One of the greatest mistakes we can make, is we undervalue the love of Almighty God. We put his wild, reckless love in a box of undersized belief and we bury it under a temple of tradition. God’s love is this. God’s love is that. We think we have it all figured out.
Except we don’t. We have not even scratched the surface of his love for us. Love, like the God who gives it, is far greater than we know or imagine.
Every year, I glimpse a new facet of God’s love and I am freshly amazed. Some years ago I realized God’s love and grace are hyper. Lately I am learning that his love is aggressive, fierce, and sometimes furious.
Furious love. Fierce grace. These are not adjectives that come to mind when we picture Jesus meek and mild. But there was nothing meek and mild about the cross.
A hundred years ago, the poet GK Chesterton coined the phrase “the furious love of God.” I define furious love as relentless love that will never quit. It is a never-say-die love that rescues us from those things that seek to harm us. It is a love that pursues us even as we scorn it. It’s a love that will not yield to defeat, despair, or death
A Marvelesque love
I was reminded of the furious love of God while watching the Avengers: Endgame movie. (Warning: SPOILERS ahead.) This movie is winning fans and breaking box office records, and deservedly so. It’s a good story seasoned with hints of the gospel.
But one scene in the movie has left some fans dismayed. I am referring to the unheralded death of Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow. Let’s call her Nat for short.
In the movie, Nat and fellow Avenger Hawkeye are sent to retrieve a magical Infinity Stone. This stone is needed to resurrect half the universe. Our two heroes meet a creepy guardian who informs them that the cost of the stone is the life of a loved one. Rather than dispute this shocking offer, Nat and Hawkeye argue over who will make the sacrifice. Each wants to die so that the other may live.
Nat: “We don’t get that stone, billions of people stay dead.”
Hawkeye: “Then I guess we both know who it’s gotta be.”
Nat: “I guess we do.”
Hawkeye: “I’m starting to think we mean different people here, Natasha.”
Nat: “Last five years I’ve been trying to do everything to get to here, it’s all been about bringing everybody back.”
Hawkeye: “Now don’t you get all decent on me.”
Nat: “You think I want to do it? I’m trying to save your life, you idiot.”
Hawkeye: “Yeah, well I don’t want you to, how’s that? Natasha, you know what I’ve done. You know what I’ve become.”
Nat: “I don’t judge people on their worst mistakes.”
Nat and Hawkeye must choose who dies and the obvious choice, it would seem, is Hawkeye. Hawkeye has become a cold and calculating murderer. He is a sinner with blood-stained hands. Using the same logic by which he has dispatched wicked men, Hawkeye judges himself as deserving of death.
“You know what I’ve done. You know what I’ve become.”
But Natasha has no interest in condemning her friend for his mistakes. “I’m trying to save your life.” Refusing to listen, Hawkeye knocks her down, runs to the cliff edge, and leaps to a certain death. Yet wonder of wonders, Nat leaps after him and saves him before falling to her own death. It is a breathtaking and totally unexpected exchange. The sinner, as good as dead, is rescued at the last moment by the sacrifice of a friend.
As good as dead, yet saved
Natasha Romanoff’s death must rate as one of the top movie deaths of all time, and it provides a picture of what Jesus Christ did for us. Consider: all of us, like Hawkeye, have gone astray. We may not be murderers, but we have stained hands nonetheless. We’ve lied, envied, and coveted. We’ve bickered and fought. We have wounded people with our words and hated them in our hearts. We have all fallen short.
But Jesus, the Friend of sinners, does not judge us by what we have done. Even your worst is no match for his grace. “Step back from the precipice,” says Jesus. “Let go your sins, for all is forgiven. I have carried your sentence of death.”
Yet some of us won’t listen. Our shame deafens us to the good news. “You know what I’ve done.” Clinging to our guilt we leap from the cliff of condemnation. Even then Jesus will not let us go. With single-minded determination he leaps after us, rescues us and says, “I died so you don’t have to.”
Do you see? You and I were doomed, but Jesus decided to save us. We were condemned by law, but Jesus said, I’ll take the rap. We had gone over the edge, as good as dead, but Jesus leapt from heaven shouting, Not on my watch!
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
It was not warm fuzzies that held Jesus to the cross; it was the fierce and relentless love of a Friend who will not give up without a fight to the death.
Thank God for his furious love that gets down and dirty in the muck of our mistakes. Thank God for his fierce grace that is not afraid to bleed and die so that you may live.
You may be in the dungeon, but Jesus is there. You may be in the miry clay, but Jesus is there. You may have gone over the edge with no hope of ever coming back, but Jesus your Friend is with you. His furious love will never let you go.
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