Yesterday morning, we brought our harvest to the olive press in our village. After we put our thirteen crates on a pallet and received the promise that our oil would be ready in the afternoon, we rang the bell of the lumber jack, who lives around the corner, to pay for the 2 cords of firewood he delivered a couple of weeks ago. We had tried to pay several times before, to no success, because we found nobody at home. This time we were lucky; his wife opened the door, a friendly woman, who is always interested in how we are doing. She accepted the money and proudly showed that she still had the Christmas card we had brought her last year. Of course, we had written an encouraging Bible verse on the card, and almost naturally, we began to talk about our faith and our mission in Italy. “We love Jesus and the Italian people, and Jesus loves the Italian people even more! We really want to share His love with all of you,” I said. “Yes, but doesn’t He especially love the believers?” she asked. For one moment, I was dumbstruck. Then I answered, “No, He loves every single person, believer or non-believer. That’s exactly why He came to the earth; to enable everyone to come to Him. But He loves them already before they do so,” I explained. “We cannot win God’s love through our faith,” I continued, “but if we believe in Him and in everything He has done for us, we can feel His love. And we want to answer His love.” She looked at me for a moment. Then I could see that another thought popped up and she asked, “And what do you think of the current pope?” The expression on her face told me that she liked him a lot. Many Italians ask us this same question, expecting us to respond positively. Pope Francesco is a friendly man, appealing to many people with his humble behavior and easy-to-understand words, but He still represents an unbiblical function in an unbiblical institution. Jan and I never engage in a discussion about the pope though; instead, we start talking about Jesus. “Did you know that you can relate to God without any intermediary person? Jesus made that possible!”
It hurts every time we realize that most Italians simply don’t know the truth about Jesus.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. […] So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. […] We love because he first loved us (1John 4:10, 16, 19).
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22).