“Stranger danger” was a repeated discussion in our house when the kids were growing up. After one particularly arduous conversation where I presented numerous scenarios, I suspected one of my charges was more intrigued by the possibility of an adventure than the probability of danger, so I tested my theory:
“Let’s say a friendly man offers you a candy bar if you’ll help him find his lost puppy. Show me what you’d say and do.”
She pondered this for a moment and then asked,
“What kind of candy bar?”
Wow. Okay. I really don’t like the idea of competing with a bad guy, but this called for drastic measures.
“I’ll make you a deal,” I said. “I’ll give you two of your favorite candy bars if you run screaming away from him!”
The subject of strangers came to mind recently when a young friend told me she didn’t believe in God. She’d gone to church with a friend out of curiosity, and while she found it an enjoyable experience, she quit after the pastor gave a sermon on loving God more than anything or anyone else. She didn’t think that was right.
I told her I understood her frustration and aversion to this idea. Being commanded to love a stranger is awkward at best, and even dangerous. But God wasn’t speaking to strangers when He called them to love Him above all. He was speaking to His own children—those who knew Him and had experienced His power, trustworthiness and love. The love that became man in order to fill the gap between our dangerous acts and His perfect love. And though we were created by Him to have a relationship with Him, Jesus the God-Man does not demand we love Him. He says, “IF you love me…” “IF anyone wants to follow me…” then we must show it by trusting what He says, and doing things His way—not because He has some weird ego issues, but because we do. It is in us to strive for acceptance and fulfillment—sometimes endangering ourselves in the pursuit. He gives the real deal—and in double measure when we run screaming to Him.
IF you want to know this God, I recommend the NLT New Believer’s Bible*, because it has helpful notes (Amazon sells them*). Start with the gospel of John—look at how Jesus deals with sorry sinners (gently) and the religious self-righteous (harshly), and every human situation (wisely). And don’t be such a stranger.
*PM me if you can’t afford one.
I will call those who were not My people, “My people,” and she who was not loved, “Beloved.” Romans 9:25
Can anything separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are…in danger or threatened with death? …No despite all the things we overcome through Christ who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God—not death, life…fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow—not even hell can separate us from God’s love…Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus OUR Lord. Taken from Romans 8:35-39
So now that you know God, why do you want to go back again and becomes slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of the world? Gal. 4:9