a love like His
“Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it?
It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe – the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E minor – loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love.
And what is our typical response?
We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.” – Francis Chan
I was in a rut. I felt like I was doing all of the right things, too.
Reading my Bible, singin' the songs, smiling at strangers.
Taking Bible classes at seminary and having crippling doubts about your faith do not go hand-in-hand. But it’s what I was dealing with this past week.
My whole life I feel like I’ve received 500 million mixed messages of how to act, how to look, how to speak, what to believe, who to listen to; eventually this long list of “have to”s and “should”s gets fairly lengthy. And especially confusing when they are constantly contradicting. Whatever you do, you’ll probably disappoint someone somewhere.
You could be the sweetest juiciest peach in the world, and someone is not going to like peaches.
Anyway, that was more of a rant than anything because this is my blog and I can do what I want, I guess. But while I was having this life crisis over the past few weeks, I started to get into my Bible and really get back to basics. Start from level 1/ground zero.
To some of you super-experienced, grade A Christians out there, this may seem simple and boring. But it’s currently rocking my world.
I was reading in the gospels yesterday morning and it just smacked me in the face:
“You can’t just love Me and not love My people.”
Now as I kept reading, I realized this isn’t the love that is –
holding the door open for someone,
letting someone in on the highway,
placing a hand on someone’s shoulder in support (or obligation) and then quickly walking away,
buying someone a gift card,
saying you’ll pray for them just to make them feel better,
relating to someone by telling them a story about how it happened to you too (but obviously your situation was so much worse) –
We can’t love God and not love His people.
And I mean love like Jesus loved.
The things above aren't bad things. They just aren't really how Jesus loved.
I think sometimes we can get caught up in patting ourselves on the back when we do something nice, that really wasn’t all that inconvenient in the first place - and we call that loving people.
And it’s just not right.
I think the only way that we can truly understand is to observe how Jesus actually loved people, and it may not be what we would call a good time. The way Jesus loved wasn’t glamorous or “cool”. (I wonder how much of my life I would get back if I could cash in the time I was trying to be “cool”.)
The way Jesus loved was actually counter-cultural. I feel like I see an effort so often, in my own life and in the church, to try and mold Jesus’ example to where we want to go rather than aligning our path with Jesus’ example.
So how did Jesus love? Let’s break this down. Let’s figure this out together.
1. He loved sacrificially –
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this; that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:9-15
Okay so, Jesus is talking about us keeping His commandments and originally we’re thinking “YES. 10 Commandments, got it,” but then He goes on to saying that “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (!!!) That’s it, that’s the commandment He’s talking about. It gets even cooler – He then calls us His FRIENDS. (Heck!) So based on the sentence before that, He’s basically yelling, “I have the greatest love for you!” because He laid His life down for us.
His whole life was in sacrifice for us. Therefore, we must love one another that way.
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
Christ loved in giving himself up for us, and if we’re called to love as He loved, there we go.
It’s right there. So uncomfortably clear.
2. He loved with compassion and through inclusion –
“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Luke 7:34/Matthew 11:19
(This is just a snippet of the way He ate with ‘tax collectors and sinners,’ basically, people rejected from society or not within the norm. Even people who did illegal things. He continues in the next paragraph to bless and forgive a ‘promiscuous’ woman, if you remember the story of her washing his feet with perfume.)
He healed people no one would touch. He loved and ate with people that no one would associate with. And this is just where it hits me right in the gut –
Jesus didn’t love anyone less because of who they were. No one.
How often are we guilty of this? Loving someone even a little less because of who they are, the political stance they hold, the decisions they make, the friends they have, the words they say?
So often we put conditions on our love.
When we love people even a little bit less because of who they are, we aren’t loving like Jesus.
When we love people even a little bit less because of who they are, we simply can't love like Jesus.
“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12
3. He loved using his wounds –
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5
(Can we just talk about how this was written before Jesus walked on the Earth?)
This goes along the same lines of how Jesus loved sacrificially, but I did want to make a distinction. Too often we live in a spirit of being a victim (and kind-of love it). We like to feel sorry for ourselves, don’t we? (Don’t worry, me too.)
I mean we just complain, a lot. Instead of being a person that takes and needs more, let’s lead from a place of victory. I wonder how much better we could love the people around us if we served from healed wounds than trying to create new ones. I feel like this quote from Barry D. Jones explains it so well:
““How can we put our wounded-ness in the service of others? When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers. Jesus was God’s wounded healer: through his wounds we are healed…As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.”
– Barry D. Jones
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:13
There’s something so sweet about standing firm in victory in Christ. When we are speaking from wounds that aren’t healed, we can’t stand firm. We need to tend to our own wounds first before we can love others through them.
4. He loved with purpose –
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Loving like Jesus is something we cannot be passive about. So often we can fall into the routine of smiling at people and shooting out a couple text messages and checking off our “be nice to people” box for the day. Jesus loved with a mission and Jesus loved with purpose. Our mission is to point people to the character of God. Our mission is to point people to who God is by how we love. It should be radical and purposeful enough to be noticeable, for His glory.
Write down some names of people you want to love well this week.
We cannot be Christians and not love people. We cannot have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and not love people. If we know Jesus, we know love.
Jesus, I pray that you scrape away all of the ways I have failed to love your people. All of the ways I have twisted living for You into living for myself. I pray that you show me, daily, how to have a love like Yours.