For the past several years, at the beginning of the year I try to ‘listen for’ a word to meditate on throughout the year; sort of like a theme. 2010 was ‘intentional’. 2011 was ‘hope’. 2012 was ‘obey’ (took me a month to accept that one). 2013 was ‘faith’. For 2014 it was ‘love’.
As a not-so-young, single guy, you better believe this caught my attention. ‘Now we’re getting somewhere!’ I thought. Maybe this would be the year?
Doesn’t look like it. Haha.
As 2014 draws to a close I can safely say that I have a whole new understanding of what it means to love; the lessons I learned wasn’t what I was expecting.
Love is Costly
Jesus told a rich, young ruler that he lacked one thing (Jesus; he needed Jesus). His prescription was to sell everything he had, give it to the poor and to follow Him (and he would have treasure in heaven). Everything?
I’ve never sold everything I owned. I have sold/given away nearly everything I owned once and it was incredibly freeing. That moment when you realize you don’t have any keys because you have nothing to lock up. You start to see your stuff as just stuff and even your money as just money. I think that makes the early Church’s “and they had everything in common” a lot more possible when we look at it this way. We can focus less on whether to tithe before or after tax and just give to our brothers and sisters who are in need.
Love is Irrational
When it comes to the cost of love, it isn’t about math; it isn’t going to add up. Jesus told a story about a man who found a pearl of great price. This guy went home, sold everything he had so he could buy the land the pearl was on. He found a treasure and did whatever it took to get it. Love is a lot like that. It demands a great price.
I’ve done a lot of foolish things because I was in love. I’m still doing a lot of foolish things because I’m in love. I teeter back and forth on what would be ‘wise’ and I think I’ve got a faulty definition of wisdom. I confuse ‘wise’ and ‘rational’. I am not saying love is irrational, except when it is. There is no reason for the God of the universe to love me, and yet, He does.
Love is Demanding
You can’t ‘sometimes’ love someone; you either do or you don’t. How many times do I have to confess to God that I don’t love Him? I fail at love everyday. Every time I doubt Him my unbelief says “I don’t love you”. Love is demanding—it demands perfection.
Quite impossible. But anything less isn’t love. It’s an imitation intended to fool us into thinking we’re doing alright. Our standard for love is the love God has for his children. While we were still stuck in our sinful nature, His perfect love was shown to us by sending his Son to die on a cross to pay for our sins. The ‘reason for the season’ isn’t a cute, little baby born in a manger—His entrance into this world was the solution. The cause for this season we celebrate is our sin. Our ‘helpless estate’ as the hymnist so aptly put it:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!
God’s love for us is so deep, so wide; words fail to describe it. His love is unending. As another hymnist put it:
“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
and every man, a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above,
would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
though stretched from sky to sky.”
When the excitement is gone. When the newness wears off. When your affections aren’t reciprocated. When any reasonable person would give up; walk out. When you just have to wait (and wait). Love endures.