unclean at bay, defeated the evil of the universe, brought light to the places and spaces where it seemed God could never be and destroyed the very presence of opposition to God.
Perhaps that’s where the good news lies for us, some 2000 years later. In a time like ours, when we are quick to make judgements and assume the worst about others, maybe we need a reminder about who we are as image bearers of God—being as little Christs. We need to return to what we are called to do, which is to resist and restore the faux news of how bad things are with the good news of God’s presence, God’s reign, and God’s kin-dom… not by our silly, human-made doctrines but with our loving, divine-led acts of mercy and kindness, compassion, and grace.
Instead of beginning with how messed up the world is or rather than listing all that’s “wrong” with those with whom we disagree and refraining from regurgitating the prejudices, racist, ageist, classist, and sexist commentary often heard behind pulpits and podiums, we shall choose to begin with the good news:
the world is,
created in the image and likeness of God.
So friend, read these words; listen to these words; memorize these words; speak these words:
You are loved. You are cherished. You are enough.
God is here with you in your addiction. God is here with you in your pain. God is here with you in your depression. God is here with you in your illness. God is here with you in your joy.
And that my friends, is the best news I’ve heard in the last 24 hours!