Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Politics aside, I think most readers would be moved by the “love story” as told by George W. Bush in his book 41: A Portrait of My Father. In its pages the former president tells about his father’s “unconditional love”. He and his siblings felt “there was no point in competing with our father – no point in rebelling against him – because he would love us no matter what.”
He tells a particularly tender story about his sister Robin’s death from leukemia in 1953: “In one of her final moments with my father,” Mr. Bush remembers, “Robin looked up at him with her beautiful blue eyes and said, ‘I love you more than tongue can tell.’ Dad would repeat those words for the rest of his life.” How powerful it must have been to hear a father frequently say to his children, “I love you more than tongue can tell.”
But words of love have to be repeated and repeated because they can be hard words to absorb. What I was taught in college classes on personality development proves true in life: it is difficult for us humans to accept being loved. From the fateful moment that Adam and Eve left the Garden humans have tried to earn love. It is hard to accept being loved because at the core of our Adamic nature there is fear, suspicion, lack of trust, perfectionism, and unease. Thinking we must earn love makes it difficult for getting really close to God and close to others. Like Adam and Eve we have gone into hiding, hiding our true selves from God and from others. Part of our ‘fallenness’ is the notion that we must earn God’s love. We find it difficult to believe, difficult to accept that God the Father Almighty loves us.
And yet God’s unconditional, unending love for us is the essence of the Gospel and what God calls us to believe. “So we have known and believe the love that God has for us” (I John 4:16). “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us” (I John 4:10). The Good News asks us to repent of believing all the Bad News about not being good enough for God to love us, not being accepted. At its most basic faith is believing that we are loved just as we are.
I have found it easy to believe in God’s love in general, but sometimes difficult to believe in God’s love for me personally. I guess that I know myself too well, the things I have done and still do, the many ways I am falling short. But I think of St. Augustine’s reminder that “A friend is someone who knows everything about you and still accepts you.” And I know that God knows everything about me and accepts me, and He loves me. Theologian Paul Tillich defined faith as “the courage to accept acceptance” (from book The Courage to Be). Every day I make the conscious decision to accept my acceptance by God. I bank my life on being loved by Him more than tongue can tell.
Notice that in today’s text we overhear Jesus talking to the Father about you and me. He tells Abba Father that He came to make known to us the Father’s “name” or character. And having revealed to us what Father is like Jesus will continue to reveal the Him so “that the love with which you [Father God] have loved me may be in them [us], and I in them [us].” Take time to let this sink in! Jesus prays that we might know that the Father loves us as He loves Jesus! The J. B. Phillips New Testament marvelously translates Jesus’ words as: “I have made your self known to them and I will continue to do so that the love which you have had for me may be in their hearts – and that I may be there also.”
This is love beyond comprehension. This is love more than tongue can tell. Think what it would mean for us to live in this limitless, unconditional love! So let’s pray for one another that each day we might know a little more of how much the Father loves us!
Grace and peace,
photo by Bob B. Brown