Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Does It Take To Love Like Jesus?

I don't think we hold ourselves to a high enough standard, especially in what we call love. People may think money is the foundation of everything but they are mistaken. Without love there is only existence, there is no abundance. I believe most of us want to move beyond existence and discover what gives us real joy, but that won't happen without love. And I don't mean our Hallmark experience of love. Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, said without love he was nothing and he had nothing:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

But we have all heard this before. There is nothing new here, so what is the problem? Why are we living such one dimensional lives? Why can't we seem to get any closer to Jesus and why does it seem like we are missing something? I think it's because we are so busy with "stuff" we don't have time to actually reflect on the Word of God. Sure we read it but we don't have time just to sit in the presence of Jesus, to meditate on passages, and be taught by the Spirit. We treat the teachings of Jesus like Gandhi's teachings, not understanding that Jesus is the bread of life and from him has come instructions to serve him. Consider this:

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Children imitate their parents. They see what they are doing and they try to do the same things. My 19 month old loves to stand on her stool at the sink and "help" me do dishes. She watches me and then tries to imitate me. We are suppose to examine the life of Jesus and, through the power of the Spirit in us, do what he did. We are to love as he loved us. If you sit and think about that for a moment it is going to blow you away. In fact, it will most likely change everything you do and how you do it. At the very least it will reveal to you your wrong motivations.

Jesus left everything that was familiar to him. He was changed forever. He walked as you and I do today, filled by the Spirit to enable him to minister to mankind. He thought nothing of himself as he poured out his life daily for the sake of the people who needed to hear the Good News. He was innocent but he gave his life, through suffering and death, to die in our place. And when he did it we were his enemies. He did it so we could have the opportunity to discover the Father, to know what real life was, so we could repent and be forgiven, so we could have eternal life with him. He loved us.

He loved his enemies after telling us to love our enemies. Yet our love is of such a low degree that we aren't willing to sacrifice our desires for those who love us. We are missing something somewhere and I think it is simply because we have gone with the Hallmark version of love instead of Jesus'. 

To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. (Luke 6:29a)

This is the simple verse that has blown the top off my life. Yes, I have known it since my Sunday School days but I haven't really known it. Well, at least not to the depth the Spirit has been taking me to recently. The cost of this one simple teaching; the necessity to be completely empty of the idea of justice and rights; it shames me. The vulnerability in love that it demands has been lacking in my life. How about yours? The willingness to be hurt in love.

Why do I keep going on about this? Because we are missing the point. It is as Paul wrote: Without love we have nothing and we are nothing. Again, not Hallmark love but Jesus' love, and if we are willing to do some honest reflection I think most of us would agree that we haven't been living there. It is important because of this:

But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)

How many times have you gotten angry at someone for what they did against you? How many times did you feel your rights were stepped on? How angry do you get at injustices committed against you? Do you get angry at the person who forces their way ahead of you? How many times have you been offended by someone who says they love you? How many times have you been hurt or slighted? How much unforgiveness are you carrying around? How many seeds of bitterness have been planted? If this is the result of one week of living how could you possibly imitate Jesus and walk in love?

You can, you just need to get to know him better. You need to know what he taught and how he lived it. You need to sit with him for good chunks of time every day, just to learn from him. And then you have to trust that by the Spirit he has made you capable to love in this way. I am talking way beyond acts of kindness. I am talking about the depth of Jesus' love, where you give up all your rights and put everyone above yourself; not just those who love you but your enemy as well; where you are willing to be vulnerable to hurt, pain and suffering as a result of your love. We are talking the heart of a servant whose only purpose is the betterment of all other people, including those who hate you. We lay down our lives so others might live.

If we can start loving like this the story of Jesus is going to be told to more people and more people will make the decision to be re-birthed in Jesus. He started an incredible revolution of love that flies in the face of the false prince of this world and he told us to carry on. That revolution has faded recently but it only takes a spark to see it come to life again. May that spark be ignited by the Holy Spirit in you and me.

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