by Dustin Cannon
I turned on the news this morning and I saw the glory of God. I did. With his head resting on a filthy bag of charcoal, he was passed out on the floor from exhaustion.
I saw the glory of God when a news reporter put down his microphone, because his strong arms were needed for a more noble task of lifting a frail 70-year-old man out of chest high water into the boat.
I saw the glory of God going westbound on Highway 90. A line of Houston bound pick-up trucks pulling boats through knee-high water as far as the eyes could see.
These were average Americans. These were men and women who had taken off work, withdrawn the money they had set aside for mortgages and car payments, said goodbye to their children and set their GPS for a place called hell.
Why did these mom and dads, business owners, factory workers, lawyers, Republicans and Democrats put their lives on hold to drive into the storm?
Because when it’s all said and done, we were made in the image of God and God is love.
Like the signature of an artist on a painting, the likeness of God has been imprinted on the heart of man for all time.
After the Renaissance, the artist’s signature was just as important as the work itself. It was more than a claim to authorship. The artist signature revealed who the artist was, where they came from and for whom the work was created. It also revealed much about how the artist felt about the subject of the work.
And so, I believe that the instinctual sacrificial love that sometimes surfaces, even in those who do not believe in God, is the signature of the artist, the creator of all mankind reflecting His glory in the love that is written on the human soul.
The love of untold millions who pour themselves out every single day for others without a thought for their own comfort or needs.
Why do complete strangers give of themselves to bring comfort to others?
Where does that kind of love come from?
The scripture says that love comes from God and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).
We read that God created mankind in his own image (Genesis 1:27) and that His invisible attributes can be clearly seen in all of creation (Romans 1:20), not only in the things that have been made but in all that is manifest (Romans 1:19) at the heart of mankind.
There is something of God in all of us.
This love, which most often surfaces when lesser things are stripped away, is a reflection, a shadow of our creator.
Deep down at the core of our being we know it is true. When everything else is stripped away, we know that love is all that really matters. Love endures. It transcends. It overcomes every circumstance and every obstacle.
Love Never Fails. But sometimes true, abiding love is elusive. It seems hard to find. Not because it hides, it just seems to blossom, even thrive in the most unlikely places and circumstances. We often find it in the places we would never have thought to look before and certainly never have chosen to go.
Maybe that is why it sometimes takes tough times, brokenness and even tragedy to bring us to those places where we find it and can appreciate it more fully.
Think about how many times you heard someone say that it took some tragedy or a near death experience for them to realize what truly mattered in life. And in many of those cases, people come to realize that it is the relationships in their lives that are the most important. This idea that tragedy, pain and hardship can cause us to reexamine our priorities isn’t anything new.
But what if there is even more to it than that?
What if, at its core, herein lies an answer to the age-old question:
Why does God allow bad things to happen in our world when he could stop it?
Have you ever noticed how when disaster strikes, and everything goes to hell, that is when people finally come together to help one another in love?
Right now, as I write this we have men and women, black and white, Republican and Democrat, working together hand-in-hand, at great personal cost, to save people they don’t even know and for work that will never be acknowledged.
Where was this love before?
There is something about difficulty that brings out the best in people. There is something about impossibly hard situations that brings people together. It unites them.
It is in these times that we see people give of themselves unconditionally and sometimes at great cost. And isn’t that the purest definition of love? Over and over the Bible teaches us that the defining characteristic of love is sacrifice. We learn that if not for sacrifice we couldn’t know love. Mother Teresa knew this and that is why she said, “Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”
1 John 3:16 says,
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
In John chapter 14, Jesus is talking about what he is going to face in his passion and He mentions that, even though
Satan has no power over him, he will willingly offer Himself SO THAT THE WORLD WILL KNOW that he loves God the Father ( John 14:28-31).
So, if love is defined by sacrifice, how could we sacrifice for others if there was no need?
In a broken and fallen world, how could we see the light, appreciate it and know what it truly means if not for the darkness? I don’t believe we could.
And therefore, maybe that is why God allows pain and hurt in the world when He could stop it. Maybe it is because it brings us together like nothing else can, and when we come together and love one another we demonstrate the glory of God.
Because nothing is more clear from the scriptures than the fact that God’s greatest desire for us is that we might love Him and one another.
It is often in the darkest places that the light of the love of God shines the brightest. If not for darkness, we would not be able to comprehend light. It would essentially be meaningless. It is in trials and amidst the pain that we can see God’s tender kindness most clearly.
Making The Most Of Every Opportunity To Love
In John chapter 9, Jesus and his disciples were walking by a man who had been born blind. The disciples asked Jesus, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins” (John 9:2)? Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:3).
What are the works of God if not love?
The Bible teaches us that God is love. So love isn’t something that God does. It isn’t simply a quality of his character. Love defines Him.
Notice in John 9:3 Jesus said,
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Jesus seems to be saying that this man was born blind SO THAT there would be an OPPORTUNITY for a DEMONSTRATION of the LOVE of God.
In light of that and John 9, we can know beyond any shadow of a doubt, that every time we see someone in need that it is God’s will that we love them.
In fact, every time we see someone in front of us we can rest assured that it is God’s will that we love them.
I believe that to love in the name of Christ is our purpose and our mission and every time fail to notice or serve someone in need we have missed out on a God ordained opportunity to display the works of God.
If you don’t give that kind word of encouragement to the server whom you can tell is exhausted and beaten down by unreasonable customers, then who will?
If I don’t see Jesus in the man with a cardboard sign on the street corner and don’t help him, then who will?
May we always see one another in the light of God’s love for us and make the most of every opportunity to demonstrate that love every day in the good times and in during the storms.
(The above was adapted from my book, That We Might Love available at ThatWeMightLove.com