Love is a word that gets used a lot in modern society. We see it and hear it all around us. It is used as a synonym for feelings like: appreciate, admire, desire, greed, lust, and envy to name a few... but love is something else.
On my journey with Christ, my understanding of the word “love” continues to become something else. Though I have recently become “middle-aged,” God continues to show me how much of a child I am; through my relationships I experience what love is really about.
For a long time, I subscribed to the world’s view of love. Possessions could be loved. Ideas and philosophies could be loved. People could be loved so long as they loved me back and didn’t get in my way from doing what I wanted.
Now, thankfully, I’ve come to see the foolishness of it all. I realize that I need God’s grace, and can never do anything to earn it, I am beginning to take the steps to understanding God’s love and living it out… and the first thing is that His love is something else.
It is slowly coming to mean purpose; both in thought and action. This purpose is a God-given one which His son, Jesus Christ exemplified to us on the day He was crucified on a cross. God gave His only Son to die on the cross for us because He loves us. In His purpose for us, He gives us everything we need to live and to be able to commune with Him through His unrelenting love for us, through His Son.
But like all love, it must be a “two way street,” God gave humanity free will; the ability to accept or reject His offer of love. Throughout the Old Testament, stories of humanity’s rejection of God’s love are found. Even after God made His covenant with Abraham, and made His promise to Noah, and freed the Israelites from slavery through Moses, humanity continued to reject love. Time after time, example after example, God showed love and humanity took it when it suited them and rejected it when they felt like it. Prophet after prophet shared God’s call to return to Him and His promise of love and, inevitably, the stories came to the same end.
Sadly, rejection almost always meant that, in place of God’s love and salvation, sin was chosen. At the root we can see sin as the denial of love, denial of God’s love, and denial of our love for others. Finally, God sent His one and only Son to share His message of love. Jesus Christ came into this world to free us from our sin, reunite us with God’s love and to example for us how to love without limits. Christ came to fulfill scripture and bring us back to our Father… and humanity rejected Him too.
Left for dead. On a cross. On a hill.
There he died according to God’s will.
All for the purpose of bringing us back to Him.
That is true love that freed us from sin.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all like Peter. Peter followed Jesus and said He believed in Him. He said he loved Jesus and he too rejected Him. For the world who does not know Christ or accept Him, God’s love means nothing to them. We, as believers, know different yet we act like Peter. We are all prepared to say the right things when we feel safe. We show up every Sunday with a big smile on our faces so that everyone sees that we have it all together. We can recite prayers and quote verses to other believers because there is no danger in that.
Yet, we sin. Still we reject.
Our sin rejects God’s love and that pushes us further away from His purity and grace. We end up so far away that we may not see or feel or be God’s love in this world. Even after sending us Jesus, we reject Him. Even as believers, we reject Him when we do not go out and love as God loved us. We are called to be God’s light in this dark world and there is no greater example of God’s love than His son Jesus. Christ gave of Himself for others. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He uplifted the poor. He justified the broken and rejected… all for the purpose of God’s will. He suffered taunts, accusations, threats, mockery, and violence repeatedly. He even accepted death as an act of love. All for the purpose of freeing us from sin and showing us the way back to God’s love.
Much of humanity rejects God’s love because we can’t understand it. Our sinful nature makes it very difficult to do otherwise. As believers, we fall into a false sense of security about God’s love. Yes, God loves us and nothing can change that. God’s grace is a gift and there is nothing we can do to earn it. Yes, we believe in Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday and his promised resurrection three days later on Easter Sunday. We affirm these beliefs but we don’t follow through on the actions. We fall short of aligning our hearts and minds to His purpose. We know God’s love yet we are unable to follow Christ’s example and love the world as He loves us.
Even today, many of us treat love as a commodity; something we offer and trade ONLY when it is in our selfish interest. When we are able to love, we keep it to the safety of our inner circle of family and friends. Christ’s messages and actions of salvation, or love, were not intended to be kept inside our inner circles or church pews where we feel safe. We fear rejection and pain. We stick to our busy schedules to avoid being inconvenienced and hide behind our screens to ignore the sadness surrounding us; both our own and those around us. We avoid saying or doing things that may bring God glory to not be taunted or mocked. All of this ignores and rejects God’s purpose in sending us Christ.
Christ died to reconcile us with God, but also to show us the kind of love the Father has for His children, so that we too can love others as He loves us. When we can love and share with our enemies, feed the hungry, give hope to the hopeless, care for the sick, etc. in spite of rejection, taunts, mockery, and violence, for the purpose of showing God’s message of salvation, then we begin to take steps to understand love, to be disciples carrying Christ to others.
Much like Peter, we do not have to be defined by our previous denials or sins, we can accept God’s love, and share it with others. We can allow ourselves to be transformed by the Cross, and boldly go out into the world to spread that love to others. Like Peter we can overcome our sin, we can overcome our past rejection of God’s love, and we too can be builders of the faith and Church in others by loving.
And that is something else. Something different.
Thank You for sending Your son Jesus to save us from our sins.
We are not worthy of Your gift of salvation but You love us in spite of it.
Help us to truly hold in our minds and hearts the example of love that Christ showed us.
Though we may at times reject You, You never turn away from us.
Though we fall short, You are always there.
We pray for Your strength and wisdom to lead us out into the world to share Christ, in our words but more so in our actions, so that they who do not believe may experience your true & pure love and be reconciled with You.
Thank You for calling us to be something else and something different from the rest of the world.
Let us never forget Your promise, of eternal life with you, through Christ.