Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. (New International Version)
Love makes the world go round. The cycle of life brings an end to all things. Yet, the permanence of love has always existed, and will never cease to exist. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)
Biblical godly love comes not because we first loved God, but because God first loved us and gave his Son, Jesus Christ, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:7-12)
So, the Christian’s faith and hope are completely grounded in the person and finished work of Jesus. People are so valuable to God that we were purchased from the slavery auction block with the costliest price ever: the precious blood of Jesus.
To know this love of God in Christ, to be thoroughly captured and enraptured by it, results in a profound and deep love for others. And I’m not just referring to a nice touchy-feely love, but also a steadfast love which is committed to love regardless of what another person says or does.
Love is wonderful. But that doesn’t mean its easy. Being on the receiving end of love is a beautiful thing. Giving love, however, can sometimes get dicey.
You see, although we Christians really do believe that everything in life and ministry centers around the grace and love of God in Christ, our boots-on-the-ground loving sometimes seems compromised and conditional. That’s because it’s easy to love those who love us back. Yet, what if our love is not reciprocated or requited?
This situation brings us face-to-face with our own selves. The painful reality is that we all discover that our love is sometimes, maybe oftentimes, dependent on an assurance that we will be loved in return.
There is perhaps no more transcendent and glorious thing than mutual love. However, what happens when only one of the persons is able to give love? What do we do when grace is our only option, when we must choose to love, knowing that love won’t have a response?
Christians everywhere must come to the point of giving the same kind of love that God shows to us in Christ. We need to decide that grace is going to be our lifestyle. It comes down to this: It simply doesn’t matter what condition the other person is in. It doesn’t matter what another is going to say, or not say. Nothing on the other party’s side doesn’t matter. It…just… doesn’t… matter.
What really matters is our own loving another person deeply from the heart, regardless and in spite of everything else. That, my friends, is real Christian love.
Since we are redeemed people; since we have acknowledged the truth of Christ’s redemptive events of crucifixion and resurrection; since we are recipients of God’s great love to us in Jesus; we all must make the decision to live our lives full of grace and love, no matter what. As God’s redeemed people, purchased by the precious blood of Christ, we will love one another unconditionally.
Unfortunately, over time, many Christians slowly become disconnected from this fountain of grace and love. It is likely that, at some past point, they were deeply touched by a gracious encounter with Jesus Christ. They found peace, love, and joy. Minds were swept up in the awe and wonder of God. Hearts were deeply moved for a few hours, days, or weeks.
But then, there was a return to the routine grind of daily existence. Gradually, the demands of work and family took over. Jesus began to be treated like some old friend from another town whom we dearly loved in years past but have just lost track of.
Of course, it was unintentional. We simply allowed circumstances to drift us apart. We became preoccupied with something else. Now, we find ourselves with a low level irritation, frustrated with others and unable to love as we ought. We become what the late author Brennan Manning called “Christian agnostics” – people who do not deny Jesus, but just ignore him.
If your days are trivial and hectic…
If the clock determines what you do…
If you are numb to the news and headlines around you…
If you are all jangled and jittered by life’s circumstances…
If phones and computers and gadgets rule your day…
If there is little room for responding to humanity humanely…
If you have settled into a comfortable piety and a well-fed virtue…
If you have grown complacent and lead a practical life…
Then you need to be touched again by the grace and love of God in Christ by treating Jesus as if he were your very best friend as well as the awesome Son of God.
We are all still here walking on this earth because none of our failures and lack of faith have proved terminal. We are here today because of God’s radical grace.
The forgiveness of God is a gratuitous liberation from guilt and regret. It is an extreme amnesty. Through looking in the mirror, and seeing personal sinfulness, we amazingly end up encountering the merciful love of the redeeming God.
The grace of God says to us, “Hush, child, I don’t need to know where you’ve been or what you’ve been up to; just let me love you.”
When we have experienced that kind of love, we are then finally able to love one another deeply from the heart. It is a new life of love, the kind of love that comes from God – an unconditional love that is permanent and will never go away – it is imperishable.
Therefore, as Christians loved by Christ and belonging to God:
- We will not just show love when we are assured that we will be loved in return.
- We will not just wait for others to show love to us first.
- We will not expect to reach some higher level of knowledge or spirituality in order to be gracious and loving.
- We will simply love with the love given to us by Jesus.
- We will love with a gracious, sacrificial, vulnerable, and desperate kind of love.
It is the kind of love that is like the waiting room in a hospital burn unit. Many years ago, I spent some time with a person in such a waiting room after her brother had been severely burned in a farm accident. In the waiting room we were all strangers. Yet, there was a loving vulnerability to our being together. I sat watching and waiting with anguished people, listening to their urgent questions: Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again even she survives? How do you live without your companion of thirty years?
The burn unit waiting room is different from any other place in the world. And the people who wait are different. They can’t do enough for each other. No one is rude. The distinctions of race and class melt away. Each person pulls for everyone else. Vanity and pretense vanish. No one is embarrassed about crying or asking tough questions. In that moment their whole world is focused on the doctor’s next report. If only it will show improvement.
Everyone intuitively knows that loving someone else is what life is all about.
By God’s amazing grace we will all learn to live like that without having to learn it the hard way in a place of intense anxiety and suffering.
Christ’s resurrection is not some flash-in-a-pan – it has staying power – it is real and permanent. Christ is the Christian’s hope of living a new life of gracious unconditional love.
Jesus actually expects more failure from you than you expect from yourself. And he gives grace. So, all of our failures to love as we ought can be laid before Jesus because there is grace that covers it all – a deep love that forgives, redeems, and makes new.
Hallelujah. Thank you, Jesus.