Really loving?

A few years ago there was a bumper sticker with this sentiment- “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty!” Jesus has a much better idea. He calls on all of us who have been invested in by His love, to be deliberately and consciously loving, in a calculated attempt to share His beauty with our world! We are not to love because a sense of duty. We are to generously love others because “He loved us first.” We are told that when we experience Jesus’ love; we will forget ourselves and serve others with delight. “Do this,” Jesus says, “and you will find a new, rich life!” Paradox? No, not really. It is a spiritual principle of reward. “Lose your life for My sake,” He said, “and you will find it.” I thought I knew what that meant, until the Holy Spirit took me to the school of character again this week.

Betty (not her real name!) has lots of problems – health, marriage, financial, emotional – and probably others of which I am not presently aware. She calls the church office frequently, mostly because she is lonely, but always with a request. Sometimes she wants me to go and buy something she needs ‘right now.’ Sometimes she wants me to pick up a prescription. She often asks for groceries or wants me to arrange a ride for her to the doctor’s office. Wednesday she called and asked me to go to the drugstore and get medical supplies for her that were, as usual, an ’emergency’ need. Betty is oblivious to the fact that I might have any other responsibilities or prior commitments. I’d like to be able to report that I am so full of the love of Jesus that I always respond to her calls without complaint, but that would not be the truth. Yes, this week I made time to run the errand for her, but with much inner grumbling and some anger, which I expressed to no one but myself in my car on the way to her apartment to drop off her prescription.

Someone was listening to me blow off steam. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “What if she were your daughter? What if she were rich and/or beautiful and/or famous? Would you resent doing this small act of kindness? Would you expect thanks in that case or would you consider it a privilege to serve her?” The justifiable shame I felt literally made me redden with embarrassment. A new realization flooded my mind and heart. Betty is God’s daughter and, despite her limitations, is a person of incredible worth for whom Christ died. Was I so self-important that I would resent spending a few dollars and 20 minutes of my time to take her some things she needed? My internal dialogue took a whole new tone; first of repentance, and then of petition for the love of Jesus to be renewed in me. A few moments later, I stood at her doorway, listening to her whiny complaints – but different in attitude – really caring for her, praying for her, treating her with dignity produced by genuine Christ-like love.

Who tests your love? A lazy co-worker? That teenager in your household? A supervisor who is overly demanding? A neighbor who lets his dog run all over your yard? That beggar who bothers you in the train station? How difficult would be it to love them if you started to see them as a brother or sister, as a person of worth for whom Christ died? Words about love are quick to come to our lips. Songs of love are so easily sung. Genuine love serves people, not with condescension, but in a way that gives them dignity and respect. Love causes us to give up our ‘rights’ even when we are misunderstood or misused. Love refuses to take note of unkind words, causes us to extend ourselves to meet the needs of another even when it is inconvenient.

How do I know that? Because, our model for love is Jesus; and that’s what Jesus did for me… and you. He left the Throne Room of Heaven to become one of Nazareth’s common laborers, in a time when labor was back-breaking, without vacations or fringe benefits, or even aspirin to ease the muscle aches. Why? For love’s sake alone! Hebrews says He became a full participant in this world so that He could our Priestly Intercessor – One who “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do.” (Hebrews 4:15, NLT) He embraced people who hated Him. He died ‘while we were still sinners!’

Friend, I offer you my story about Betty, with an invitation to join the ranks of Heaven’s Brigade of Loving Servants! You and I can change our world for Christ Jesus, not with clever use of technology, nor with techniques of psychological manipulation – but with expressions of sacrificial love.

Be encouraged to love with this promise made by our loving Lord.”

Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’

Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ ” (Matthew 25:32-40, The Message)

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