My husband and I ran an inner city ministry in Portland for at risk kids several years ago, and we love telling our stories of lives that were changed by the love of God during those years. People came to us with all kinds of reasons for needing help: mentoring, money, food, homework, bills, advice–but the biggest underlying need was always love.
One wintry night, some of our ministry colleagues, CJ and Scott, were out walking the streets–and when I say “streets” I mean gang territory, a literal war zone–when they came across a man riding a bike. They struck up a conversation with him and started to tell him about Jesus, but he wasn’t having any of it. CJ and Scott weren’t deterred, and when they kept trying, he got so agitated that he threatened them with every swear word in the book, lifted up his shirt to reveal a gun tucked into his pants, then hopped on his bike and sped away.
Our friends watched him as he hurried to get away from them, huffing and puffing, his warm breath steaming in the chilly air. They were a bit numb, not sure what to think of this encounter, and stood silent for a few moments. But then a sudden inspiration hit CJ, and he shouted, “I love you!” at the top of his lungs.
The bike slowed, then turned around, and soon the man was heading straight back to where CJ and Scott stood just as frozen as the night. Running for their lives crossed their minds, but they decided against it.
The man reached them, then hopped off his bike. But this time his countenance was different, and he didn’t lift up his shirt to flash his gun again. Instead, he asked sheepishly, “Do you really mean that? Because no one has ever said that to me before.” Our friends assured him that yes, they really meant it, and then told him all about the love of God, the kind of love that doesn’t give up on a man who flashes a gun, the kind of love that conquers the greatest of fears in order to tell someone else all about it.
If CJ and Scott met you today, they would tell you the same thing they told this man: God loves you, no matter where you find yourself today in your belief about who He is. And He loves you just the way you are.
Happy December 6th!
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