The Stubbornness of God
Think about the moment in your life when you felt most loved.
Maybe it was the moment your spouse looked you in the eye and said, “I do.” Maybe it was the day your parents caught you in something shameful, yet they showed compassion. It could’ve been that post-game talk when your coach told you just how proud of you he was. Or it could’ve been that 3AM chat with your best friend when you realized just how patient she's been with you all these years.
My guess, though, is that your moment wasn’t a toll booth operator telling you to have a nice day. It probably wasn’t when your new dog learned to sit at your command. And it certainly wasn’t that guy in junior high that dated you for a week.
Whichever moment you thought of as your “most loved moment” I would bet that, at a foundational level, it’s not too different from mine, or from anyone else’s. I say this because I believe there is a common thread between our moments, a shared attribute that makes all of these moments remarkable: stubbornness. The times we have felt most loved were memorable because the love had endured a history of hardships, even promised to persist through a future of failures.
In short: we remember love that remembers us.
God's Love Is Stubborn
For the Christian, this is a significant lesson. God is love, and he is simply unable to quit loving his children! One of the most common adjectives used to describe His love in the Bible is "steadfast," a word I love because of its imagery: "I'm staying right here as fast as I can!"
Jesus was the perfect example of steadfast love. When he was arrested, his friends and family abandoned him, Romans covered him in wounds, and we nailed him to a cross. A fellow cross-bearer encouraged him to leave, to save himself. No one would have blamed Jesus for saying, "This is just too much for a bunch of sinners." In spite of all of these reasons to stop loving us, he stayed fast. And after he died, he conquered death, in order to bring reconciliation to everyone who believes that he is Lord. His love was too stubborn to leave us behind.
Our Love Should Be Stubborn
In response to the steadfast love of our Savior, let us strive to love each other with that same stubbornness. In Peter's second letter, he lists some attributes that fall into each other like dominos: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, and then steadfastness, ending up at brotherly affection with love: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Why should we stubbornly love each other? Because we will get more of Christ!
It is so easy these days to "like" from afar, and to have a thousand friendships that are an inch deep. Let's lean into those around us. For example, pick one acquaintance per week (someone who you know, but you're not very close with) and share a meal, listen to their story, encourage them in the Gospel, and keep your phone off the table. And then, meet with them again next month! Within your own capacity, make it a priority to pour out the overflow of Christ's love from your heart to others, in a persistent way that doesn't flake out.
On the other hand, stubborn love doesn't mean ignoring when they lie and steal and cheat. Sometimes the best way to love a friend is to leave them, especially if they repeatedly ignore your pleas and go on living in unrepentant sin against you and against God. In that case, staying with them isn't love, it's affirmation of the sinful patterns in their life, when what they really need is radical change.
Our World Needs Love That Is Stubborn
This world is longing for it. As I hear our nation lament over grave injustices in Baltimore, and as I watch our world mourn over disastrous loss in Nepal, I know that I am not alone in thinking, "What can I do? How could I possibly help them?" I don't know the answer to those specific situations, but here is what I do know: there is pain everywhere. Around every corner, there is someone who needs to hear about God's love for them.
So let's share God's love with them. But don't stop there - keep loving them, with a love that doesn't know how to quit. Because your community may be the next epicenter of grief. Riots and earthquakes? Maybe not. But broken families? Addictions and scandals? Chances are, that pain has already been felt. And when it happens, the steadfast love of Christ will be the only thing strong enough to heal. I pray that there are Christians making a Gospel impact in Baltimore and Nepal as a result of their consistent, long-suffering love for their community.
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." Imagine the impact you could have on a broken friend who is willing to listen to you because they remember your love for them.
"The Love of God"
In closing, let me share my favorite stanza out of all the hymns I've heard in my life. It's from a hymn called "The Love of God," and to me, it perfectly illustrates the stubbornness of God:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.