In 1991, a 16-year-old shot and killed a pregnant woman, Nancy Bishop Langert, and her husband. The young man was tried and sentenced to life without parole. Jeanne Bishop, Nancy’s sister, originally wanted vengeance for her sister’s death, but years later she began praying for her sister’s killer and is now working to abolish juvenile life sentences. “I know that no one is beyond the forgiveness and redemption and purpose of God,” writes Bishop.
When we begin to understand that we are loved by God, it becomes impossible for us to hate another human being. We have not deserved God’s love, nor have we merited His attention. In fact, Scripture teaches that salvation has always been God’s idea and has depended exclusively on His initiative. He has reached out to sinners and chosen to love them without condition or prerequisites. He hasn’t loved only “good” people; He hasn’t loved only “religious” people. He has loved sinners.
And God’s love cost Him dearly. An atoning sacrifice was demanded in order to bridge the infinite gap of God’s holiness and God’s love, and that sacrifice was none other than God’s beloved Son, Jesus.
The implications of God’s love are astounding: we are fully and completely loved by God, despite our unworthiness of that love. This perfect love casts out the real fear of being rejected by God on the basis of our failures, whether past, present, or future. If God has loved us so generously and sacrificially, the only legitimate response is to love our neighbors. We can’t simply choose to love “good” people or people with whom we agree. We can’t reserve love for those willing to repay it. If we are to love like God, we have to be willing to be wounded.