Since childhood, you've sung the words, "Jesus loves me, this I know." The tune is as familiar as your own mirrored reflection. But sometimes we have difficulty believe that the creator and sustainer of the universe could be bothered with people like you and me -- much less really love us. But when God put on flesh and entered our world, he washed dirty feet, he soothed suffering souls, and he forgave fallen sinners. His message is loud and clear -- he loves us!
Jim McGuiggan's passionate, devotional readings draws you beyond the commands, the laws, and the history and paint and insightful portraits of God that reveal his tender heart of love.
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July 31, 2008
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Excerpt from God of the Towel by Jim McGuiggan
From Chapter Two
How does God view the weak? He loves them and gave his Son to die for them.
How does he view weakness--moral and spiritual weakness, I mean? He tolerates it. He labors to free us from weakness and bring us to maturity, but he doesn't view weakness as intolerable.
How does God view the weak? The answer to this question is important, because it determines how God feels toward us all. It is true to say that some are "weak" and others "strong," but it is also true to say that we are all weak. If God is against the weak, he is against us all.
God doesn't extol weakness, but does allow it--he makes allowances for it. He takes into account the background, heritage, environment, and limitations of people. His Servant knows their weak frame and is merciful. He seeks to bring the weak into strength, but he adores them while they're weak. He challenges them to better and higher things, but he understands when they show vulnerability. William Lyon Phelps was once asked about the nature of friendship. He replied:
What is friendship? Alas, I am able to give you an example. A number of years ago a very intimate friend of my college days, whom everyone had regarded as a perfect example of integrity, was accused in the newspapers of a crime. I could not believe it. I was so certain of his virtue that I wrote him a letter in which I said that I and all his friends were certain that he had not done anything wrong, that he had been slandered, and that he must not feel too bad about the attack, because as long as he had the inner certainty that he had done nothing wrong, he could remain calm and serene. I received a very affectionate letter in return, and then a few days later he committed suicide. Of course I can't be certain whether I was in any way responsible for this tragedy; but what I am certain of is that I wrote him a very bad letter and that I was untrue in friendship.
Some years after this I was the subject of an attack because a press dispatch quoted me as having said something I really had not said. I received a letter from one of my former pupils. This is what he wrote to me: "I do not believe the report of your remarks is true. I do not see how you could have said that; but I want you to know that even if you did say it, my friendship and affection for you will always remain the same." That is a good letter. That is friendship.
Good for the former pupil! He made it clear to Phelps that he expected lovely things of him, but he refused to put Phelps in a moral straightjacket. He expected lovely things and called Phelps to lovely things, but he allowed for failure! He learned this spirit from Jesus Christ.
Words like "weak" and "weakness" occur about eighty-seven times in the New Testament. Eighteen of them are of interest to us. Listen, there is not a word of condemnation in a single mention of weakness. There is no extolling of weakness, and there is no promoting of it; but there isn't a word of condemnation connected with it. People who say they will not grow aren't weak, they're rebels! "Weak" (in our discussion) doesn't mean impenitent or callously wicked. It means without strength, infirm. And God is for the weak. He even makes some people strong that they might bear the infirmities of the weak.
Our God doesn't patronize the weak. And he doesn't just keep them around only as long as they show potential for becoming strong. Our God has made a total commitment to the weak in their weakness. His mind is made up! Even if they never become strong--he's going to the Cross for them! He believes in them and commits himself to them--forever!
Sticking Up for the Underbird
We had just finished a lovely meal, and the conversation turned to the garden, the trees, and the bird feeders. Our gracious host confessed with some hesitancy that she worked at chasing off the sparrows and encouraging the other birds to feed. "I just don't like sparrows," she said slowly, "they're dull and plain, and I'd rather not have them around."
I have no judgment to render on that disposition, especially since I have similar feelings about certain kinds of people--on a social level, I mean. Besides, I'm not theologian enough to know if preferring jays, bluebirds, and cardinals over sparrows is an issue on which a judgment needs to be made.
But I recall Jesus assuring humans that if God cared for sparrows, which were sold for so little, he cares for humans who were of more value than sparrows. I find that comforting.
I find it even more comforting that he feels that way about all humans. He always seemed to be defending the wrong kind of people. Take a quick glance through the Gospels and see for yourself that he was forever speaking on behalf of the "bad" people and against the "good" people.
But surely, he was defending the good "bad" people against the bad "good" people? That's true, but it isn't the whole truth, for many of the people he defended weren't good "bad" people, but were openly unjust and wicked.
When people insisted on loving only the good, Jesus opposed them. "Here, look at this," we can imagine him saying; "watch how the sun shines on all those fields except the one to our left. The man who owns that field is unjust and an extortioner--watch the sun skip his field." And when it doesn't skip his field, the Master would say of God, "See, he sends his rain on the just and unjust and causes his sun to shine on the evil and the good." God makes no bones about it--he loves humans, not just good humans.
This brave, wise, gracious Lord of ours saw injustice for what it was, but he also knew that humans were sinned against as well as sinners. He saw them as hated by the World Hater and as loved--everyone of them--by the God who made them, and he came to make that transparently clear. Even the unjust were being fed on and used by Satan, and God had come to rescue them from that slavery.
It's easy to claim we would be as good, as pious, and as upright as we think ourselves to be, even if we lived under the pressures the world experiences rather than in the privileged position we occupy. It's a cheap claim too. I mean, we go on and on about how we need to raise our children in godly homes and how we need to hold back the rising tide of immorality that threatens our society. But what are we worried about? Unless a good home and all that goes with it is an advantage, why worry?
We worry because we know that those who are raised in good homes have an advantage. If that's the case, then those raised in bad homes are at a disadvantage. We need to remember that. It's too easy to beat people and act like top dog. We need to give the underdogs a break.
Charlie Brown says to Lucy, "This birdhouse is going to be for sparrows only."
She rasps back, "For sparrows? Nobody builds birdhouses for sparrows, Charlie Brown."
He grandly dismisses her remark and says, "I do, I always stick up for the under bird."