Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Sacrificial Love

"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 15:12-13

Under the Old Testament law people were required to love others to the extent they loved themselves. In John 13:34 Jesus gave a new commandment to love other as He loves us. He reiterated it fully in the above passage. When Christ stated something more than once we know it was something He wanted us to understand and apply. Within the context of the passage, the church was released from having to focus on obeying the law to focusing on loving God and others and it is in that love that obedience to the law is fulfilled. What an awesome freedom God gives us in that we do not have to focus on a list of do’s and don’ts. All we have to do is focus on Him. 

As we experience His love and understand the sacrifice behind His love we will be able to respond to Him in love. We will also be empowered through His spirit to love others sacrificially as He loved us. I often ask myself if I would really be willing to lay my life down for Christ or my friends? It is hard for me to even think in those terms, because in our country we aren't often persecuted to that extent. I realize one of the ways I could test myself is to look at my life and my attitudes in the here and now. In doing that I determined I would never die for a friend…
  • I wasn't willing to defend when if she is being slandered.
  • I wasn't willing to give of my resources if she has material needs.
  • I wasn't willing to risk anger in confronting when sin is sinking its talons into her soul. 
  • Which I wasn't willing to listen when she's hurting. 
  • I wasn't willing to protect friendship at the risk of losing other friends.
  • I wasn't willing to love when I am not loved in return.
  • I wasn't willing to forgive when I am hurt.
  • I wasn't willing to be transparent at the risk of seeming imperfect.
  • I wasn't willing to love when it inconvenienced me.
  • I wasn’t willing to give up my tendency to broadcast another's faults, choosing to affirm her virtues instead.
  • I wasn't willing to seek forgiveness from whom I wrong. 
  • I wasn't willing to help carry heavy burdens.
  • I wasn't willing to stop and pray as needed.
As we look through the gospels, we see Christ gave up everything to rub shoulders with people like us. He loved people bound in sin, ravaged by illness, brokenhearted, impoverished, and full of emotional needs. He loved people in the face of extreme opposition, petty criticism, radical misunderstanding, and even in humiliation. He loved people in the face of hatred, when He was being beaten, had a crown of thorns slammed onto His brow, with each blow of the hammer that nailed him to the cross, and with each insult hurled as they spat in His face and as His blood stained the cross. He loved people even when the weight of our sin was placed on Him. He loved in the heartbreak of His Father's wrath being poured out on Him and He loved in His death. He loves us just as His Father has called Him to—sacrificially and completely.

If we are willing to die to ourselves and live unto God, He will love those He puts in our paths through us. We will find ourselves loving sacrificially and completely. We will find ourselves loving with a love that loves in the little things as well as in the big. If we love in life, we can rest assured we will grow enough to love in the face of death. 

The questions we need to wrestle with are: Do we truly at a core level believe Christ loved us fully and completely? Do we have the desire in us to love as He loves? If, not what is holding us back from having that desire?

Prayer: Father what an awesome calling…to love as Jesus loved has loved us. Please help us to learn more about the height, the depth, and the breadth of your love that we might be able to reflect that same love to those around us. Please give us the desire to love as you love and your strength to love as passionately as you love in life. Please also give us the courage to love as passionately as you did in death. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!