Eighteen inches…

My former pastor used to (and probably still does) sign his correspondence — his letters, cards, emails — “You are loved, Pastor Jeff”. I always thought that was his way of saying “I love you.” But he might also have been trying to convey a profound truth that is the one thing that has the power to transform. It is the one thing all humans long for. To know…

You are loved.

Love is the one thing that can change everything. Love never fails, as Scripture says. (1 Cor 13:8) It is one thing to love something or someone, but quite another to know you are loved. To be loved is what makes life complete, and yet even if we are blessed with a relationship that conveys human love to us, there is still an emptiness… an incompleteness that only God can fill.

The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever should believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That verse tells us that God loves us. A lot. We get that. But do we really?

Until the knowledge of God’s love and acceptance of us travels the 18 inches from our heads down to our hearts, we remain the same. We may know Bible verses. We may know theology. We may be slightly smarter, but we don’t really know God’s love. Otherwise we would be changed. We wouldn’t yearn for more. We could be content in any circumstance (Phil 4:11). And most of all, we would love others differently. We wouldn’t be as hard or cold to those who are so different from us. We would be changed and it would be obvious.

In 1992, the former president of the American Psychiatric Association noted, “We’ve had a hundred years of psychotherapy — and the world’s getting worse.” There is an emptiness that lingers despite therapy, counselling, medication, exercise, alcohol and drugs, plastic surgery, support groups, psychic readings, and yes, Sunday school classes and sermons. The emptiness… the yearning for more… still persists for most people.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” It’s more than a sleepy little Burt Bacharach song from the 1960s. It’s truth. And we need more than the love that we can provide one another. We need God’s love and we need it to penetrate our hearts.

The truth is that you and I are loved more than we can comprehend. It’s an unexplainable love because it’s other-worldly. It’s patient, kind, wanting-nothing-but-the-best-for-you, steadfast, never-wavering, passionate, deep love. When we receive it — fully receive it — it is fulfilling, healing, and transforming. It’s brings a completeness and wholeness that we’ve never known before and that we’ve been searching for our entire lives.

But even more than being loved, we are accepted. We are accepted as we are right now. We are accepted despite what we’ve done. We are accepted, and embraced, and God even sings over us. He smiles when he thinks of you. Is that hard for you to believe? It is for most of us. That’s why God’s love never moves that 18″ I mentioned, from our head to our heart. We somehow can’t accept it.

But believe it… because it is the truth. Just listen to the words of the prophet:

“The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)

Loving someone or something is easy. Knowing that you are loved is difficult. But it is the truth.

You are loved.