This is a message that shared this morning at the all school worship for Eastbrook Academy. We gather every two weeks with students (K4-12th grade), staff and faculty to worship the Lord.
The Nanjing Bridge is an impressive three-mile, two-tier span across the famous Yangtze River in China. It was acclaimed as an engineering feat for China when built in 1968 during the cultural revolution.
But these days, the Nanjing Bridge is famous for something quite different … it has become a popular spot for people to jump to their death. In the hot and noisy atmosphere, there is a long drop into the muddy, brown waters of the river below.
For the past several years, one man has chosen to spend every weekend patrolling that bridge, watching for the opportunity to save people. Chen Si, who works during the week as a transport company manager, patrols the bridge, seeking out the despairing & depressed to stop them from throwing themselves over the bridge. Up to now he has saved more than 100 lives, sometimes even putting his own in danger.
He is always on the lookout, his eyes constantly darting back and forth. He has learned the telltale signs of desperation. He says, “From the crowd of people I’ll single out those who look depressed … and I’ll go and talk to them.”
With each new life he saves, Chen says, his sense of burden grows.
The Bible and the Love of God
If you were to read through the entire 66 books of the Bible, you would find more than a theological textbook. You would find the story of God’s love affair with humanity. It spreads from the beginning of Creation in the book of Genesis to the end of the created order as we know it in the book of Revelation.
God is passionately pursuing the people He has created with a free, full, and ongoing love beyond all human comprehension.
We are failed, sinful, and broken by the Fall and God reaches out to us first and forever.
Maybe you’ve never thought of God like that. Maybe you’ve had an inkling of it. But let me tell you this: God loves every single one of us.
God’s Love for Us
Hear this statement from 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.”
Because He first loved us. All of us grow up with a longing to be loved.
Throughout our world, when people tell of their ups and downs, you can hear the resounding chorus: “I just want to know that someone loves me.”
And God has already done it. “He first loved us”!!
Before any of us were born, before our greatest successes and our worst failures ever came into being – GOD FIRST LOVED US!
Here these words of the Apostle Paul from his letter to the believers in Rome:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Let me say something here: I used to believe that all sorts of things within me could separate me from God’s love:
- I was afraid of not doing enough of right things.
- I was afraid of someday God letting go of me b/c of some wrong thing that I’d done.
- I was afraid of not praying enough.
- I was afraid of not reading my Bible enough.
- I was afraid of not going to church enough.
- I was afraid of not doing the sorts of things that could keep God loving me.
But listen: nothing can keep God from loving us.
Why? Because God loved us first and then he keeps on loving us.
Regardless of anything in us or in this world. That’s why God’s love is described throughout the Bible as unfailing. It doesn’t stop. He won’t let go of us. Again, let’s hear those words from the Apostle Paul:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing will be able to separate you or me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When I was four years old, I remember going to preschool while my parents worked as school-teachers. It was a great place with toys, those little cut-out puzzles, cushy naptime rugs, and awesome big wheels. But I always missed my parents. I even had this aching sense every day that they might not come back. “They’ve left me here again and I wonder if they’ll return!!” I would think within myself. But my greatest joy during that time was at the end of each day, while playing outside on the playground, when my parents would come back to pick me up at the end of the day. I would run to them across the playground and leap into their arms. Everyday became a reminder that I was loved by them. If I could have articulated it at the time, I think I would have said something like this: “They’ve come back. They loved me when they dropped me off and they still love me now. I am loved.”
God’s love is the same for us – He loves us first – before we were ever born – and then he keeps on doing it, day after day, month after month, year after year! God loves us!!!
And it is in Christ that He reaches out to embrace us in His love. We hear of it in another place in the Scriptures:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
May the love of God get inside us and rattle us free from fear, doubt, and confusion. May it center our souls and release in life. Do you know the love of God like that today?
 “Samaritan Patrols Bridge for China’s Lost Souls” by Louisa Lim. NPR. March 15, 2007.