Friday, February 8, 2013

Love

 
I saved Love for last.  Perhaps you are thinking I saved the best for last.  Maybe so, but the reason I waited until the end to write about this fruit of the Spirit is because it is so hard.  I can quote all the things I learned as a child about love.  "Agape love is about putting others' needs ahead of your own."  However true it is, for me the phrase is so hackneyed as to be useless.  So I looked up every reference in the New Testament for the noun or verb that we translate as love.  After reading about half of them and trying to sort them, my head was spinning and I had no more idea about love than I had to begin with.


So, as we've done over and over in this study, I went back to the person of Jesus.  Now there's an idea that will never become clichéd.  If I come across a Biblical concept that I just can't wrap my head around, I look at the life and words of Jesus and he will make it clearer for me.  

In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us both how to love and what ultimate love looks like.  As he is preparing his disciples for his death, Jesus tells us how to love God:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments....He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. .... He who does not love Me does not keep My words ; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me (John 14:15,21,24).

So, one way to display the fruit of love is obey Jesus's commandments.  Although true, this is still rather broad, especially in the context of the fruit of the Spirit.  Again, Jesus narrowed it down further for us. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 34-35). 

Let's go through this again.  Love is a fruit of the spirit.  To love God, we must obey his commands.  One of his commands is that we love one another.  People will know us by our fruits, one of which is the love we have for each other.  Sounds good so far, but that brings us back to the big L word again.  How do we show love for one another?

Jesus answered that too, and he did so in two very radical ways.  John 13:34-35 quoted above is actually something Jesus said right after he had done something very special.  He had washed his disciples feet.  Jesus, the creator, their rabbi, had done what only servants did.  His followers were shocked, even embarrassed, by his actions.  Have we ever shocked someone by how dirty we are willing to get serving others?  Not me.  I've been known to hand a stinky baby back to Mommy for diaper change rather than do it myself!  Opportunities to serve others abound.  Clean a busy mom's home; sit for the incontinent elder so his caregiver can take a break; buy a beggar's lunch.

The second radical way we show love for God and love for others is to lay down our lives.  

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another (John 15:12-17).
 
When Jesus says that laying down his life shows the greatest love, he is foreshadowing his own death for our sins.  However, we can't stop there; love is a two way street.  Jesus also expects us to lay down our lives for him to show our love. Notice too that in the same conversation, Jesus tells us to love one another.  That means we might be called to lay down our lives for one another too.

Laying down our lives can mean several things. For me, laying down my life meant giving up the goal I had set for myself of being an ob/gyn. I knew I could not be the wife and mother God called me to be  and be a doctor too.  Please hear me when I say that I don't think all female doctors are bad wives and mothers.  I simply knew that I would be.  I loved my family by choosing a different path.

Some women make much larger sacrifices for the sake of Christ.  Women in foreign mission fields give up the American dream of a stable job, a cute house, and western food (yes, hamburgers are part of the American dream).  They sell everything they own, become strangers in land not their own, and spend their lives teaching people about the God who loves them.  They love the lost by choosing to come to them wherever they are to share Jesus.

On that mission field, many people find that Jesus's command to lay down our lives is not a figurative one.  Thousands of Christians throughout history have died for the cause of the gospel, from Paul to Jim Elliot to believers being killed today in Nigeria.  Suddenly, my choice of career sounds like a pitiful sacrifice.  

By reading the book of John, I have a better understanding of what love looks like. Love looks like dirty service.  Love looks like self sacrifice.  Jesus showed his love in these ways.  He expects us to show our love for him and for others the same way. 

Melissa
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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