God is crazy about you. He is the most extravagant of pursuers out there. He knows every detail about you because he knit you together in your mother’s womb (Ps 139:13). He is so meticulous about you that he has even counted how many hairs there are on your head (Mt 10:30)! He cares about the minuscule details of your life.
I love the story evangelist Jeff Jansen tells about a woman who was healed at one of his meetings in South Korea. Miraculously, her missing finger, “completely grew out and God even went as far as to put the right color fingernail polish on the nail to match the others!” Why? Because he pays attention to detail! Because he cares! Because he loves!
He knows everything about you—the dirt, the grime—everything! And yet despite that knowledge, he chooses you. You’re worth it to him! He would literally die for you to make that clear and he already did. He is zealous for you and he’s been chasing you down since before day one. You didn’t just “find God” one day, because he had already found you first—you just finally acknowledged his loving presence.
The fact that you were a sinner before you accepted his love didn’t make him any less loving towards you because, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro 5:8). Regardless of where you stand with him, he still “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45).
It’s not everyday you come across a system that hands out love to everyone, enemy and friend alike. But that’s how God works. He is loving towards you no matter your racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, or sexual identity. “This insistence on the absolutely indiscriminate nature of compassion within the Kingdom is the dominant perspective of almost all of Jesus’ teaching,” says Brennan Manning.
God’s love is so vast and incomprehensible, pure and undefiled, and straight-up unbridled, that it will surely take you some time to detox from your own ideas and concepts of what you believe love to be in order to accept his love. It’s a love that covers simple mistakes and intentional sin. It’s a love that devotes itself full-heartedly to people, regardless of their desire or inability to return it. The lover is not concerned with the lovee’s idea of when it is appropriate to show PDA. He simply pours it out in a flood, knowing that it will be the energy we need to survive life itself—for he made life and sustains it through both science and spirit: oxygen for the body, love for the soul.
God shows no partiality. He is no respecter of persons. He takes care of everyone—those who have it together and those who in their brokenness, tear everything apart for the rest of us. He gives and gives and he does so freely and gratuitously.
Your action does not determine his reaction. His answer is love regardless. He has seen the way we run around, offering the depths of our souls to unworthy idols, spirits, people and objects, and he has decided to be faithful to us even when we are not to him. He is that kind of love: so strong it’s offensive; so offensive that it smashes our defenses.
It gets up in our business. It plays the field, looking for weak points to break through to the other side. When God put on flesh and walked among us as Jesus, he showed us this incredible love. He tracked down the least of these, spent time with them, healed them, delivered them, and genuinely cared for them at his own expense. Not only did this take much of his time and energy, but it made him enemies with the pharisees—the people who should have known him best!
“When God comes to earth, we will be the ones who recognize him,” the pharisees said. “For now, take a look at us and we’ll show you what he looks like in flesh.” But Jesus, the actual God-in-flesh, reserved his harshest words for those people. They didn’t look like him at all! They didn’t have love. They had spent their lifetime studying how God would have them live and yet they had missed the point entirely.
They were absolutely offended by God-in-flesh when they finally saw him. Why would he spend time with sinners? Why wouldn’t he follow legalistic rules and regulations to a fault? Why wouldn’t he be one of them? Because Jesus isn’t one of them and never will be! He made that clear time and time again. He came to set people free, not enslave them. He came to heal them, not condemn them. He came to deliver them from their enemies, not entrap them.
He was the only one to live perfectly on earth and therefore, the only one who could have truly expected people to live up to rules and regulations in order to earn love. But instead he did the opposite: he lived perfectly and expected people to receive grace in return for his perfection. His offensive love was to be offered freely and without condition. So Jesus allowed those who should have known him best to murder him, unleashing God’s love on the world like never before.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), cried God-in-flesh as he breathed his last while nailed to a cross. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Ac 7:60), yelled Jesus’ first martyr as the rocks bashed against his head.
It’s that kind of love that’s so incomprehensible that we still question it after two thousand years of familiarity with Jesus. For example, now that we’ve learned that the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman wasn’t in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John, we wonder if we should remove it from our Bibles. This question almost seems to reflect our inability to believe in a God that could be that loving. But given everything else that Jesus did, we have to admit that this story certainly sounds like him, doesn’t it? If he has the woman stoned in the account that plays out in your head, you do not yet understand the love and grace of the cross. Try to grasp it now.
He is the God of the prodigal. He throws parties and celebrates those who return to him, even after all of their actions have been incredibly insulting and hurtful. He is a lover of the burn-out and the sell-out; the least of the least of the least of these; the poor and the homeless; the weak and the beat up; the prostitutes and the virgins; the outcast and the weirdos; and even the religious, the rich and the strong.
He heals those who deserve to be sick. He remains patient with those who deserve swift punishment. He dies for those who kill him. He offers forgiveness to those who still have yet to learn that they have people they must forgive themselves. He offers his Holy Spirit to imperfect bodies that continue to subject themselves to all kinds of unholy things.
This is love. This is Jesus. This is who God has always been, is, and will always be: a being of boundless, unconditional, extravagant, unrelenting, beautiful, offensive love.
St. Catherine of Siena, overcome with this love, poetically writes:
Why then, Eternal Father, did you create this creature of yours? I am truly amazed at this, and indeed I see, as you show me that you made us for one reason only: in your light you saw yourself compelled by the fire of your charity to give us being, in spite of the evil we would commit against you, Eternal Father. It was fire, then, that compelled you. O, unutterable love, even tho’ you saw all the evils that your creatures would commit against your infinite goodness, you acted as if you did not see and set your eye only on the beauty of your creature, with whom you had fallen in love like one drunk and crazy with love.
And in love you drew us out of yourself, giving us being in your own image and likeness. You, eternal Truth, have told me the truth: that love compelled you to create us. Even though you saw that we would offend you, your charity would not let you set eyes on that sight—No. You took your eyes off the sin that was to be and fixed your gaze only in your creature’s beauty. For if you had concentrated on the sin, you would have forgotten the love you had for creating [human]kind. Not that sin was hid from you, but you concentrated on the love because you are nothing but a fire of love, crazy over what you have made. But give me the grace, dearest love, that my body may give up its blood for the honor and glory of your name. Let me no longer be clothed in myself.
This is an excerpt from my book, A Taste of Jesus.
Jansen, Jeff. The Furious Sound of Glory: Unleashing Heaven on Earth through a Supernatural Generation. Shippensburg, PA, Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2017, p. 178.
Manning, Brennan. Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging. Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress, 2015. p. 57.
Catherine of Siena. The Prayers of Catherine of Siena. New York, Paulist Press, 1983, p. 112-113. Converted from poetic stanzas to block quotes.