We could spend our entire life on ourselves and give nothing, no thought whatsoever, to anybody else’s needs … and stay busy for the rest of our life. The only problem is that doesn’t fit who you and I are. We are sons and daughters of the living God, and we’re to encourage each other, bear each other’s burdens, help each other—whatever it takes—because we’re to be loving, caring, sensitive people.
—Charles F. Stanley, “The Consequences of Being Spiritually Shortsighted”
Love is easier when I get to set the terms. If my wife is making dinner, I’ll happily retrieve a large pan from the basement. But if she asks me to make a second trip, I’m quick to groan. Or when it comes to friends, I’ve helped many of them move. Yet, if that day is already blocked on my calendar, am I really “Sorry to miss” because I’m out of town?
When I look at my life, I see choices made to protect my comfort, fence in my solitude, and promote pleasure over sacrifice. But Scripture tells us that love is patient and kind, not jealous or proud or arrogant. It does not seek its own benefit, is not provoked, and does not keep an account of wrong suffered. Love keeps every confidence, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:1-13).
Furthermore, Christ tells us to “love one another; just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Stepping out of glory, He subjected Himself to hunger, sweaty labor, His earthly parents; to all manner of temptation, insults, torture, and death. And He did so to demonstrate His love for us. Jesus laid down His life, and so “we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). He lived to love, and I must do the same.
Most days these standards seem out of reach, and I feel incapable of matching Jesus’ perfect example. But we are not without hope. We are given the power to love as we look only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of our faith.
These are high standards. They call me to never share the details of a private conversation with a third person. I’m to keep believing in that colleague who regularly disappoints—and to abide that couple sitting in front of us at church who fidget and whisper while I’m trying to worship. It also means I’m not provoked or frustrated when my wife reminds me to clean the hall bathroom before my daughters’ friends come for the weekend (a thing I just responded to poorly). Most days these standards seem out of reach, and I feel incapable of matching Jesus’ perfect example.
But we are not without hope. Just as the disciples relied on Christ’s power to dispel demons, and Stephen gained courage in the face of death, and Paul found strength for his thorn, we are given the power to love as we look only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of our faith (Eph. 3:20; Heb. 12:2). Scripture tells of whole congregations that demonstrated uncommon love. The Book of Acts describes believers who “were of one heart and soul”—so generous and sacrificial that “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:32-35). In Jesus, I can turn from my own comfort, accomplishment, and pleasure to His power to love as He loved.
Yes, this love isn’t easy, nor is it normal. But consider the difference it makes as we develop a lifestyle of laying down the best of ourselves for others. As we serve godly love to those around us, may it encourage others to do the same, so that together, God’s transformative love is volleyed all around.