I like to think that I know things. But I really don’t know anything (surprise). I am learning to become okay with this. I realize that when I start to think I have things figured out, I shut myself off to growth and transformation. May I never be content in my own understanding. May I always marvel at the mystery of a love that is stronger than death. Christian life is actually much more simple than I like to make it. It’s so simple, that even a child can understand it. It all comes down to love. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” Love is the point of it all. If I do not have love, I am nothing. Love is the most powerful force in the universe.
Life isn't about what I accomplished or the kind of impact I made on the world. It actually has nothing to do with that. The only thing that matters is loving the person in front of me with the love of Jesus. Did I learn to love? Did I give of myself? Did I lay down my life for my brothers and sisters? Did I encourage and empower the people around me? Did I see people the way Jesus sees them? When I had an opportunity to hate, did I choose to love? Did I forgive when I had an opportunity to resent? Did I show mercy and compassion in the face of opposition? Was I patient? Was I kind? Did I look for the best in others? Did I protect, trust, hope, and persevere? Love is the only thing that matters. It’s the reason Jesus came. I want to be possessed by the love of God. I want to be possessed with his presence. I don’t want to just talk about love, or pretend like I know about it, I want to become it.
I used to think that my love for God could somehow be measured by the depth of my personal time with him, or how connected I felt in worship, or how my prayer life was, and so on. I've even been guilty of saying, “I really love you God, I’m just not sure I like other people all that much.” But how delusional! What an unfortunate misconception to think that my love for God can be authentic apart from loving his children. “Whoever claims to love God and yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). Our love for God is directly related to how we love the people around us. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). The only love that is truly sincere, is not what we bring to God in prayer, but what we carry with us in our daily conduct. How we are in the small instances of our daily life prove what spirit really possesses us. Our love for God has no value unless it prepares us to reveal that love to our neighbors. It is in the fire of community that we really show and see what we are. We will never grow in love if we don’t experience the discomfort of unguarded moments when our hidden motives and selfishness become exposed in the presence of others. These are the moments that unveil us and allow us an opportunity to practice love, forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. Love for God is nothing unless proved by love towards men.
In the Christian world, it’s so easy to get lost in the whirl of “my calling,” “my ministry,” “my destiny,” “my gifting.” Sometimes we get so focused on our ministry that we neglect to love the one in front of us. While I wholeheartedly believe that we each are destined for great things, we are first and foremost commissioned to love. Out of that love, our destinies and callings come to fruition. The Kingdom of God does things completely backwards compared to the wisdom of this world. The wisdom of the world says “Climb to the top. Step on people to get there. Perform. Exalt yourself. Forsake integrity. Forget preparation. Do things fast and conveniently.” The wisdom of God says: If we want to become great, we must become the least and the servant of all. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Embrace meekness, lowliness of heart, and long suffering. Honor and prefer one another.
If we want to find life, we must lay it all down at the feet of Jesus. He is our model for greatness. Jesus was never so preoccupied with his ministry that he failed to love the one in front of him. So why is it that we can build our churches, seek to change the world, and focus on our callings and yet we neglect to love on the cashier at the grocery store, our co-workers, or the people we encounter in our everyday routines? We leave our love on the pews of a Sunday service and go about our week holding the same bitterness, hurt, and resentment as we were carrying the week before. Then we make hundreds of excuses to justify and validate where we are. “Well they offended me” “Well I was hurt by the church” “Well they were wrong” “Well this and that happened to me” “Well I’ve had a hard life…”
But love is unoffendable. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love chooses to honor and to bless. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love is not self-seeking. Love endures through every circumstance. Love is full of hope and expectancy. Love believes the best.
So how can we change? How can we become love? As a former student to social work and psychology, I’ve been programmed to analyze behaviors and examine issues of the soul. I have a tendency to be very introspective. And let me tell you, I have definitely sought to use that knowledge and my will-power to fix my own issues. But all to no avail. Even with my best and most educated efforts. Nothing of lasting value. So I eventually tuned my ears to the wisdom of God and learned that self cannot cast out self. Becoming fixated and preoccupied with our own issues will never lead to any long-lasting solution. Preoccupation with self is rarely enlightening and only leads to discouragement.
Transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Love is the fruit of his work. When we are born again, love makes his home in us. We no longer belong to ourselves and therefore have no business in fixing ourselves. Our only job is to be preoccupied with Jesus, the one who is infinitely worthy of all our affection. It is in this preoccupation that love fashions and forms us into trustworthy vessels that can carry the glory of God to the ends of the earth. It is love that potters us to bear the weight of divine power without being destroyed by it or lusting after it as our own.
Jesus is eternal love embodied in human nature. He is absolute royalty, full of glory and power. And what did he do with that royalty? He humbled himself. He emptied himself and came as a baby. For thirty years he was a nobody. Hidden. Learning obedience. Living life as a carpenter. And when he entered into ministry at thirty? He could’ve had a complete showdown with the finest of Pharisees and blown everyone away with his majesty and glory. But remarkably, no, he clothed himself in meekness and lowliness. He became the servant of all. He fellowshipped with sinners and outcasts. He showed love and honor to the most undeserving and rotten people. People like me. He didn’t come to expose our sin, he came to remove it. He didn’t come to give us value, he came to reveal the value we already had as children made in the image of God. If we were just a bunch of worthless sinners, God would’ve had no problem wiping us all out thousands of years ago. But he didn’t. He relentlessly pursues us again and again. And for the joy set before him, he endured the cross. You were the joy that was set before him. And now we have the honor of living life with all barriers removed. We have been reconciled back to our Father and he's after relationship. To this day, he continues to clothe himself in humanity, in you and I. Will we yield to meekness? Will we yield to lowliness? Will we abandon self and let the spirit of Jesus possess us? If we do, we will see the majesty of God blaze like a wildfire in our lives. For Christ’s love compels us. It is when we yield to love that we enter into our highest and greatest calling.