Rich Stearns, President of World Vision of the United States, writes these words in his book Unfinished: "Simply stated, living in the Kingdom of God means we must try to live as Jesus lived, love what Jesus loved, and obey what Jesus taught." He goes on to say, " Everything Jesus did was an expression of His love for the Father and His love for people. He embodied love as no one else ever has." Rich Stearns writes that Jesus' approach to people can be characterized simply with that one word: love. This has me asking, can the same be said of me?
If I am to try to live as Jesus lived, love as Jesus loved, and obey what Jesus taught, then I need to embody love like He embodied love. Rich Stearns said that everything Jesus did was an expression of His love for the Father...shouldn't it be the same for me and other followers of Christ? Shouldn't everything we say and do be birthed out of our love for God? I confess that I find myself sorely lacking. How about you?
These verses in Matthew may help us find some answers " And He said to him,'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39. In all the times I have read them, I never noticed the divine order to them. Jesus first says to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" then He uses the word SECOND when He goes on to say, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The order leads me to believe that to truly love the way Jesus loved, we must FIRST love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. What does that look like anyway?
The words heart, soul, and mind remind me of the words thoughts, will, and emotions. Are my thoughts, will, and emotions submitted to God? If I truly love God with all of my mind, do the things I think in private show it? If I truly love God with all of my heart, do the feelings I have toward others reveal it? If I truly love God with all of me, with all of my soul, do I want His will to be done or my will to be done? If I truly love God with all of me, won't it be evident by whether or not I am loving my neighbor as myself? Isn't love supposed to be an action word...something tangible?
Jesus' love for others was tangible. He didn't just love with His words. His love resulted in action. His love healed the sick, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and raised the dead to life. His love made people whole. His love made the ultimate sacrifice and went to the cross. His love went to the cross for ALL people, not just His disciples or the easy to get along with people. All of this was born out of His love for the Father. Jesus truly loved God the Father with all of His heart, soul, and mind and out of that came the action of loving His neighbor as himself. Jesus left instructions for us to do the same, " As I have loved you, so must you love one another." John 13:34
This is such a tall order if we truly take into account how Jesus loved! As Rich Stearns said, "He embodied love as no one else ever has." This kind of love requires sacrifice. This kind of love takes action. This kind of love doesn't pick and choose who to love . A person who loves as Jesus loves, loves everyone because they already love God with all of their heart, soul, and mind. They love who He loves and how He loves. A person who loves as Jesus loves chooses to love those they disagree with, find difficult, don't like, and aren't like them as well as those they find easy to love. A person that loves like Jesus loves, loves unconditionally. They choose to see others through God's eyes, knowing His is the only vision that is accurate.
Is anyone else feeling challenged? We have been loved so extravagantly, sacrificially, unconditionally, and intentionally by our Lord. Jesus knew that the best way to love God was to be a concrete form of God's love to others. I want to do the same. Will you join me as I make it my prayer this year to embody His love?