Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 5: Real love??

Doomsday Preppers:  an Advent devotional

Day 5:  Real love???

How many times have you heard the phrase, "You don't have to like the person, but you do have to love them"?

Did you ever think about what exactly that looks like?  If you are like me, I'm guessing the answer is not really.  

I have always assumed that if I tolerated a person and didn't want them to die or have something horrible happen to them, then I was doing my duty as a Christian of loving everyone.  Maybe I'm unique in that assumption, but based on the way people talk about the difficult people in their lives, I'm thinking that if they are honest with themselves, their thinking isn't too far from mine.  Just force yourself to kind of be nice to the person if you have to be, and that should be enough.

And while, yes, there is a certain amount of love in leaving people alone and not starting a fight with them, Christians are called to far more than this.

In John 13:34, Jesus commands, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  Is Jesus' love for us defined by just tolerating us and not wishing death or destruction on us?  No.  Jesus' love for us is that of service, sacrifice and humility.  As He has loved us, we must love each other.

Christ went to the Cross for us.  He took on our sin, all of it and for all eternity.  He spent a day in Hell and over came the death that we deserved.  That example of love is a lot more than just tolerating us and wishing us well.

Moreover, in Luke 6:27-35, Jesus teaches, "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."

In other words, it's great that you love people who you like and who love you back, but if God is to reward you greatly, you need to love those who hate you as much or more than those that love you. 

So if tolerating someone and not picking a fight with them doesn't cut it, then what does love look like?  We must serve those that hate us.  Mow their grass.  Bake them cookies.  Compliment them.  Look for ways to bless them.  Then we must sacrifice for them.  Give up something precious, whether it's time, money, status, or whatever, and give it to them until the sacrifice begins to hurt.  Lastly, humble yourself before them.  Elevate them above yourself.  Allow them to win arguments, turn the other cheek when they hurt you, and let them have their way.  In this way you are acting in love, whether you feel like it or not.

This Christmas, take stock and evaluate your relationships.  How many of those people are you really loving?

Activity:  Think of one person in your life that is "difficult".  Spend this day lifting this person up.  Pray for them.  Serve them.  Compliment them.  If you need to, say "I'm sorry" or "You're right".  Humble yourselves before them.  Focus on showing God's love to the person as if this were the only time they were going to see God's love.  How do you feel about the person now that you have served them all day?

Prayer:  Pray that God sends you someone who needs to see God's love first hand.  Pray that you are not satisfied by just simply tolerating the person, but that He creates a deep longing inside of you to serve them and love them.  

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