When I was a young pastor an older lady in my church told me that I shouldn’t use the song, “In the Garden,” because it has nothing to do with the Christian walk. She said that it was a song about lovers, rather than the Lord and His servant. I confess that I was puzzled at her words. I didn’t agree, but I didn’t understand why she would say something like that. This was an old song of the church. Surely others didn’t feel that way, did they?
Well, many years have passed since that comment and I have learned a great deal. One of the saddest things I have learned is that many, perhaps the majority, of those who consider themselves Christians have no real idea of Jesus as a friend with whom they can walk and talk and bare their hearts. Instead, they have been taught to view the Lord as a petty and vindictive manager. They try hard not to make Him angry, but live with the idea that He will never really be pleased with them. How sad!
Sad because these poor folks go through their lives without the comfort and peace that comes from knowing the Lord as the most intimate friend. For them He truly is a God who is far away.
Sad because so many have left the faith thinking that God is mean-spirited and inconsistent, if indeed such a god exists at all. They reject the church and the teachings of the Scriptures without ever learning that the Christian faith is first and best a relationship with the One whose love overcomes all barriers.
Sad especially because the Scriptures are so full of the love of God for us. The whole message of the gospel is about that love. It was love that moved the heart of the Father to look past our sin. It was love that led Him to reach out to you and to me and save us through His own suffering. There is a great deal of mystery in all of this, but the message of love is consistent and loud.
Yet, even as I grieve for those who have never known a real relationship with Jesus, I confess that, for me, living in such a relationship is infrequent. The “stuff” of this world pulls my attention away from the One who loves me and often I forget that He is there and I am secure in Him. I understand “dry” times and fear and all those emotions that come from feeling small and unloved.
But then, when I return to those “garden” times, I find Him again and He reassures me and tells me that He has never stopped loving me. He has forgiven all my sin and I am whole and free in Him. As we walk together and talk, my confidence in Him returns and I know that His love will truly conquer all.
Yes, Jesus is a lover far beyond any human lover. He knows my whole story and accepts me. Amazing love!