Sermon Illustration: God’s Love
This is one of my all-time favorite illustrations and probably my all-time favorite personal story. Though it is personal to me, I hope it allows memories from your own life that tell a similar story – a story that points you (and others!) to the great love of God. In other words, though you are free to steal this illustration (ha), I hope it will cause a similar story from your own life to bubble up and use in future sermons.
When I was a junior in High School I dated a cheerleader from a nearby town. Her nickname was “Hot Mama” (HM) and lived about 30 minutes from my home. Needless to say, MY Mama was’t thrilled. At this particular time, we were in the middle of summer. This meant I had a little bit later curfew due to not having school the next day. We (HM and myself) had been out several nights in a row. Every time I came home (at curfew), my parents were already in bed asleep. So one night, we had the bright idea to go to a late movie together. A movie that started AFTER my curfew. And remember, she lived 30 minutes from my house. Since my parents had been in bed asleep prior nights, I figured they would never know what time I actually came home.
This was before cell phones were a thing. After the late movie, while pulling onto HM’s street, I saw her brother standing in their driveway talking on their portable telephone. I pulled in, opened my door, and heard her brother say, “Matt, your dad is on the phone.” I laughed and thought he was joking. He gave me a look that communicated, “dude, you are dead,” and again said, “Matt, your dad is on the phone.” All the blood in my body left. I immediately was ice cold and scared as a wet cat. I took the phone and said, “Hey dad, what’s up?” All I heard (in a very matter of fact, tired, angry, “you are in big trouble” voice) was, “Get in your car. Buckle your seat belt. And come home. Now.” I, unsuccessfully, tried to give a quick excuse that was immediately cut off with, “Get in your car. Buckle your seat belt. And come home. Now.” So, I got in the car. I buckled my seat belt. And I drove home. Right then. But I also did something else. I turned the radio dial to the Christian radio station and prayed to God like never before. I even fasted for the duration of the 30 minute drive.
When I arrived home, my parents were waiting by the back door in the kitchen. I walked in and sat down. They just stared at me. If I remember correctly, it was a good two hours AFTER curfew. We just sat there staring at each other for what seemed like forever. Finally, my dad said, “I am too angry to talk about it tonight. Let’s try to get some sleep and we will talk about in the morning.”
That summer, I worked for my dad at his veterinary clinic. I was his chief “pooper scooper.” The morning after “the incident,” I chose to get to work super early to head start on the day. If we were going to have a talk about the night before, I wanted to do all I could to grease the paddle before I got whacked (if you know what I mean). I was busy cleaning out cages, when I heard the door to the room where I was open and shut. I stopped. My back was to my dad.
Finally, I turned around to find tears working their way down his cheeks. My face communicated shock at his emotion. He said, “I was scared to death, son. I thought we lost you. We assumed you had been in a wreck or something. We were so scared.”
Please understand: as the day went on, you can be assured that I was punished appropriately and faced the consequences of what I had done. This sweet, sentimental moment didn’t last long. But I will never – EVER – forget that moment. Why? Because for the first time in my life, I understood love. Dad didn’t give me rules to crush me, or to take away my freedom. He gave rules because of how much he loved me. I saw a man who was quite literally beside himself because he thought he might never get to be with his son again.
In a similar, but so much greater way, God the Father has done the unthinkable to be with us. He doesn’t give rules to crush us. He gives us the way to live because He loves and knows how humans are supposed to work.