“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
This has been my favorite verse my entire life. Growing up, I attended the New Hope Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana. Every Christmas, church leaders would give us an orange, an apple, a candy cane, some penny candy in a brown paper sack, and then a gift. Some of these gifts included a Bible dictionary, a Bible atlas, and a pictorial life of Christ. One year I got a plaque with Romans 5:8 written on it. I still have these books and the plaque. But most of all, I remember the verse.
The thought that Jesus knew my name some 2,000 years ago while he was dying on the cross just blows my mind. He died on the cross for me, knowing full well I would be born, exactly who I am—everything about me. God knew I would choose many times over to disobey him, and that I would choose to give my life to him when I was almost 12. In love, he was patiently waiting for me to learn about his love for me.
For most of my life I have been more than curious, and I have asked God many times, “Why me?” Why did he choose me? Then I learned Isaiah 49:16, where the Bible says our names are written on the palms of his hands. He knows me by name, my name is written on his hands, and those hands were pierced for my sins. God showed “his own love” for me when he gave his one and only Son to die for me. He created me, he died for me, and he has blessed me over and over again. Yet this question (why me?) never went away.
I am sure you have heard the story of the little boy who made a sailboat. He put it on the lake to play one day and lost it. He searched for days but never found it. While walking home one day, the boy happened to see the sailboat for sale in a store window. It was the very same boat, but this time it had a price tag on it. So the boy saved his money and bought his own boat. Walking down the street with the boat in his arms, the boy said, “You are twice mine, little boat. I made you and I bought you back.”
The only difference in this story and my life is this: The boat was taken away from the boy by the wind and the sea, but the only thing that took me away from God was my own sin and selfishness. If it were not for God’s relentless love, I would be lost and without hope. He knew that on the cross, the day he died. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.
And I am so glad he did.
David Empson is convention director and executive director of the National Missionary Convention in Clayton, Indiana.