This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends,
since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11 (NIV)
My first barbeque was an old relic destined for the city dump. But I managed to rescue it, clean it up, and install a new burner. It limped along for five more years. In the fall of 2004 my mother bought me a beautiful bronze Centro barbeque with side and rotisserie burners. Compared to the old barbeque, it was a Rolls Royce. We enjoyed half a dozen wonderful barbeques before winter set in.
Spring arrived and my daughter was home from university for a weekend break. It was time to remove the cover and fire the barbeque up. There’s something extra special about the first barbeque of the year. The aroma and sizzle of thick juicy burgers seem to affect the synapses of the brain and trigger a wave of well-being.
The next morning my wife opened the patio door to let the dog out and discovered the barbeque was gone. No doubt two men crept into our yard while we were asleep and carried the barbeque; utensils, cover and all, down the side of the house. A wheel man brought a truck alongside the curb and the barbeque was gone in a flash.
Why do people steal? Why was I the target? Why do bad things happen to good people? There was little time to reflect. I had twelve to fourteen hours of work ahead of me. One of the tasks was to prepare the Sunday sermon. I planned to speak on “How to reach out in love to our community.”
Sermon preparation didn’t come easily. I was miffed about being ripped off by The Barbeque Bandits. How could I talk to my congregation about loving our neighbours when I wasn’t feeling any love for the “neighbour” who was probably cracking open a beer with his friends and watching his cowboy steaks cook on my Centro barbeque?
Then God reminded me of the obvious. He loves the sinner though not the sin. How could I do anything less? I’m a blessed man. Jesus loved me enough to die on a cruel Roman cross. Everything I’d done wrong was completely wiped out when I asked forgiveness for my sins and embraced Jesus by faith. He gave me a fresh start when I was nineteen years old. He’s given me a purpose for living in the present and the promise of a future home in heaven.
Jesus loves The Barbeque Bandits too. He loves them as much as He loves me. He wants to forgive their sins with as much fervour as He forgave me. He wants to give them a future and a hope. And He wants to fill the empty void inside of them just like He filled mine.