Who has not had a heart set uncontrollably ablaze when the dry winds of deep circumstantial longing meet a wildfire of scorching fleshly desire? Just as the heart knows its own bitter pain, every human heart has been uniquely commandeered by seizures of untamable passion. Words cannot adequately portray what happens in hallows of the heart, where no one else can enter. At best we are capable of remote sympathy or empathy.
How then can we aspire to know the heart of God? What flames of passion might He feel, we ask in faith that we bear His image? Since our hearts burn, must not His as well? We all can identify with the disciples on the road to Emmaus describing their hearts as burning with inspiration from listening to Jesus decode the scriptures about Himself. Was His fire igniting theirs? Great storytellers through the ages adeptly strum our willing and vulnerable heartstrings by plumbing the depths of our wants and desires. Is He not the author of great story?
What is it that causes the heart of God to burn with passion? Why would he so love the world? The apostle John, skilled in weaving through the traffic of the heart, captured the elegant truth that God, in essence, is love. Love is focused care for another that accepts, values, and benefits them. What would happen if love were to dominate an infinite Being? By hermeneutical extrapolation God’s heart must be an immeasurable and inextinguishable generator of love for people. As with our sun, the thermonuclear reactor of this all-consuming love must be uninterruptible and indomitable. Jeremiah proclaims that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases!
Jesus, the exact representation of the Father, gives us love incarnate. His love in action always took initiative toward people, always engaged relationally with them, and always reached the neediest, worst, ugliest, and most painfully desperate places in their lives. His mission statement was to seek and to save that which was (and those who were) lost. Luke 15 gives vivid and emotionally compelling insights into this ever-scanning, ever-longing heart of God for those missing. The three parables are a conclusive set of anecdotal truth into God’s innermost psyche. What’s lost and then found is of greater value to the finder than if it had never been lost.
The Old Testament leads into and reinforces this elemental reality for mankind. Ezek 18:23 reminds that God gets no pleasure out of a sinner’s destruction. He delights rather when the wayward repent. II Sam 14:14 describes a God who, like an architectural engineer, is plotting and planning the salvation of every person on the planet. Jonah 4 perhaps most intimately reveals the heart of God for the lost as He confronts Jonah on whether the prophet has a right to be angry over the death of his shade plant. Jonah’s reply that he was angry enough to die speaks of God’s own heart being passionate enough to die, which He did, for so many perishing souls.
Paul and Peter reiterate the heart of God, that none should perish (I Tim 2:4) and that all be saved (II Pet 3:9). Paul goes even further in Rom 9:1-3, unthinkably admitting that he would give his own eternal salvation in exchange for the salvation of his fellow Jews. What manner of insanity, in the form of sacrificial love, had come over and possessed this champion and beneficiary of the Gospel? Is not God’s love a potion for sanctified self-destruction to those addicted to it? He wrote to the Corinthians about his compulsions to pour out his life in ministry to others from this insatiably intoxicating love of Christ. His heart was aflame with desire and prayer for his countrymen to be saved.
Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us. It is a driving, inspiring love that captures our imagination and will catapult us recklessly into a broken, hurting, fallen world until all have their chance to know Him. The end will usher in the beginning of His eternal wedding night with His bride of adoring believers. This interminable truth undergirds all missions’ mobilization.
Mark Stebbins with The Navigators, a Missio Nexus member, provided this article. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.