Since its founding in 1980, the Christian Shelter in Salisbury, Maryland, has ministered to nearly 29,000 people in need of a meal, a place to sleep, clothing, and—most of all—the love of God.
One of those people was a young woman who, by her own reckoning, “. . . should have been dead several times over.” Addicted to numerous drugs, she was living life on the edge—including surviving a terrible car crash. Once she discovered God’s love in Christ at the Christian Shelter, her life changed dramatically: “My life was spared by some miracle. I didn’t know why until I came [to the Christian Shelter]. I found out in your devotions—it was God. I never knew God loved me that much. Now I know He’s got a purpose for me, and I’m gonna do it.”1
It’s understandable why this young woman was unaware of God’s love. She had never met God through His Son, Jesus Christ. No one can truly know the love of God without knowing the God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16). So being separated from God is why many people are missing out on His love. Our challenge is to help those people come to know God through faith in Christ so they can experience His unconditional, reconciling love.
But coming to know God’s saving love is only part of the story. I have discovered through decades of ministry that many Christians don’t know the depth of God’s love. They have met the God who is love; they know the fact of God’s love. But they live their lives in the shallow end of the pool. They think that once God’s love has been experienced through the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life, that’s it.
That can’t be the case since the apostle Paul described God’s love as having width, length, depth, and height—multi-dimensional, in other words (Ephesians 3:18). Too many Christians think of God’s love as one-dimensional and miss out on so much of who He is as the God of love.
Think, for example, of three of history’s most famous Christians: Martin Luther and John and Charles Wesley. Luther had dedicated his life to the service of God as a monk but was tormented by doubts. He had no assurance that he was loved by God. The story of his being awakened by Romans 1:17—“The just shall live by faith”—is well known. His life was changed when he realized that God’s love required only one response: faith.
The Wesley brothers had a similar experience. They were members of the Holy Club at the University of Oxford. They pursued a life of holiness and service to God, even journeying to America as missionaries in 1735. But like Martin Luther, they had no assurance of the love of God—until May 1738, when they both entered into the fullness of God’s saving grace and love by faith.
Were Martin Luther and the Wesley brothers born-again Christians before their realizations of God’s unconditional love? I don’t know. But I do know they were active, serving Christians without being aware of the fullness of God’s love in their lives. Luther and the Wesleys knew the fact of God’s love but did not know the depth of God’s love. And I believe there are many genuine Christians today who share that same experience.
How does that happen? It could be busyness, distraction, complacency, apathy, comfort, or any other reason. And it could be a lack of knowledge. The Bible is clear about the amazing, unconditional, never-ending love of God. But if we don’t know the Bible, we won’t know that kind of love. We may know John 3:16 while missing Ephesians 3:17-19.
In 2012 I wrote a book called God Loves You: He Always Has—He Always Will. I discussed ten dimensions of God’s love, some of which many Christians may be missing out on. It's a reminder to us all of just how multi-faceted God’s love is.
Don’t miss out on the fullness of God’s love!
1Website for the Christian Shelter, Salisbury, Maryland, http://www.christianshelter.org/?page_id=107 (accessed 10/25/2016)