Arms Open Wide

Though I did not grow up in a Christian home, I knew the song, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” from my childhood. God’s arms were open wide to me which drew me to Himself. In my early 20’s, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and began a lifelong pursuit of knowing who God is. As I studied the Bible, I soon realized God was much more than just love. God is accessible, creator, deliverer, eternal, faithful, gracious, holy, jealous, kind, life, merciful, nurturing, omnipotent, perfect, truth, and wise to name a few of His attributes! It can be easy to get focused on God’s love at the expense of knowing all of who God is. This single focus seems to deny all of who God is and is thus a dishonor to Him.

As I studied the book of John this year, I was struck by the fact that John did refer to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved”. I think John never got over the fact that he was loved by Jesus. So, the truths in the song “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” that I learned as a child were validated by John. Like John, I need to never get over the fact that Jesus loves me. Yet, John does present Jesus in all of His glory (all of who He is). How about you, are you amazed that Jesus would love you? And at the same time, do you base your life on all of His glory (who He is)? 

Another truth that stood out to me in the book of John, is the fact that Jesus loved Judas just as He loved the other disciples. It is noteworthy, that the disciples had no clue who would betray Jesus (John 13:21-30). They seem to never notice any difference in the way Jesus treated His betrayer as they traveled through life together for 3 years. The Holy Spirit convicted me of how I tend to treat those who have hurt me differently than I treat others. I repented, asked God for His forgiveness, and asked Him to put a love in my heart for those who have hurt me. A love for others does not come from within ourselves. We love others because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is the Holy Spirit who transforms and empowers us to love like Jesus does as we yield to Him.  

Over the past several weeks, I have noticed God putting in my heart a love for those He sovereignly caused me to interact with even though there was hurt involved. It has been such a joy to see Him work in my heart in this way!

Furthermore, He reminded me of a previous principle He taught me concerning estranged relationships that involved hurt. In a particular relationship, I was ready to be reconciled, but the other person was not. During the time of estrangement, I was studying Genesis 33 where Jacob met Esau after a long separation that had begun with a hurtful event. A beautiful principle guided my thinking from 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.” God taught me that if the person who I had been estranged from were to come to be reconciled, I should open my heart and arms wide and receive them back. Graciously, God did bring the person back and my heart and arms were open wide!

So where is God’s truth intersecting with your life today? Have you ever gotten over the fact that Jesus loves you? Or perhaps you are so focused on His love, that you are neglecting all of who God is? Would God say you are treating those who have hurt you in a loving way? Who would God want you to ask for a love for? Who have you been estranged from that God would like to give you an open heart and arms to, in case they return?

Image from RDNE Stock Project, accessed May 15, 2024,   https://www.pexels.com/photo/smiling-woman-in-blue-crew-neck-t-shirt-with-open-arms-7551298/.     

For your consideration: J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973 and A. W. Tozer’s The Attributes of God, vol. 1 and 2, Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc, 1997, 2201.     

PJ Beets is passionate about encouraging women and children through the Scriptures and life to see the compassionate God who redeems the rejected by acceptance, the silenced by expression, the labored by grace, and the lonely by love in order to set them free to serve in His ordained place and way for them individually and corporately. She has served the Lord through Bible Study Fellowship and her home church in various capacities with women and children. Upon turning fifty, she sought the Lord on how He would have her finish well which began her journey at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies as well as a Doctor of Educational Ministry in Spiritual Formation, both from from DTS. PJ is married to Tom, has three children, and six grandchildren.

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