The secular mind can seldom understand a religious one. I listened to this fascinating episode on This American Life where an atheist reporter seeks to understand a certain church located in Colorado. I won’t get into the details here. But while she is turned off at how Christians seem to be anti-science, narrow-minded and exclusive, she seems inspired by the Christian capacity to love. Of all the things Christianity seemed to offer, this was the one area that seemed to reach her.
Our capacity to love as Christians – not mere human love but to love with actual love of God – can serve to catapult our patients toward transformation.
The Love of God in Demonstration
My mentor tells the story of how he put on a 5-day smoking cessation program. Several patients came into the program and were able to successfully quit. However, one patient of his patients, Leila, was unable to do so. When she talked with him she was dejected and didn’t think there was hope. When my mentor asked what she was willing to do to quit smoking she said, “Anything.” He responded, “show up on the church front door Friday morning at 8:00am with your bags packed for the weekend.”
She hesitated at first, not sure about this idea. But in her desperation she showed up as requested. My mentor had set up a quit-smoking lockdown campout for this patient at the church. He had recruited his wife, children and other church members. Each person was assigned to a specific task to keep Leila distracted when she had an urge to smoke. One person was assigned to take Leila on a walk. Another assigned to give her a glass of water. Another assigned to play a game with her. Whenever an urge to smoke came up, she would just raise her hand and people would surround her ready to respond with their assigned task.
At the end of 3 days, she had finally been able to quit smoking. And at the end of those three days she asked, “Why do you all love me so much?” She was moved by the love that was poured out on her. And this lead to her transformation.
One of the most powerful areas we can tap into as Christian medical providers is the power of the love of God. The love of God is a transcendent love that runs counter to human nature. Here are features of the love of God worth considering.
1. The love of God is sacrificial.
It requires giving up something on our part so someone else can benefit. In order to channel the love of God we must give of ourselves – our time, our money, our sweat, blood and tears.
2. The love of God is extravagant.
It is willing to go to extreme lengths to accomplish its objective. It does not only fulfill obligations but asks, “How can I go beyond the call of duty to meet this person’s need?”
3. The love of God is wasteful.
In fact, love is most powerful when it is wasteful. This last feature illustrates why John 3:16 is the most popular verse in the Bible. The Creator God of the universe was willing to give up His one and only Son. It’s a gift that is so extravagant it’s wasteful. And that’s what gives John 3:16 its power. That’s what gives the story of Leila its power.