There once lived a man whose name, earthly speaking, was Jesus.
Spiritually speaking, His name was Love.
Long ago, in the darkness of a distant age, Love looked far into the future. He went to His Father and said, "There is no other way. I will go to them. I will become one of them, and I will die for them."
In that time, before the foundations of the earth, Love was slain because of us.
Many years later, when His now-human feet felt the pull of gravity and walked on hot Israeli sand, He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
He knew what He was talking about. In spirit He had made the sacrifice long ago. In body He now came to carry it out on earth, and He did. He allowed Himself to be delivered into the cruel hands of men and sacrificed. Even now His sacrifice stands accepted in the heavenlies, and we have only to make it our own in order to receive forgiveness and righteousness.
To us He left His Spirit, that we might live out His law and His legacy of love.
"This is my commandment, that ye love one another."
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one for another."
"Love your neighbour as yourself…"
"Love your enemies, and do good to them that persecute you…"
"Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength."
There are things we must understand about love if we want to follow His footsteps. For one thing, it is not the heady infatuation the world thinks it is. Love is deliberate. It is a choice. True, sometimes the choice is easy to make. A pair of beautiful eyes can coax us into it. A child’s laughter sometimes causes our heart to overflow with it. A mother’s careworn hands inspire it.
At other times, only the Spirit of God can bring it forth. Take Jesus’ command to love our enemies, for example. No one ever "fell" in love with their persecutor. Jesus wasn’t infatuated with the men whose hypocrisy and self-protection sent Him to the cross. His thoughts toward them were less than flowery—"Nest of vipers. White-washed tombs. Den of thieves"—such words are not the stuff of poetry and love letters. Yet He chose to love them. He prayed for their forgiveness on the cross.
Richard Wurmbrand, who endured fourteen years in prison in Communist Rumania, wrote of the choice Jesus made that day, to love His enemies actively and wholly:
When Jesus was on the cross, darkness fell upon Him and on the countryside. Soon an earthquake was to follow. Jesus knew what was about to befall mankind because of His crucifixion. He saw in the darkness and the earthquake signs of God’s judgment similar to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, and through His prayer He aborted the wrath of God. In that convulsion He became a lightning rod for us. God’s wrath struck Him, and we the guilty were saved—all because He prayed.
That prayer was a deliberate choice to love His enemies. It was an expression of the love that carried Him to the cross in the first place—the love that was His nature, His whole soul.
Not only is love deliberate, it is active. When Jesus told us to love our enemies, He also gave us instructions on how to do so:
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Love is not a passive feeling over which we have no control. Love is action and choice. At times everything in us will stand behind the choice. At other times, our whole being will cry out against it. Yet obedience demands that we love no matter how hard or how easy the task. Love is the whole business of our lives as Christians.
What does love look like, practically speaking? It looks like Jesus. It looks like His work. Isaiah 58 beautifully describes a life that is given over to the business of love:
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out into thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.
I have seen this kind of love in action before. I believe in God as I do because I know that His love is working in the world. I have been the hungry one who was fed by His people because they loved; the one who was clothed because they loved; the one who was given a roof over my head because they loved.
What does love look like?
It looks like a hug given to a difficult person because they are lonely and they need it.
It looks like the faithfulness of a mother who gives her life to husband and children.
It looks like laughter when things are going wrong.
It looks like unceasing prayer; for family, and for friends, and for missionaries, and for the lost, and for the hated, and for the outcasts, and for the prisoners, and for the enemy.
It looks like a drink of water to a thirsty man.
It looks like a loaf of bread to a starving child.
It looks like sacrifice.
It looks like hard work.
It looks like patience.
It looks like kindness.
It looks like humility.
It looks like Jesus.
We fear love, as we fear all things that are truly holy and heavenly. We fear it because it makes us vulnerable. It leaves us open to hurt. Of course it does. Isn’t the Christian life about trusting God with all whole lives? Isn’t it about tearing down our hardened walls and letting Him be our protector and judge? When we cease trying to protect ourselves and begin instead to give of ourselves, then we are beginning to walk the path of love.
Love recognizes that it needs others. In God’s Kingdom there is no such thing as a lone wolf. God’s great desire for us is that we might become one—and it is through our union, through our love, that the world will know that we are His. It is through our love that they will believe that our Lord lives and is in us.
Says George MacDonald, “We wrong those near us in being independent of them. God himself would not be happy without his Son. We ought to lean on each other, giving and receiving—not as weaklings but as lovers.”
The world needs lovers now as never before. Jesus Himself prophesied that in the iniquitous last days, the love of many would wax cold (Matthew 24:12). It is for us to keep love strong. It is for us to minister to the hungry, the cold, the outcast, and the lonely. It is for us to minister to our Lord by keeping the cords of love strong in His body.
The Wailing Aztecs, a Canadian folk band, once recorded a song which stated, “We don’t need another love song. All we need is love.”
It is up to us to write a love song with our lives. We cannot do it on our own power—the world is a place of hate and of selfishness, and it will always do its best to beat us down—but the Spirit of Love lives in us.
What does love like?
To the world, it looks like you.
Copyright © 2003 Rachel Starr Thomson. All rights reserved. Excerpted from "Letters to a Samuel Generation: The Collection." Reprinted with permission.
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