The are a lot of crazy things in the Bible that are hard to believe. The hardest thing of all is to believe how much God actually, truly cares about each of us as individuals. Many of us in America are comfortable with the idea of “Jesus loves you.” We say it so much that it doesn’t seem like anything but a nice idea. A general feel good statement. But love can mean a lot of things and we throw that word around a lot.
So, let me be clear when I talk about how God loves each and every one of us. He loves us as individuals and cares about every single thing that we go through. He wants to live your life with you and give you the power to endure every hardship of this wonderful, beautiful, yet evil and broken world. He wants to give you peace when you face the hardest things you can imagine and to surround you with love that empowers you to be the very best version of you.
The word used for God’s love for us in the Bible is AGAPE and it means an unconditional love that is not based on being deserved. It is a love that earnestly seeks the best for the recipient. This kind of love is actually impossible for us as human beings to completely understand. We can not fully comprehend a love that is not based on what we get from it. How do you love someone that doesn’t deserve your love? It’s not natural. But somehow God does it for us. And even stranger, the more we follow him, the more we care about (and start to love) people who we don’t naturally like.
One proof that even our most dedicated religious teachers can’t fully comprehend God’s love is what we do with God’s gift to us of Sabbath days.
Sabbath days were given to God’s followers in his most basic instructions, the ten commandments. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” God gave his followers some pretty simple instructions:
Set aside a day of the week, rest from all your hard work and reconnect with me.
It was a gift. In Mark 2:27 Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Taking a break and reconnecting with God one day a week is a completely emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy thing to do. And it is hard for us to believe that God gave us this rule for us.
It just feels like: he’s God. He’s important. We are little nobody peons. We think we should totally do something to impress him. And so we try…we dress up and we put on really elaborate shows on Sunday. We endure all kinds of awkwardness created by humans thinking that somehow it puts a gold star by our names on God’s refrigerator chart.
There are millions of ways that modern Americans have made Sunday mornings an elaborate religious show for God. Very seldom does what happens on Sunday morning seem to be for people to recharge and connect with God. (And this is perhaps why most millennials are abandoning church)
The ancient Jews also struggled with just accepting God’s love for them. They were hyper strict about Sabbath rules. They had rules defining what work was and the exact minute you had to quit working. And all of this is quite comical if you consider that the people were mostly farmers and manual laborers. Uhhhm…we know when we aren’t working. It’s called sitting down!
How could a God create this whole world and then care enough about me to say, “Listen, I see that your life is really tough. You are struggling with so many things. Calm down. Take a day off, every week and just remember who I am and how much I love you.” ? It can’t be that simple…
Consider this story from Luke 6:
One Sabbath while Jesus was passing through fields of standing grain, it happened that His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” vs. 1-2
The ancient Jewish laws were so strict about what you could do on the Sabbath that rubbing grain in your hands was considered “harvesting” which was totally work! And the rule is “don’t work” so now God must be displeased with you…
Jesus replied to them, “Have you not even read [in the Scriptures] what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him— how he went into the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to the men who were with him?” Jesus was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Vs. 3-5
First, let’s just take a second to laugh that Jesus asked the Pharisees, whose entire life was devoted to reading and interpreting scripture, “Haven’t you even read…?” Oh snap!
Jesus reminded them that King David had not only broken rules. He broke original rules straight from God. God had told the Israelites to set aside food for the priests to provide for them. David went into the temple and took their bread, ate it, and then gave it to his soldiers to eat also. Jesus was showing the Pharisees that in all of their effort to keep the rules about the rules about how to honor the Sabbath day, they were completely missing the point.
He drove this point home even more in verses 6-11.
On another Sabbath He went into the synagogue and taught, and a man was present whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse Him. But He was aware of their thoughts, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward.” So, he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you directly: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did, and his hand was restored. But the scribes and Pharisees were filled with senseless rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
How crazy is it that the rules about “not working” on the Sabbath day included healing? How often did that come up? In the face of seeing miracles, who said, “Ooop, we better make sure no one does a miracle on the Sabbath day.”? Or were the doctors in town like, “I’m sorry that you have an unbearable migraine, I can’t hand you any herbs til tomorrow.”?
If you really imagine this whole scene, it’s actually so ludicrous that it’s comical.
How dare you miraculously heal a man’s shriveled hand! I’m enraged and must destroy you!
Only the idiocy of believing that you could somehow impress the God who created this entire universe could lead someone to that kind of messed up thinking.
The only thing crazier than believing that you could impress an all-powerful creator God, is believing that he already cares and just wants you to know him!
Then this story ends with this sentence in verse 12:
Now at this time Jesus went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
Wait! What?! Jesus was God, right? What is happening here?
So, yeah, I’m not that great of a writer. I can’t explain how Jesus was God but somehow limited himself to human form and then prayed to God. It kind of gives me a headache to think about…
However, I also think that it is absolutely cool that Jesus went and recharged. He clearly had a pretty important mission to be on. Yet, he took time away from that mission to go off by himself and pray all night. He probably slept in the next day too. I bet Peter told everyone to leave Jesus alone while he rested. Because turns out, that somehow, while he was walking around in flesh as a human, Jesus realized that he needed to rest and reconnect with God. And he wanted you and me to have his examples and teaching so we would know that we need these things too.
My prayer for me and each of you who reads this is that you will begin to wrap your mind around how much God really sincerely cares about you as an individual living your life. He wants to help you along every step of the way. He wants to be there in all your messes, joys, successes and failures encouraging and guiding you. I hope that you see Jesus’ teachings as a gift for you and you learn to enjoy taking time to rest from the burdens of your life and reconnect with him.
I am a really strange mix of a hippie, Calypso, Southern Belle, Madea- wannabe, Christian with the attitude of a Rhode Islander! I’m fascinated with people’s stories, I love to laugh at life with people and I’m genuinely trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. Strangely, my search for truth often has me at odds with American Christians who believe themselves to be the guardians of this truth. I was kicked out of Sunday School as a child for asking too many questions. I learned to repress them but my questions never went away. Thankfully as an adult, I feel completely free to pursue answers. Turns out, God is pretty big and not nearly as upset with my questions as his followers tend to be!
Luke 6:12- I love and hate this section of Luke 6! I love it…
I totally rock at being humble! Wait…grrrrr! Humility is hard… if my people…