God’s love does not abandon us when we stumble. It persists in calling us to return to him.
James D. Roecker
Sally is a Community Advisor, or CA, at UW–Stevens Point. Her responsibilities are numerous and specific. CAs are responsible for attending training; opening and closing the residence halls; serving as desk receptionist; programming student development and wellness needs of residents; advising floor government; providing information on campus and community resources; serving as a contact and referral source for student concerns; and providing hall security and student conduct observation, intervention, and reporting. Sally has these responsibilities in addition to managing her own set of courses for the semester.
For the first few months of school, everything runs smoothly. But then there is an incident. Sally smells a strong aroma, possibly from a banned substance, coming from her best friend Sharon’s dorm room.
Sally has two options to weigh in her mind. Option one is to ignore the aroma entirely and act like it was never noticed. No confrontation would happen. No feelings would be hurt. No investigating of the aroma would be necessary. But, Sally would be neglecting her duties as CA. Option two is harder. It would involve confronting Sharon about the odd aroma. Things could get ugly rather quickly. Harsh words may be spoken. Their friendship might never be the same again.
Sally chooses option two. It’s not so much that “rules are rules” as it is about warning Sharon about potentially dangerous behavior and keeping the rest of the residents safe from the same kind of behavior.
And so Sally confronts Sharon. Harsh words are said. A fine would be coming Sharon’s way because of Sally. Their relationship is strained. There is no longer peace and harmony between them. The tension feels like a weight when they are in each other’s presence. Sally longs for the day when Sharon will be open to changing her behavior and mending their broken relationship. But for the time being, Sharon is simply not interested in reconciling with Sally.
God’s prophet Hosea could relate to Sally’s situation. Hosea proclaimed God’s harsh message to God’s people, the Israelites. Israel had turned away from God. Destruction and punishment would be coming their way because of their failure to follow the one, true God. As a result, there was no peaceful, harmonious relationship between God and the Israelites.
God had been faithful to his people. “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love” (Hosea 11:3,4). But in spite of his love, they had turned away from him.
Hosea’s task was to issue strong words of rebuke and warning to his people. He wrote, “Return, Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall!” (14:1). God’s goal always was to bring them back to his love and forgiveness. If they did not repent, the dire warnings would come to pass. But the Lord still loved them. His warning was a call to turn away from their rebellion against him and to return to his faithful love.
God’s warnings, harsh rebukes, and threats are intended to call us back to him, for us to return to his love. Sally’s task is simply an illustration of God’s call to repentance. God’s love does not abandon us when we stumble. It persists in calling us to return to him, to repent, and to trust in Jesus for our forgiveness. That’s a message for students everywhere. It’s a message for all of us.
James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017
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