Love is something we do not understand. Or at least, we get the jist of it, but we do not comprehend its deepness or its intricacy–whilst staying simple and soothing.
This article is going to be a bit different than the usual. While it provides a lesson, I find it impossible not to include bits of my own testimony. I will talk about the actual sacrificial love of Christ, and how this love is unconditional, deep, and how it can be realized.
Like I said, love is not completely understood by us as humans. Our world is so fallen, so gruesome, so disgusting, that love is often drowned out. It is put off to the side. And when someone does show love, people suspect they have ulterior motives or they are hiding something. Love is seen as insincere.
But true love does exist. From all of my experience, both in and out of the Spirit, I am convinced that the purest form of love comes only from Jesus. God is love (1 John 4:8). In fact, love itself was derived from God. The only reason it exists (even in the secular sense) is because it was taken from God’s nature and applied to the human nature.
True love comes from God. And there are no mortal words I could use to accurately describe to you this love. Although still trying, I can tell you that we are truly blessed to have such a loving God. I wouldn’t want to believe in a God that was even slightly different. This love He gives is free. It is completely free, we need only accept it.
But the problem is that few people will accept it. Even Christians refuse it. Because it terrifies us. We aren’t taught to know this kind of love. The world teaches us that love is tainted. People love you conditionally. You have to have a certain walk to you in order to feel welcome in certain people’s company. Love is psychological to us. We think of parents as loving us unconditionally, but I’ve seen many cases where that’s just the opposite! Parents lose their adoration from their children, or don’t give them attention, or only show them affection if the performance of that child is up to par. The child becomes subconsciously damaged and it affects their entire lives, even their own thoughts. Likewise, it affects their walk with God.
My birth father hurt my family. He had decided that other things, such as drugs and sensuality, were more important than being a dad. He became abusive and uncaring. I sternly believe that if my mother and her family had not fought tooth and nail to get away from him, I would not be alive today. He was unloving, and in my opinion, a psychopath. And in many ways I felt abandoned by him. He finally signed his rights away to me and my sister so he did not have to pay child support, but could instead use his money for drugs.
I spent half of my life fatherless until my step-dad came along. But for all that time, though it never particularly bothered me on the surface, I now know I was subconsciously damaged, and severely so. A child can not make sense of things as rationally as an adult can. I had not realized it until recently, but I may have even blamed myself for how he treated us. Was there something wrong with me? Was I unlovable? Why didn’t he love me? Those are concepts that were sowed deep into my subconscious, creating big blockages in my spirit. Many of my problems down the road were rooted in this, unknown to me.
I never understood God’s love because my earthly father showed me none. I was just a name to him. Just a burden. And it made me feel, even into my teenage years, like I wasn’t satisfactory for God. Like I couldn’t come near Jesus because something was wrong with me. I felt like if I did, God would run away, or simply be absent, like my biological father had been. It ate me up inside and I felt like I was chasing wind. Forever.
Throughout school I was bullied relentlessly for a cesspool of reasons. My looks were the main concentration. But aside from that included my hobbies (I loved to read, write, and draw, which made me a geek) and my physique (I was kind of a wimp). I was even beaten into the dust for being a Christian. I grew up having very few girlfriends because they wouldn’t give me any attention whatsoever. I felt they never took me seriously. In fact, I felt like nobody ever took me seriously. However, girls were the worst of this. I stopped trying to “flirt” altogether because each time I tried, they’d look at me in disgust. It was damaging. It trained me to think less of myself.
I sought after fake friends, people who used me and took advantage of me. There was desperation. Hunger. Thirst. I would do anything for anyone. I even drifted from my Christian roots. But still, over and over again, the world proved to me that I wasn’t wanted.
So I began to give up.
One thing I used to battle was the feeling that God always seemed so far from me. I just felt like I could never connect with Him. I could never understand Him. And I felt undeserving of Him. Of course, all humans are unworthy of God. But Satan blew this out of proportion in my mind, turning it into total condemnation. I would sit some days and think about all of my sins. I wondered, if there’s another Man out there who knows all of this stuff too, why would He still love me? I dare say I even had subconscious disbelief. I didn’t believe God could love me after all of those sins. I knew about the cross and how this Savior, this Son of God, died for me. But me? Why me? I didn’t believe it. I believed God would help anyone else, but I had no faith He would help me.
I started trying to figure my life out on my own. So many things had been sewn into my brain that I just couldn’t imagine God would save me. Although I consciously believed it all, there was a huge part of me deep down beneath the surface that ached with disbelief.
Why would God want anything to do with me? I’m unworthy of being saved. So why would God Himself step down from the mightiest throne in all of existence, bind himself to a feeble human body, undergo dirt and grit and pain, all for the sake of a sinner who might not even say “thank you.” Why would God die for someone who couldn’t even honor Him in return? Who couldn’t obey, be grateful, be thankful?
Such thoughts the enemy pushed into my head.
Then, something started to pop out at me over and over again for a few weeks. I came to a passage in the Bible in Luke 23.
13 Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; 15 no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. 16 I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” 17 (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast).
18 And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”— 19 who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.
20 Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. 21 But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
22 Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.”
23 But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. 24 So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. 25 And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
There is a popular video called “Who is Barabbas?” circulating on the internet about this story. It’s partly the inspiration the Lord gave me out of all of this.
Barabbas was a murderer. A brutal, grotesque, cold-blooded killer. The things this man had done, I cannot even imagine. He plotted to overthrow the government of the area through a rebellion that the Romans had crushed. He had robbed and killed. To me, Barabbas was just someone who was a victim of circumstance. I have no evidence of this, but I can imagine that he was taught cruelty from birth. He was violent, dirty, evil. He was a criminal who was well deserving of crucifixion and all the power of hell.
But on the other side of the platform, there stands Jesus. The Son of God is still. He says nothing as the Romans take the chains off of Barabbas and set him free. The murderer runs into the crowd smiling, chanting. Today’s the best day of his life. He’s escaped certain death. The crippling fear of physical torture subsides. He’s no longer tormented at the sight of nails. He doesn’t flinch when he sees the other criminals carrying their crosses. He’s been set free.
Jesus stands looking on at Him, knowing full well that He has taken Barabbas’ punishment.
But why? Why would the living God, the hands that dug the rivers of the earth, piled up the mountains, and laid out the stars, step down from that place? Why would He send a piece of Himself into the earth, constricting it by the physical world? And why would He stand there idly by as the whips that had Barabbas’ name on them are then used to tear the flesh off of his back? Why would the God of all the universe allow that to happen to Him? For just a mere man? And even then, even if God loved man that much, a murderer?
God loves Barabbas. We can shout, argue, and wonder. We can question God, saying, “But he’s a bad man.” But God still says, “But I love him.”
I am Barabbas. Those were my nails in His hands. They were meant for me, branded with my name. The blood that poured endlessly from Jesus’ body, that would’ve been mine. It would’ve been me hanging there in the dark. And you as well. We all would’ve been left in the dark. Our scars were drawn on His body. The things we should’ve felt, the things we should’ve known, the devastation and the hurt, the pain, it all should’ve been ours. But God said, “No. Not him. Not her. Me.”
And yet we still reject His love. We’ve become so fixated on our sins, we reject Christ’s sacrifice. He’s too good. We don’t want to hurt Him. We don’t want to disappoint Him. We tell ourselves, “I’m just a lost cause! God shouldn’t waste His time on me! I’m worth nothing!”
Yes, you are unworthy. But to God you are still worth it. God loves the unlovable. It’s not that we are deserving of love, nor is it that God needs a reason to love us, He simply chooses to because it is in His nature. He does not love us based on us, but rather based on who He is and His own nature. It is a loving nature, and that love is extended endlessly to His creation.
But we’re so afraid to approach Him.
When we were small kids we played outside. We’d get caught up in the dirt and mud and eventually we’d make a mess of ourselves. If you were like I was, you’d be afraid to walk back in the house for fear you’d get mud everywhere. Mom or Dad would have to come outside and scoop you up and take you to the bath tub. “Oh look what you’ve got yourself into,” they’d say, chuckling.
And it’s the same with God. We’re afraid to bring our dirt in the Father’s house. But that’s where the bath tub is! That’s the only way you’ll get clean! Get free of all the dirt.
Not long ago I helped a few friends of mine who were preaching a revival in West Portsmouth. These three were buddies I had known for a long time, two I had gone to school with. They preached their hearts out under that gargantuan white tent those few September evenings. I managed all of their social media and online tech for them and helped them set things up around the tent each night. Then, during service, we were each very active at the altar. Any time someone would come, we would be right there with them to pray.
One evening an older gentleman came to the altar. Me and one of my buddies wrapped our arms around him and began to pray. I could immediately tell that this man was hurting. He was suffering wounds on the inside that no man could heal. I felt deep desperation in his gasps and weeps as he sobbed on the wooden altar. We prayed with him, and we asked him if he had given his heart over to Jesus. He shook his head slowly.
“No, I can’t do it,” he murmured. “I just can’t do it.”
“But He loves you! Please… please…” my friend said to him. “He wants to take care of you. You don’t know what tomorrow holds. You could leave this place having it been your last church service. You don’t want that do you?”
The man shook his head. “But I just can’t let go. I’m sorry… I just can’t,” he said.
“You just have to trust Him,” I said, “You don’t want to regret walking away.”
“I just can’t. I just can’t. I just can’t.” He kept saying. He grew quieter and quieter. We prayed with him, we even begged him to reconsider. We worked with him for around ten minutes, though it felt like hours. Finally he got up and walked away, his form disappearing into the dark from beyond the flaps of the tent. We were left there feeling like there was an empty seat in God’s kingdom. Solemn. Sorrowful. Depressing.
It broke my heart.
And that’s how God feels.
It’s a free gift. A gift of love. That’s what this whole thing is about.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8)
God doesn’t expect you to be holy. He doesn’t expect you to do anything. He really doesn’t expect anything from you at all. He just asks you, “will you take it?”
You may be unworthy, but to God you are worth it. And God wants to love you. He doesn’t want you to feel like you can’t be loved. He doesn’t want you to hate yourself. We preach on humility and modesty, which is important. But we can’t throw ourselves away. We have to retain some love for ourselves. Some sense of self worth, some sense of self esteem. Why? Because God thinks highly of us. So use that as the basis of your self worth. It’s not because of who we are, but who God is. We can’t beat ourselves up. We can’t give up on it, either. We can’t give up on God’s love. Logic would dictate that we should love anything God deems worth loving. And you He has deemed so.
We are called to be the image of Christ in the eyes of sinners and of the world. So how are we going to become that if we don’t even love the image itself? How will we be that if we don’t love the person God has placed on the earth to do the job? We must love ourselves. Not in a selfish or a prideful way, but in a way that is content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5). A way that is at peace with ourselves. Love is something that takes place inwardly and then flows outward. We have to have a big heart if we are going to change the world.
“Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
When other people won’t give you attention, always know that God will always give you attention. When you can’t get any affection, God deems you worth giving affection. God deems you worth His time. God takes you seriously. God wants you to know this, because He wants to heal your broken heart. God did not die and say, “well, now that that’s over with, I’m going to move on to things that concern Me.”
God said, “Now, I can love them even more.”
“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.” (Psalm 139:17-18)
Jesus didn’t die and give up on the story. He has so much more love to give. You are worth loving.