I had a friend in Virginia who, at a women’s Bible study, said, “I bet when we get to Heaven, Jesus is going to shout, ‘Group hug!'” That mental picture has stuck in my mind since I heard the story. I see Him running up to us, so eager to greet us all, so holy and perfect, greeting us happily when our actions should have condemned us to never be in His presence again.
I used to think the Gospel was something that God intended more for other Christians. I saw it as Him saying, “Well, I kind of died for everyone else, but if you want to hop on the bandwagon, that’s cool, I guess.” I didn’t believe He actually loved me personally, that He would have come to earth, lived a perfect life, and died at my hands to save just me.
When I think of it now, though, I’m humbled to the point that I have to fight back tears.
Our church has a bunch of different people in it. There are people like me, clean-cut but in just t-shirt and jeans. There are people who wear button-up shirts and slacks or dresses. There are a few bikers with their leather jackets and a dozen patches sown into them. There are those who barely part their lips during worship, those who sing loudly and off-key, those who dance, and those who sit down with their head bowed the entire time. God loves every last person in that church.
He even loves the ones who don’t love Him. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have sent prophets to Israel to warn them about the consequences of their sins. He wouldn’t have sent the disciples to the Gentiles. He wouldn’t have forgiven those who crucified Him. He loves us first, that we may love Him, not because we love Him.
And His is the truest love, for He has nothing to gain by us. Nothing we can offer can make Him more glorious or complete. Nothing we withhold can make Him poorer. He lost His life for loving us and gained nothing.
Just as He showed His love for all of us on the cross with His arms wide open, He is in Heaven now with His arms wide open still, this time waiting for the chance to give us the biggest hug we’ve ever gotten.