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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Love, Love, Love

I just read Alexander Strauch's book, "Love or Die". It was an excellent little book on the necessity of being a people marked by love. I am now reading through Sam Storm's book, "A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ: 100 Meditations on 2 Corinthians". This is from the introduction:

"Who was this man (the apostle Paul)? What made him tick? Why did he make the painful choices we read in the New Testament? People who have tracked his missionary journeys and struggled to comprehend his many letters long to get inside his head and peer ino his heart. What were his motives? How did he perseere in the face of unending hardship and excruciating persecution? What accounts for his unyielding commitment to Christ and his love for the many churches he established? What empowered him to endure hte slander of those he served and to sacrifice himself for people who repaid his devotion with disdain and conempt? One might think such experiences would compel Paul to withdraw within himself, to retreat relationally, to close off his heart and take whatever steps necessary to guard his wounded soul from further damage..." p. 11-12
The same observation, but in greater dimensions, could be made about Jesus--who willingly and knowingly left His throne in perfect fellowship, unity, and love with the Father--to love, serve, and die for His own creation who spat upon Him.

A quote attributed to Mother Theresa is "I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love."

I long to love like this! I know my love is immature because the woundedness and brokenness in my relationships (even when my own sin is the direct cause or a contributing cause of the woundedness and brokenness) still leaves me reeling sometimes, still makes me a little gun-shy to re-engage sometimes, and even still tempts me to bitterness sometimes. But I long to love like Jesus does. I long to love in a way that is truly sacrificial, that truly considers others more significant than myself, and that looks to the interest of others---in marriage, in family, and in friendships. I long to love in such a way that I would truly be rooted in God's love Himself--the love between the Father and Son by the Spirit, the love God has showered on me, and the love that God has for each person I ever encounter. I long to be satisfied in God's love—to be rooted and planted there in the love that does not disappoint and is always bigger than I can imagine, so that I would never need to look for security elsewhere and yet also so that I could receive God's love for me given to me through my husband, family, and friends. I long to love with a heart that is tender--not calloused, not hardened, and not impenetrable. I long to love with a heart that is sincere, genuine, compassionate, and empathetic… with a heart that listens and acts. I long to love with a heart that puts God first—that always seeks to be filled up with God before seeking to pour out to others.

Here is a quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Four Loves”:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
I think this is part of what 1 John is referring to: 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Real love takes risks because we know that we have all we need in Christ’s love for us. Whatever we risk cannot overshadow what we have gained in God’s love for all of us. The more we are rooted in this truth, the less fear we need have, and the more sacrificial risks we may take in loving other sinners like ourselves.

What about you? How do you long to grow in love? Are you rooted in God’s love? Do you know what that means? Do you believe in God’s love (for you, for others?)? How do you root yourself in God’s love? Are you paralyzed or gun-shy, even a little bit, by a broken or damaged heart—by the wounds you have endured by those who have sinned against you or against those you have loved? Do you protect yourself through loving acts of service directed towards others, while erecting impenetrable walls to keep others from hurting (and loving) you? Do you distract yourself with other things (worldly things or not) to keep yourself from getting to close to others or to keep them from getting too close to you? Do you focus more on how others love (or don’t love) you, rather than on how you can love others? How do you love the unlovable, the undesirable, the annoying, the nobodies, the people who can’t give you anything in return, and even your enemies? Do you want to love like this, but don’t know how to conjure up this kind of love? (If so, don’t worry—you CANT conjure this love up—it comes from God, from being filled with His Spirit by seeking Him in prayer, in the Word, in fellowship, in worshipful song, etc.)

If you are in the same position in which I am finding myself (wanting to love like Christ), I’ll end with some verses we could meditate on together:
Ephesians 3:14-21 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

1 John 4:7-21 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

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