Why we need to love ourselves to effectively love our neighbor and share the gospel.
Sitting in a bookstore, engrossed in a book on Christian leadership, I barely noticed the man sitting across from me reading. I thought very little of him until I was repeatedly interrupted by a sense of the Holy Spirit stirring within.
“Talk to this man; he’s longing for me.”
Despite repeatedly trying to ignore this prompting, I couldn’t shake the feeling. I realized I’d reread the same sentence at least four times and might as well give in or leave the bookstore.
I struck up a conversation about the book he was reading. He was surprisingly open with his ideas and questions about God, and we were in the midst of discussing the forgiveness and love of God when, as if disgusted by himself, he said, “But you don’t even know the thoughts I’ve had about you before we were talking. God doesn’t forgive those kinds of thoughts.” Wait, what? As a woman in my 20s at the time, I had many acceptable responses to this sort of statement, including just leaving immediately. But almost to my surprise, something entirely unexpected came out of my mouth:
“God knows your thoughts. He’s not shocked or disgusted by you as a man. He knows what you really long for, and none of this is about me right now.”
I could respond to this uncomfortable admission because I, too, knew what it was to feel sinful and awkward in the presence of a loving God. My preparedness for this encounter had little to do with being some sort of evangelistic expert and more to do with my experience of God’s love. His love and kindness had led me toward much-needed repentance more times than I could ever recall. In that moment in the bookstore, I recognized that man’s words as indicative …