Children, children are truly a gift from God. Even in the midst of a temper tantrum, the sassiness, or a full-blown teenage attitude, even though we may think we are being punished for the way we adults treated our parents when we were their age … despite all that … children are truly a gift from God. As you all know, I have a beautiful daughter and a handsome stud-muffin of a son. I love them both … but I don’t love them the same.
Now before you judge me, let me explain. I don’t want you to misunderstand me here. I love both of my kids and I know that not loving them the same goes against the whole idea that parents should love and cherish their children each the same. But the things is … it is just not possible. It is not possible to love each child the same as the other. Now, when I say that I don’t love my children the same, I’m not saying that I love my son more than my daughter or my daughter more than my son. I’m not talking about favoritism. I’m not talking about the quantitative difference, as if love can be measured out like cups of sugar or like steaks can be weighed and measured. I’m always loving my children, but I’m loving them uniquely.
And my kids, much like your kids are precisely that … they are unique. They are each a unique individual with different traits, characteristics, and mannerisms. Because of their uniqueness, I love each of my kids in a way which is fitting to who they are and according to the special relationship in which we share.
What one child needs is not always what another needs. There is a time for compassionate love with snuggle time, hugs, and kisses just as there is time for tough love when we have to tell them no or punish them. In between this compassionate love and tough love is every other manifestation of love. Imperfect as my love for my children may be, I strive to fully love them. And in always loving them, I love them uniquely. I love them for the child whom God has given to me.
God does the same thing. We don’t call God “Father” because he is like we are. We call men “fathers” because they are like God is. At best, we are imitators. God is the real thing. In imitation of our Heavenly Father, we love our children. We love them each uniquely, just as God loves us.
We need to know that the love of God the Father is not impersonal. It’s not a one size love fits all kind of thing. The breadth of God’s divine love has to be paired together with the individuality or the uniqueness of His love.
The breadth of God’s divine love is something which we can’t every truly grasp. David in Psalm 103 says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12).
When a child breaks a rule, there is punishment, there are consequences for their actions. When you or I break the law, we deserve to be punished and if need be arrested. When anyone breaks God’s law … we deserve to suffer, we deserve to be separated from Him and His care. But notice what David says … “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our inequities. God the Father’s love is as high as the heavens are above the earth. Anyone lately, gone out and try to measure how far heaven is above the earth? No? Why not? Because it can’t be done. God’s love is so high, so deep, so wide. “For God so loved the world”, the world, “that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). God gave the world His Son, His own, His only Son.
God is always loving, but loving uniquely. Four different times in John’s gospel John writes, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Yes, Jesus loved all the disciples, but he loved them each differently.
Look at our Gospel reading this morning. “There was a man who had two sons” (Luke 15:11). As the father, he loved both of his sons. Even when the younger son comes up to him and says, “Father, give me my share of the estate” (15:12a). Wow! Dad’s not even dead yet and the son is asking for his inheritance. This younger son is pretty much saying, “Dad, you are as good as dead to me! Give me what you owe me!” This is a pretty bold move and I imagine most people would be like “Forget it! I’m not giving you anything!”
But notice what Jesus says this father does. “He divided his property between them” (15:12b). Even though it seems as if this one son doesn’t care about dad any more … the father still loves him. The father divides his property and gives the younger son his share with no restrictions, with no strings attached. He was free to do with it whatever he wanted.
Of course, the younger son goes off and squanders his wealth in wild living. Craving to eat the slop the pigs were eating, he decides to go back home and work as a slave for his father.
Notice though what Jesus says. “While he”, the young son, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (15:20). Even though he was as good dead to this son, the father is always loving his son. Out of joy and excitement, the best robe is placed on this wayward son, a ring is placed on his finger, sandals are brought out and the fattened calf is killed. The father is ecstatic! “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive; he was lost and is found” (15:24).
However, on the other side of the field, the older son is confused. Why all the music, why the celebration, why the dancing? Realizing what is going on, out of anger he refuses to go in. The older son thinks that he and his younger brother are competing for their father’s affection. He assumed that he deserved it more because he stuck around and worked, never disobeying him, that he should be able to celebrate with his friends. It seemed to him that his dad was playing favorites and is giving all his love to his younger brother.
The father says, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found” (15:31-32). The father is reminding him that each child, while fully loved, is loved uniquely. Even in the midst of that mild rebuke, the father was loving his oldest son toward a greater clarity of what love is and does.
And at times … each of us, like the older son, needs this clarity of what love is and does. In the midst of life, when things don’t go our way, it’s easy to think that we aren’t loved, that God the Father doesn’t love us. It’s easy to think that God is really blessing that person over there while I’m over here struggling. Of course, that’s you and me being selfish, immature children. If we got everything we wanted, that would not be true love.
In the midst of our temper tantrums, our sassiness, our imperfect attitudes, or our selfish belief that we are being punished for something we didn’t do … God still loves us, God still loves you. Remember, “for God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son” (John 3:16a).
But it goes beyond that. “Take and eat, this is my body, given for … you.” “Take and drink, this is the blood of the covenant, shed for … you … for the forgiveness of sins.” This meal Jesus gives you, it is far more than just bread and wine with some fancy words attached to it. This is God loving you. Not ya’ll or you’ns, but (name a few people). As Jesus was preparing to suffer and die on the cross, yeah, he thought of all mankind, but he also thought of you specifically.
My kids have a book which we read to them when they were little called “God Made Just One” which is fitting for this morning. Listen to this:
“Look at you! There you are! Special, it’s true. God made just ONE little child like you. What does God see when He glances your way? He sees you’re about to do great things today! You might climb a mountain or sail the high sea, just think of the things you can do and can be! You have a big part in God’s very big plan … He made you to do things that only YOU can! You’re going to be something! It’s going to be good! Just ask God to help you to do what you should. You know there are plenty of great things in store, but always remember that God loves you more … More than the things you can be or can do … God loves you simply because you are YOU. He loves your big smile. He put it in place. He loves every inch of your cute little face. He loves all the things that you dream you can do. He loves how you laugh and the way you sing, too. He loves you when you make mistakes to be sure. He knows that fall-downs and I’m sorry’s occur. He loves you because you are not like the rest! He loves the ONE you He made – that’s why you’re blessed! He formed you quiet perfectly, then said, “I’m done.” I’m happy there’s you, because god made just one.”
God the Father is always loving but loving uniquely you. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.