"the outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, neither the drunk in the doorway, the panhandler on the street, gays and lesbians in their isolation, the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust of employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception." (pgs 59-60)
Why is that so hard to embrace? It sounds nice and looks good on paper. But living this out? Our fallen nature likes to draw lines in the sand that divide us for any number of reasons- skin color, politics, denomination. This division, this disunity is never what God planned for us. It does not reflect the love of Christ.
But in order to be united with one another, we must first enjoy union with God.
Ultimately, it is God's furious desire for us to be one with him, and all the rest of our relationships hinge on that. The father in the parable of the Prodigal Son saw his son returning "while he was still a long way off" implying that he was keeping watch for him. Paul taught in Athens that God places us exactly where we need to be so that we can "seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:27) James, the brother of Jesus promised that if you "come near to God... he will come near to you." (James 4:8) In fact, the Bible is often described as 'God's love story' where the repeated cycle of rebellion, repentance, and restoration shows God's love never giving up on his creation, always longing to be reunited with his people.
God is pursuing union with you. Let that sink in for a moment. The creator of the universe wants a intimate relationship with you.
Even more dramatic, every one of your relationships relies on this. Marriage, friendships, family, even strangers- how we approach each of these depends first on our relationship with God. Selfishness, pride, mistrust, hurt- all of these are symptoms of missing out on God's perfect union and the consequences can be seen in our broken relationships, hurt feelings, and bad memories.
It is no coincidence (there are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God, one of my friends is fond of saying) that this chapter falls right before Valentine's Day. The best Valentine you can give the one you love is to love Him first. Manning writes, "love by its nature seeks union." (pg 68) So he offers this sage advice, again perfect timing for Valentine's Day, "if I had to do it all over again?.. I would simply do the next thing in love." (pg 66)
God seeks intimate union with you. Welcome Him.
How often do you monitor your spiritual growth-Several times a day? Once a month? Every thirty days? Twice a year?
Would you, could you, devote not one more minute to monitoring your spiritual growth? If so, it's possible you just might find you like green eggs and ham.
This post continues discussion on Brennan Manning's book, The Furious Longing of God. Please check out Jason Sasyzsen's and Sarah Salter's blogs for more discussion. The "consider this" questions come straight from the book- use them as a springboard for your own thoughts and feel free to share them here.