Monday, August 18, 2014

Disciples will love

This post is part of a series on what disciples of Jesus will look like.

12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14

Anyone who has spent any time in the Bible at all knows that love is a popular topic. Famous verses on the topic include John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:16, John 13:35 and of course 1 Corinthians 13. I wrote a series about this passage last year. But when I think about following Jesus Christ as a disciple in the area of love, or what it means to love like Christ loved, John 15:13 is at the top of my list.

I so enjoy gaining new insight when I study the Word, especially from passages I consider familiar. And in gathering my thoughts for this post, as is my custom when studying the Word, I pulled up the context for John 15:13 to see the broader thoughts surrounding this famous verse. What I noticed that I had not really seen before is that verse 12 frames an entire line of teaching that Jesus is giving to His disciples, stating that He is commanding them to not only love one another, but to do so specifically as He has loved them. And the way He loved them, and us, is summed up in one simple yet potent word: sacrifice.

To be honest, the topic of love is really hard for me, not in understanding it from the Word, but in applying that understanding in everyday life. In one sense, I feel like I have it down. Every time I try to encourage my brothers and sisters to greater Christ-likeness, I am doing so motivated by a deep love for each of them that really can only be explained as coming from God. And no matter how many times I am rebuffed for whatever reason, despite the pain and frustration that usually causes me, I continue to persist in hope that the next time with the next person will be different. That is a sacrifice for me, as it would be so much easier to give up and just leave people alone. But every once in a while, my hope is rewarded, and I find no greater joy in my walk with God than those times when I can help my brothers and sisters take a step further down the path of becoming like Christ.

But from another perspective, I don't understand how to love people at all. As I wrote earlier, I have only just recently begun to realize that my complete lack of insecurity about myself and my total, unwavering trust in God seems to be the exception, not the rule. Like a broken arm or bruised rib, touching the wounded parts of people's lives to exhort them on in their walk with Christ requires extreme gentleness, a level of gentleness that is almost unimaginable to me. And like a gorilla trying to care for a wounded butterfly, more often than not what I leave behind is broken wings and fractured souls. I cannot even begin to express how much anguish I have felt over knowing the pain that I have caused so many people.

But still I persist, trying to learn from every interaction, failed or otherwise, believing that God will complete the good work He has started in me, that one day the love He has placed in my heart for my brothers and sisters will not be overshadowed by my clumsy, fat gorilla hands.

I imagine that those who read this have experienced times of being called to love when it's not easy. When you face those times, look to the example of Jesus. With every lash of the whip, every thorn in His brow, every clang of the nail, every labored breath on the cross, and every sin He took upon His sinless body, He was literally screaming I LOVE YOU! No hardship any of us face in loving those around us can even begin to compare to what He went through.

Disciples will love, even when it hurts, because that's what Jesus did.

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!
Romans 5:8