February 18, 2014
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~John 13:34-35
Love. It's all you need. It's what the world needs now. So many songs, so many poems dedicated to it. And so much about it in the Bible. But do we really understand what it is?
Here's a little check-list. If you were searching for the perfect friend, or the perfect spouse for yourself or your kids, this is what you'd look for:
□ never jealous,
□ not boastful,
□ not conceited
□ not rude.
□ not selfish
□ not quick tempered.
□ doesn’t keep a record of hurts
□ finds no joy in injustice,
□ rejoices in the truth
□ always supportive,
□ always loyal,
□ always hopeful,
□ always trusting
□ never gives up on you
I suppose that the 50% divorce rate is evidence that not many of us really find someone like that. Perhaps more convicting is the realization that not many of us are ourselves like that. I was married with kids before I really started to grasp what an incredibly tall order LOVE really is (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). At work or school where the stakes are high, it might be easier to keep ourselves in check. And perhaps in the grocery store or checkout line we could aspire to be our best selves and let someone go ahead of us, hold the door or share a few kind words. At home with the ones we know best, it gets more challenging. Persistent frustrations, long held patterns and a sense that we have 'a right' to air our feelings can lead to some pretty 'un-lovely' words and deeds. Then, of course, there are the people we feel we deserve to not love: mean people, bullies, enemies, criminals, people at war with our country or our beliefs. Our world tells us it's ok not to love those people, and it's ok to demand that others respect you and treat you right.
But that's where Jesus reveals how AMAZING his kind of love really is: love your enemies (Matthew 5:44); ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse (Romans 12:14); turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39); if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well (Matthew 5:40); be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another (Ephesians 4:2); if anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35). Pretty radical, huh? Nothing in our human experience would cause us to naturally behave this way. And that is exactly Jesus' point: the world will know you are different because you act so radically different by loving where others hate and serving where others demand to be served.
And that kind of love is only possible by the work of the Holy Spirit within you. If you want to experience transformation in your life, if you want to be more loving than you think is possible, if you want to be more forgiving than you can imagine, if you want to be truly content, then what you need is Jesus. By accepting Jesus' sacrifice as payment for your sin, buy giving yourself over to Jesus as Lord of your life, you will begin a great adventure of transformation, molding and shaping you to be more like Jesus, and Jesus is the embodiment of love (1 John 4:8).