By: Pastor Jarren Rogers
God calls us to love. But sometimes I think we get it all wrong.
We’ve watered love down to something bite-sized and easy to perform. Love has become nothing more than common niceties, merely strolling through life with a smile on your face and a positive attitude. It’s merely waving at your neighbor as they drive by your house or returning the $20 bill that fell out of someone’s wallet in the grocery store. We’ve reduced love to goodwill and kind gestures.
But that’s not enough. It’s never been enough. When it comes to saying hello to the people who live next to you or returning dropped change, in Paul’s words, “do not even the pagans do that?”
If we minimize love to something that everyone–regardless of their religion–can do, then why be a Christian? If God calls us to love as Christ did and love is something that even atheists can embody, then why is Christ and His Spirit necessary.
This maked me believe that the love to which God calls us must be more than we can accomplish on our own. It has to be a grander vision than pagans and atheists can conceive. It cannot just be common courtesy or hospitality. It must be something noticeable. Something earth-shattering. Something radical.
And Christ’s death was just that.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).
Christ’s death presents to us what true love is. It’s not just kindness. It means sacrifice, it means suffering, it means laying ourselves down, it means bearing the burdens that others were meant to carry. Love should cost us something.
Waving at my neighbor and picking up the $20 bill costs me nothing. It doesn’t require sacrifice or suffering. It’s just being nice.
Real and genuine love is so much more:
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (v. 17-18).
John goes straight from the spiritual and connects it to the physical. If you see someone in need and do not feel compassion or the desire to help, then the love of God is not in you!
The love that John is writing about seems like it hurts. It sounds like looking at others–the poor, the homeless, the sick–should break your heart.
Maybe the love of God isn’t just simply being kind. Maybe it’s being broken open like the bread we break at communion–broken open like Christ on the cross–and entering into the suffering we see around us. Maybe love should cost us our comfort, our money, our time, our energy. Maybe love was never meant to be easy or natural. Maybe love isn’t something that everyone can on their own.
Maybe loving with the love of Christ, is only possible if you are filled with His Spirit and poured out into the brokenness around you.
Maybe that’s true love.