It’s impossible for me to know what you’re facing this week. I have a friend in the hospital experiencing significant tragedy, a pal waking up to the first birthday since her husband died, and a buddy who’s embarked on a beautifully uncomfortable mission trip. Each week, heck each day and even hour can bring us crisis or victory, so it would be unlikely that I could ‘guess’ where you are – but is it okay if I ask?
How are you?
I bet whether you are wildly joy-filled and doused in blessing or desperate and broken, or somewhere in the vanilla-flavored middle, you are wanting something:
We all do.
High or low, young or old, single or married, theist or atheist, Mother Goose or kidless – find any person anywhere and what’s our greatest desire?
And the moments that we collect as memories, the treasures we store away in our stories, their commonality is the same: l-o-v-e.
We rarely discuss what love actually is because it seems to be the only thing we can all agree on. It’s good. It’s pink and red and sweet. It feels nice. We like it. We want more.
But what is love?
This week your Hopers want to dig deeper into that important question, because it takes some serious thought about what love actually is in order to catalyze us to do it and do it well! As Christians we toss around this phrase more often than confetti: “We need to love them like Jesus.” “We need to be Jesus to him/her.” And, lest we forget, “WWJD?”
It sounds nice, to love others like Jesus, but have you ever had brunch with Him to ask how to do it? Has He fixed your flat tire and given you a peek into what His ‘brand’ of oh-so-special lovin’ looks like?
So… and here’s where I won’t force you to make eye-contact…
*Gulp* If the only way we can know how Jesus loved and how He wants us to love is in the Bible, when was the last time we went really deep into those pages just looking for better ways to love?
I think most of us (hand raised in the air) think we know how to love and we do it really well, so of all the things we go looking for in scripture (how to battle anxiety, what were those pesky sins again and what in the world is a ‘beatitude’?) it hasn’t even crossed our minds that we need to sit nose-to-the-New-Testament looking for how to love.
So today, let’s link arms and share a cup of something delicious and ask ourselves and each other “What does it mean to love now like Jesus did then?”
As I’ve prayed about about this big conversation and asked God to give me a ‘word’ for all of us, this is what feels tender and loud…
Oh no, have I already lost you?
Of all the words, THAT’S what He’s emphasizing in my soul when I ask about love?!
And as I look more to the life of Jesus, it rings true.
Christ’s very existence in our broken world, even from the beginning, was inconvenient.
He had to step away from the right hand of His father, He had to give up kingship (in a sense) to put on skin and come as a baby… God of the universe as a baby who couldn’t speak a word or spoon His own supper. He faced the devil while his mortal body was fasting and starving. He dealt with incompetence and pride and betrayal from His best buds.
He was misunderstood.
He made conscious choices to love even when it cost Him everything.
He personified love, and He personified inconvenience.
Nowadays we measure our ability to love by the calendar apps on our smart phones. If we have time to text back or grab a glass of wine, we will, but only if we have time. We need to be asked to love – ‘friend requests’ and Evites all buzzing in our hand leaving us to decide if the person sending is worth loving. Heaven help us (indeed) if someone needs the kind of love that has dollar signs attached… we’ll consider loving as long as it doesn’t literally cost us anything, and we’ll barely consider loving if it figuratively costs us anything.
We make every good excuse in the book!
“We’d love to come, but the kids…”
“I’m so sorry you’re hurting, but date night…”
“That’s terrible, wish we could help, it’s just that we’re saving for that new __________.”
And on and on it goes.
Picture the Lord that died for us, and let it get uncomfortable.
Picture the reality of Him on the cross to the degree you can get your mind around the details…
His flesh in ribbons hanging as his tissue was torn by soldiers with whips containing shards of metal, glass and bone. His feet pushing themselves up though stabbed with railroad spikes so he could take a breath. His bare bleeding muscle scraping against blistering wood every time He moved to breathe.
Now, imagine His tortured brow and love-filled-eyes looking into yours saying…
“I’d love to save you, but there’s just no way I can fit it into my schedule.”
Impossible to imagine.
Because somehow, shockingly somehow, the GOD OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE FROM ETERNITY PAST TO ETERNITY FUTURE decided that we were worth His every inconvenience – worth His death! And it’s that posture of selflessness and humility that should fan a flame in our hearts, a flame that should build to a bonfire in our bones to go and LOVE when it’s HARD. EXHAUSTING. COSTLY.
THAT, my friends, is loving like Jesus.
There’s of course a reality that we really can’t pay off our pal’s 100k in student loans or give one of our toddlers to a sister that can’t have kids, but don’t go looking for what you can’t do before you take a prayerful assessment of what you can.
Love has been injected into my life in some very unbelievable ways, so much so that trying to list allthelove in my mind before typing tonight proved overwhelming. But here are some tangible examples that stood out; examples that might give practical encouragement:
When I said I could drive myself to the Emergency Room and someone drove me despite my protest, so I wouldn’t be alone.
When I got an envelope in the mail and out slid a necklace. That necklace had gold wire bent to form one word, and that specific word was something I’d been privately begging God for. The friend who sent it had prayed so much for me that God had let her in on the secret.
When a piece of homemade peach pie showed up outside my door last week while I nursed a disappointed heart after a disappointing date.
When friends said “We’ll take your prayer requests to God because we see your exhaustion.” and they prayed.
When a friend changed the lightbulbs I couldn’t reach.
When my brother hugs me extra-tight for extra-long knowing it might have been days or more since I’ve been hugged.
When two best friends came together to deliver news that made me scream in pain. When they didn’t run away as I screamed in pain. When they cried with me as I collapsed.
When a sister said softly “Are you worshipping an idol?” because loving me meant pointing me back to the only One I should worship.
When I needed enough money for gas and a generous heart sent ten times as much.
When my midnight texts are answered, when brunch dates are planned, when hospital bills are helped with, when cards filled with truth and grace are tucked into the mailbox, when flowers are delivered, when prayers cover and lift up…
There are a gajillion other moments and little altars built to Jesus-love being shown, but where can we start now that we know l-o-v-e is so much bigger than pink and pretty warm fuzzies?
I wonder what would happen across the world if we all prayed today, smack dab in the middle of this week, and asked God to show us where we could shine His heart into another’s in a way that would truly bless them… and inconvenience us.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” I John 3:16-18