I remember a time many years ago when a teenager from the youth ministry hurt me. The reason the actions of this teen hurt so much is because I allowed the person to get very close to me and went way out of my way to minister to this young person. I had spent a lot of time with the person and worked diligently to make the person feel loved and welcome as part of our life. I allowed myself to be vulnerable to this young person. Sadly, the teen came to a point in life where they choose to make some sinful choices, and follow a path that was contrary to God’s will. What made this situation so painful was that the person used the relationship with me as an excuse. The person lied to her parents about some things I had said to her, and also spread rumors in the youth group. She said that I had told her things that I never said, and used this as an excuse to drop out of church. Her parents blamed me for quite a while for the moral failures of their daughter, but the truth of the matter was that her sin was a result of her own choices. I had done nothing but love the girl and invest my life in hers, and as a result, my heart got wounded.
Sometimes when you serve God, these things happen. The hurt I felt is nothing compared to the hurt that must take place in the heart of God when He sees His people reject Him. This chapter is the story of God giving love and grace to His people, yet they choose to worship other Gods, and prostitute themselves to a sinful lifestyle. They basically spit in the face of God’s goodness and love. They use the grace of God as a license to do their own thing, with little care for how it will affect the God who created them and pours out His life for them. As a result, God promises discipline for His people, but He also demonstrates compassion and grace.
The love He shows to His disobedient people is unbelievable. First of all, He takes the initiative with His disobedient people. God reaches out to them and draws them back to Himself. He also forgives their sin and removes the residue. And God gives them a second chance to enter a wonderful relationship with Him.
Jesus tells an incredible story that illustrates this point (Luke 15:11-32). The prodigal son is a parable about a boy who took his share of the inheritance from his father and wasted it on sinful living. He rejected everything the father stood for and believed, and choose to live life his own way, on his dad’s dime. When he had wasted all of his fathers money on wild living, he was left with nothing, and got a job feeding pigs. He came to his senses and decided to return home, expecting to become a slave in his dad’s household. But his dad was waiting at the door, looking for his son, and when the dad realized the son had returned, he ran down the driveway, hugged his neck, and welcomed the son home. In the story, the love of the father is an image of God’s love for us. WOW!
Oh yeah, that story about the girl. I can’t tell you how bad I wanted to lash out, put her in her place, and tell the world she was a liar. But instead, I prayed for her, and found ways to encourage her. In time, God got hold of her life and she repented and returned to God. When she did, she came back to me, and God used me again in her life. Pretty cool, eh!