We live our entire lives struggling to understand what love is all about. We want to be loved, we desire to share love, but we labor with trying to wrap our mind around the meaning of love. Even our language confuses our thinking.
The word “love” may be the most meaningless word in our language. Woman to her girlfriend: “I just love the way you are wearing your hair!” Man to his foursome on the golf course: “Don’t you love this course?” Cheating husband to his mistress: “I love my wife and kids – so these Thursday afternoons in the hotel are all you and I are ever going to have.” Father to his confused child: “Yes, son, I love Jesus; but that doesn’t have anything to do with how I do business!”
But the word “love” may be the most meaningful word in our language. Man to his wife in the delivery room: “I love you!” Mother to her just-arrested son: “I love you and am not about to stop loving you because of the mess you’re in; we will get through this together.” Son at his father’s funeral: “I will always love you Dad because of the things you taught me about life, people, and God.” Two Christian adults in conversation: “I disagree with you about the meaning of that text in the Bible, but I love you no less as my brother/sister in Christ.”
How in the world can we use the same word in such frivolous and profound ways? How can we say we love our children and love mash potatoes with gravy in the same conversation and decipher the distinction between the two. Do we love our kids the same way we love mashed potatoes? How does one come to conclusions about the words they hear?
For Christians, Jesus is the dictionary where we find the meaning of words. For people who in the shadow of His cross, all understanding of Him and His will for us revolves around that cross.
When we look to Jesus we discover love is never just words but it is validated with actions. Man has a difficult time living up to the standard Jesus set for us. When our actions consistently run counter to our words, the words are meaningless. Jesus showed us that the object of our love is never things or abstractions, but it is always people. He also showed us love is not a feeling (lust, desire, affection), but love is a choice and commitment to seek the good, happiness, or well-being of another. Most importantly Jesus demonstrated that love not only imitates and reflects the nature of God but must be empowered by His presence.
Jesus affirms His love for you by serving as your “shepherd” or “pastor” and taking care of His sheep (John 10:11-13). You are the sheep and your Shepherd extends Himself to greatest degree. He puts himself at risk to protect and save you. John 10 reminds us that “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” That is a sacrificial love.
What Jesus had in mind that day – and what his disciples would only later come to understand – was the cross. Jesus knew His goal to save us would lead to the ultimate of sacrifices, the sacrifice of self.
What is amazing is this sacrifice was made for those who did not care about Christ (Romans 5:6-8). They were not attracted to Him and actually opposed Him. What kind of love would cause a man to lay down His own life for His enemies?
True love makes sacrifices. Jesus proclaimed to us: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-17).
I am so grateful for the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross. That causes me to have a sacrificial love for Him and others in my life when I filter my thinking through His love for the world.
I confess that I struggle with people, situations and theories that attack not only the holiness of God but His very person by their disobedient ways. There are pornographic theaters and abortion clinics, child molesters and denominations ordaining homosexuals, cohabiting adults and abusive parents. The easy and natural thing is to push them away, but because of what Jesus did requires me to “sacrifice of self” and respond in a way that Jesus does. I am called to love them and even sacrifice for them if the situation calls for it. I am not called to love the sin, but the one committing the offense.
I hear someone loudly complaining, “But I can’t do that! That’s asking too much.” I understand that response---I can’t either. Not without help, that is. . . the divine empowering from the Holy Spirit.
Words without actions are phony! They ring hollow. No one will ever measure up fully. We will always fall short of the amazing love of our Great God. That does not excuse us from trying each day. Loving the unlovely; reaching out to others in need; encouraging the weak, helping the helpless, and rescuing the sinner.
William Willimon tells a story out of his experience to which many can relate. He was leaving his office on the church property and noticed a forlorn-looking fellow walking toward him.
I sighed as I watched the man approach. It had been a long day. I had a meeting to return for that night and I was anxious to get home. I would meet him at the door, head him off, give him the only cash I had — a mere $15.00 as I recall — and then send him, and me, on our way.
“What can I do for you?” I asked with some annoyance in my voice.
“I wondered if you might be able to help a fella on the way South,” he said. “I was headed down to . . .”
“Yes, yes,” I said. “Well, I’m in a bit of a rush. So here is all I have. A five and a ten. That’s all I’ve got.”
The man took the money as I offered it. Looked at it. And without a word, he turned, and headed out toward the street.
Then he stopped, and turned toward me as I locked the church door. “I guess you think I’m supposed to thank you, to be grateful,” he said with a surprising tone of defiance.
“Well,” I said, “now that you mention it, a little gratitude wouldn’t hurt.”
“Well, I’m not going to thank you. You want to know why?” he sneered.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you are a Christian. You don’t help me because you want to. You have to help me because He [now thrusting his finger up into the air, pointing to God] told you to help me!” And then he left.
I stood there, stunned, angry. The nerve of these people!
On my drive home it finally hit me. He was right.
Loving like Jesus doesn’t happen because we have to, it happens because the Spirit of God is empowering our daily walk. How will you be called on to show the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ in your everyday living? Giving money to meet the needs of others? Yes. Resolving slights and wrongs that otherwise would tear your family apart? Perhaps. Doing something really helpful for a person you regard as a dear friend? Certainly. Helping somebody who isn’t doing all she can yet to set right her own situation? Possibly. Extending yourself for somebody in a significant way – only to have it go unappreciated? Probably. But doing something really magnanimous for someone who is your vowed enemy? Oh, I can only hope so! For all of us. Because that enters into the experience of Christ in loving as He has loved us.
In : Faron's Footnote
Tags: love "sacrificial love"