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EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- "I apologize for the length of this letter but I didn't have time to make it shorter." That seemingly contradictory statement has been attributed to a number of great writers, but as far as I can tell, Blaise Pascal gets the earliest reference.
Regardless of who said it first, it's one of the most intriguing statements you'll ever read. The implication is that it is harder to write a short sentence than a long one. Why? Because it takes effort to eliminate all extraneous words diluting the meaning.
The Bible uses the shorter-is-better idea as well. The shortest verse I know of is one of the most profound: "Jesus wept" (John 11:35) over Lazarus. Packed in those two words is the heartbreak and grief over the death of a friend. John, the writer, could have gone on and on about "why" Jesus wept. But he didn't need to. Two words said it all.
As powerful as many short phrases are, I don't know of a more important three-word phrase than "God loves you."
I checked a handful of modern Bible translations and the phrase "God loves you" occurs only once in Scripture: Deuteronomy 23:5. And there, it is not a simple three-word sentence. It is offered as an explanation for why God protected Israel from the curses of the false prophet Balaam: "… the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you."
"God loves you" is such an accurate summary of the entire redemptive message of the Bible that we can think of it as a biblically accurate statement. Jesus told His disciples, "for the Father Himself loves you. ..." (John 16:27), and said that those who love Him (Jesus) "will be loved by My Father" (John 14:21). Yes, those "God loves you" statements are referring to believers in Christ, which I hope includes you.
Before considering who else is included in that short statement, let's consider what "God loves you" means.
-- First: "God." Depending on your understanding of love, let me go out on a limb and say that this first word is a game changer. Why? Because God's love is like no other love you (or I) have ever experienced. The Bible says that "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16). You can't say that about anyone else in your life -- your spouse, your Grandpa Bill, your favorite Aunt Minnie. No matter how much they love(d) you, their love is not the same as God's love. On a given day, it might have been unconditional, even sacrificial. But every moment of every day of every month of every year? No way. Nobody loves like God. Right now, at this very moment, whether anyone else in this world does or not, GOD loves you.
-- Second: "loves." The Bible doesn't use this image, but I like to imagine God's love as being like Niagara Falls -- with me standing right at the base, completely surrounded and engulfed by the never-ending flow of love all around me. The apostle Paul says in Romans 8:35-39 that nothing can separate me from that love. Nothing can stop the flow of that love upstream, and nothing can remove me from being engulfed in it. And the same is true for you. Right now, at this very moment, whether you realize it or not, God LOVES you.
-- Third: "you." We are so used to thinking in the world's terms about love -- whether we have earned love or deserve to be loved -- that we have a hard time believing that God loves us. Right now, at this very moment, in spite of the fact that you feel unworthy of His love, God loves YOU.
The most well-known verse in the Bible affirms this love, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." To say "God loves you" is like saying "Here's a gift." You must reach out with hand and heart and accept the gift of His love in order for the power of that short statement to become a reality in your life. My prayer is that you will receive His love today.
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers; for other reprint requests, contact Myrna Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.