Bruce and I also had occasions of conflict, as all little boys do. Something would get our dander up, resulting in a push, a shove, and maybe even a half-hearted punch or two. At some point, one of us would get in a last good lick and then take off running for our house. I still recall breathlessly making for home with Bruce in hot pursuit, flying into our house, and hearing Bruce crash into the door as I slammed and locked it at the last second.
It never seemed to take very long before I'd peer out the living room window to see if the coast was clear. Making my way into the front yard, I'd look toward Bruce's house to see if he'd come out yet. He usually had, and we'd gingerly make our way toward each other. I don't recall ever actually apologizing in verbal terms, but we'd do the little boy thing of bumping shoulders, or giving each other a gentle and non-confrontational push unlike our previous aggression. We'd smile, and things were patched up so that we could go back to that treehouse or football game. It always intrigued me that after our tussles, Bruce and I seemed to be even better friends than we were before the push, the shove, and the punch.
"And He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little" (Luke 7:4-47).
In a conflict we originated, God nevertheless works to draw human hearts to Himself through the redeeming grace of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who respond in faith enter into a relationship with our Heavenly Father so reconciling we discover aspects of His character and nature we would never had known apart from our previous alienation. Of course, this does not mean that the Lord instigated our sin. The Bible plainly declares that God does not determine our sins, nor will He even tempt us to evil (James 1:13). According to His perfect wisdom, however, He does take advantage of the conflict in the hearts of those who trust the Lord Jesus. We love Him in a gratitude of faith that could not exist within us apart from His forgiveness for our many sins. More importantly, He loves us in an abundance of gracious mercy that would have remained hidden in His heart had we never required the sacrifice of His beloved Son for our pardon. Little wonder the Apostle Paul became overwhelmed as he pondered and wrote of the glorious mystery that comprises our Lord's marvelous purposes and redemption:
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).
From "alienated" to "accepted in the Beloved" (Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 1:6). God's love for the unlovely, and His ongoing determination to conform us to the image of the "altogether lovely" Christ involves a wonder of mystery even eternity not fully explain (Song of Solomon 5:16; Romans 8:29). This we know, however: a sublime trait and measure of His love came forth into open display because humanity rebelled against Him. Moreover, we will "love much" because He redeemed us from the conflict of rebellion unto the conversion of redemption. I think of such things when remembering my friend Bruce. And I think of the hymn that beautifully enquires, "What wondrous love is this?" We have forever to find the answer. But it won't be long enough…
"And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged."(Luke 7:40-43)
Weekly Memory Verse
The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way. (Psalm 25:9)