Friday, February 23, 2007

Love Him Back

I would think that as soon as someone says "February" we think of Valentine's Day. That may cause us to think of our sweethearts or be sad because we don't have one! Romance is nice. I certainly enjoy being married and cannot get enough of spending time with my wife. We have been together, either dating or married, for over ten years and I still love being with her.

Love from people often comes with strings attached. Whether we mean to or not, we usually want something in return for our love. We want special favor, kindness, and attention. We want excitement! We want flowers and candy; poetry and songs! Even love between parents and kids is often loaded with expectations. Kids want parents to let them do whatever they want. Parents want kids to obey and stay out of trouble.

God's love is different. The expectations people place on each other does not mean that the love is not real; they just mean that the love is not as pure as God's love. God's love comes with no strings attached. He loved us before we ever knew about Him. He loved us while we were still lost in our sin (Romans 5:8). God loves us when we are whiny, selfish, or unkind. God even loves us when we are unfaithful...He keeps loving us and keeps waiting for us to come back to Him. What jilted boyfriend or girlfriend does that? God even loves us when we ignore Him. God's love is true and absolutely free to us

When Jesus came onto the scene He revolutionized everyone's views about love. In Matthew 5 Jesus talked quite a bit about love. He said "Love those who hate you and do bad things to you." That was a strange thing to say! Those people had been taught that it was an "eye for an eye." Jesus told them not to worry about revenge; love in spite of how others treat you. That was a love revolution! He'd say the same thing to us today. Jesus even said that if we only love the people that love us we have nothing over the lost sinner (Matthew 5:46).

Jesus made some other very strong statements concerning love. He said that if we really love Him we will prove it by our obedience (John 14:5). He also said that that we must truly love one another if we claim we love Him; disciples of Christ prove they are His when they love one another (John 13:35). As a matter of fact, Jesus said "I am giving you a new commandment: love each other" (John 13:34a - NLT). That was NOT a suggestion! In that same verse Jesus said "Just as I have loved you, you should love each other" (John 13:34b - NLT). How did He love us? You've got it...He gave His life on the cross for us! He was talking about that very thing when He said "I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you" (John 15:12 - NLT). Next, Jesus said that the greatest way to prove our love for another is to lay down our life for them (John 15:13). For Jesus that meant that He would die on the cross. Seldom is that measure required of us. What we are challenged to do is to lay down our selfishness and put others before ourselves. The list could go on of the ways Jesus challenged us to think about love.

Perhaps the greatest revolution was of the heart and mind. Jesus said “'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind'” (Matthew 22:37 - NLT). What was so wild about this was that He challenged us to encounter God with our whole self. He challenged us to lay down our ritual and religion and get personal with the God of the universe.

I think it a very natural response to how deeply God loves us…to love Him back. Human love is fickle and finicky, but it’s still good. Love between people is wonderfully beautiful, but it cannot be compared in fervor, degree, or devotion to the everlasting love of God. God loved you and I so much that He gave is only Son to make a way for us to experience Him fully again. What will we do in response?

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