This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I John 4:10
I recently had the privilege of attending the John G. Mitchell Christian Life Conference here on Multnomah's campus. Throughout the week we looked at different attributes of Christ—His compassion, His justice, His perfection and His transforming love.
A Legacy Lives On
I think of our rich heritage and men like Dr. John Mitchell, who helped pave the way for our being a light within this city, and I am blessed to see the legacy living on through the men and women God continues to bring to teach on Multnomah’s faculty today.
Dr. Valerie Clemen, Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministries and Chair of our Pastoral Ministries Department at the Seminary, wrapped up this year’s conference with a powerful and riveting message as she spoke on the transforming love of Christ.
What Does Love Look Like?
“What does love look like?” was the question driving her theme. She shared heart wrenching stories from her past—having been raised in The Projects in upstate New York, being one of six children (all with different fathers), a drug addicted mother, an absent father… poverty, neglect, and abuse. You could feel the weight of the emotional energy suspended across the gymnasium as she gracefully articulated compelling accounts of Christ’s love within her own life—accounts that had resulted in a radical transformation of full surrender and obedience.
“How are we to love the unlovely? … What does love look like? It is arms wide open and a heart exposed,” Clemen stated as she referenced Misty Edwards popular song, Arms Wide Open. This is how we know what love is “… not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:10
“The transforming love of Jesus Christ goes into those places where only love can change a heart. Loving those who are easy to love is one thing, but Christ has called us, by His transforming love, to love the unlovely.” - Dr. Val Clemen
Leaning Into Love
In spite of pain, in spite of loss, and in spite of heartache; as we lean into the love of Christ we begin to experience lives that are transformed by His grace. God’s end goal is to form Christ within us. “Spiritual transformation is not something to be achieved,” Dr. Clemen said. “Our gifts, goals, and talents along with our flaws, failures and problems must all be surrendered to Him.”
It is a moment by moment journey of dependence and surrender. Just when we find ourselves in a place of seemingly submission, He opens yet another door…another opportunity for us to trust Him more. As I continue to grow in my understanding of this radical dependence, my perspective is becoming clearer of who I am in light of who He is and what He has done.
Surrendered From Striving
So often we come to God desiring to please Him, but it is only as we first acknowledge and embrace our brokenness that His transforming work in our lives can begin. Rather than coming to Him with an attitude of striving towards perfection, let us approach Him with right perspective, in recognizing our need for a Savior and who we are in light of Him.
Father we come to You, surrendered and dependent. Help us remember that we are deeply loved by You. Fill us with the power of Your Holy Spirit so that we may love others as You have loved us, and never let us forget that our love is grounded in You and You alone.
Because of His love,
Michelle M. Peel, B.A. ‘00, M.A. ‘10
Director of Alumni Relations
Multnomah University—Multnomah Bible College, Biblical Seminary and Graduate School