Chapter 24: Scandalous Love
God’s ways are not our ways.
It takes many years to really come to understand the heart of God.
Even though we have been given the Bible (God’s love letter to mankind), we tend to read the Bible through our own cultures, the lies and hurts that have been laid on us through the years, as well as our own developmental process.
So our understanding of God’s ways are often inaccurate. We grow and move in understanding God in the same way we grow and understand ourselves and life.
When Jesus was on earth he met and spoke to people within their current understanding of life. God is still doing this today in and through and for all of us.
All of the stories of the Bible for instance, are told within the context of the time in which it was told and written. This means that to really understand the story’s of the Bible, to understand God’s heart, we must first understand the context.
Let’s look at the story of the Prodigal Son.
Take the time to read Luke 15:11-32.
Let’s look at just one part of that story today. When those of us in the west read this story we do not understand the significance of the father running to greet the son in verse twenty.
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 ESV
It is very easy for us in the west to skip over this, for in the west fathers run towards and with and for their children all the time.
But in the east the culture is that fathers and important figures never run. In fact the more important the person the slower they walk.
When in Africa I witnessed this very slow walking, and it helped me to understand the Bible and this story even more. Context is everything.
Here in this story, and for the people of that time, Jesus turned their expectations of God the Father upside down.
This was a shocking story that Jesus told.
For instance, not only did the father run to meet his son, but to do so he would have had to lift the hem of his robe that he was wearing. (footnote below)
This would have revealed his ankles. Something that was also never done at that time.
And even today there are many cultures the same.
Yet essentially, Jesus was telling us through this story, that God loves us so much that he leaves off his ‘importance’ in order to run to meet us, he doesn’t worry about what people ‘might think’ as he comes near, and that all ‘correctness’ and ‘decency’ is cast aside in his love for us.
How might this change how you view God today?
How might this change the way you interact with others?
Thing is, God does this all the time. God meets us within the context of our lives, and then shows himself so much different than what our understanding would allow.
The many people around us also have their own context of living. They have the culture, the expectations, the hurts of their lives as well as being in their own developmental process.
Learning from God’s example, how might we meet people where they are?
How might we be shocking in our love for others?
How might we leaves off our ‘importance’ in order to run towards others?
How might we cast aside the worry of what people ‘might think’ in order to come near?
And how might we choose something even better than ‘correctness’ and ‘decency’ as we seek to love others?
Simply put, are we able to put aside our ideas about life so that we can meet people where they are at, in the context of their lives?
Context is everything. By understanding context we can meet people in a way that our rules and our expectations will never manage.
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.” Zechariah 7:9 NLT
Like God we enter into service of others. We ministers to hearts and lives in unique and possible frowned upon ways.
“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:24 NLT
All I have to say is to be bold in this. Meet others where they are at. Love them without your agenda of changing them or making them ‘better’.
“We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.” 2 Corinthians 6:6 NLT
Remember the parable of the father and the son – the father ran towards the son even before he knew if his son was sorry or not or wanting to change or not. He went towards him just because he loved him.
We pray that we would be the same.
It is not our job to fix people. It is not our job to change people. It is our job to love people. To express our own passionate gladness of who they are. The Father running towards his son reveals no agenda except to love.
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT
Oh that we might have the same freedom of heart and spirit.
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT
As we meet others in the context of their lives, we live from compassion and gladness and we are all simply changed.
Who might you love today?
Go do that.
Summary – scandalous love
God put aside his greatness to love and redeem us. Romans 3:24
We put aside our greatness to love others. 2 Corinthians 6:6
Footnote: “So, why did the father run? He probably ran in order to get to his son before he entered the village. The father runs — and shames himself — in an effort to get to his son before the community gets to him, so that his son does not experience the shame and humiliation of their taunting and rejection. The village would have followed the running father, would have witnessed what took place at the edge of the village between father and son. After this emotional reuniting of the prodigal son with his father, it was clear that their would be no kezazah ceremony; there would be no rejecting this son — despite what he has done. The son had repented and returned to the father. The father had taken the full shame that should have fallen upon his son and clearly shown to the entire community that his son was welcome back home.” http://magazine.biola.edu/article/10-summer/the-prodigal-sons-father-shouldnt-have-run/
This is a profound picture of God and his love for us that runs to not only accept and welcome us back but to interrupt and take the punishment himself.