How Can I Love Like YOU, Jesus?
5th of Easter,
Jesus said: “This is My Commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
August of 1980 brought a record string of over 100 degree days to the Midwest and is when I took the two day trip with my new bride to report for my vicarage year. Only the largest U-Haul made was available to move our relatively few belongings, and we had to tow our car behind it with its driveshaft dismantled.
We set out at dawn one morning, and as soon as we hit the highway a refrigerator sized box ominously loomed in the lane ahead of us. Unable to avoid it, the truck mashed the box and its contents into oblivion. We were grateful nothing worse came of it, but soon the sun was beating mercilessly into the non-air-conditioned cab. A cat in a cage on the seat between us looked near death, panting worse than a dog!
The work of packing and loading, and the box incident and unbearable heat were all still very much on my mind as we finally pulled into a motel parking lot late that day. There was no place to park or turn around with that big truck and car in tow. It took over an hour to unhitch the car, push it out of the way by hand, back the truck out and around and back in again to re-hitch the car. All the while, people were pulling in and out all around us. I was extremely irate, and it wasn’t funny that we found a huge truck parking lot right behind the motel!
The next day was no better. The cat resumed its desperate panting, the heat was unbelievable, and then a re-treaded tire on the truck let loose. We rumbled and shook to the rest stop, but a number of phone calls for help yielded no results. Believe me, my temper erupted!
Throughout the trip, actually, I kept venting my irritation on my wife. She was miserable enough anyway, but I had reached a point where I didn’t much care how she was feeling any more. I kept pushing back in my conscience the urge that I was being unfair to her until I could no longer contain the shame of how childishly I was behaving. I finally began to come to my senses, though, thinking, “This is my wife; the woman I love and pledged to love more dearly than anyone else! What’s gotten into me? She’s as miserable as I am and has nothing to do with all these mishaps!”
Back on the road again I confessed my sin to God and apologized to my wife, and soon a sudden rain squall miraculously cooled things off. I discovered that driving a bit more slowly stopped the truck’s shaking, and we pulled into our new home several hours later in high spirits.
Still, for days afterwards, my conscience plagued me with the thought: “HOW CAN I LOVE LIKE YOU, JESUS?” “How can I put down that ‘always there’ urge to place my own convenience and feelings above serving You and loving others? You commanded us to love others as we love ourselves and as You have loved us, but how can we?”
The question has two dimensions: What can empower us to show Christ’s kind of love, and what specific actions will fulfill our Lord’s command?
WHAT CAN EMPOWER US TO LOVE LIKE JESUS
Reaching the point of asking such questions is itself a God given milestone. A problem is recognized, and God is turned to for help. Jesus promised that such humble submission and repentance starts the Angels in Heaven singing! The road is paved for the Gospel to produce its result. The door is opened to not only hear Christ’s command to love one another, but also to hear His assurance that He has loved us!
Consider what a miracle and expression of grace and love it was that Jesus practiced what He preached to the very farthest extreme! He didn’t lay down His life to manipulate anyone or merely to be memorialized. It was a deliberate, committed, calculated action submitting to a slow, humiliating, torturous death on a Cross of wood, whereby He not only gave up His physical life but ALONE suffered the absolute abandonment of our Heavenly Father to pay the eternal sum of all God’s wrath at our sin! He did everything out of true love for you and me, and His own love is the source of power for ours therefore.
A Sunday Schoolteacher, trying to dispel her students’ fear of the dark, encouraged them that Jesus is present everywhere and all the time. After many quotes about the security we have in Jesus, a student objected and claimed that there’s somewhere Jesus is NOT. “He’s not in His grave, teacher; He’s risen!” You see Jesus has loved us, both dying and rising for our sakes!
His death and resurrection themselves are sufficient grace from God to enable our reciprocation and brotherly love, but Christ’s Word also binds important promises to what He has done for us. St. Paul wrote: “My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Jesus Christ,” and “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” Scripture also gives us these invitations: ”Let us with confidence draw near to the Throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need!” “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.” No Christian believer can truthfully claim to lack anything in regards to being empowered to love like Jesus. His death and resurrection and also promised Holy Spirit are all assurances that we can begin to love others as He first loved us.
THINGS WE CAN DO TO REFLECT CHRIST’S LOVE
CONFESS OUR LIMITATIONS
What can we do to reflect the kind of love Jesus has shown to us? The first step is to confess our limitations. Of course it seems easier to place conditions on our love. It’s easier to love a giggly baby than a screaming one, or to love a student that excels over one who always has to serve detentions. It’s easier to act warmly with the spouse who still seems fresh after a rat race day than one who always complains about it all. We want to put such selectivity behind us, but in real life we just too often don’t! We need to confess our limitations to God and retrace our steps to realize again Christ’s prior love for us. I have long suspected that the prayer God honors above all others (almost) is the one of a parent with a demon possessed son: “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.”
LOOK TO CHRIST’S EXAMPLE
To love completely like Jesus is beyond our capability, given our sinful natures, but we can at least look to His example. Dying for the sins of the world is obviously beyond any of us since we can’t really even pay for our own sins, but we can get a pretty good picture from the hours and events preceding Christ’s own death(!): Jesus humbly washed His disciple’s feet. He sought no revenge against those who put Him to death, but prayed that we all may be forgiven. He prayed for our salvation before that, even, at Gethsemane. He restored Peter even after his horrendous denials. Knowing everything that would happen to Him, Jesus still called His unfaithful disciples His friends! Jesus set the example of humbly serving and forgiving those who let Him die.
HEED SCRIPTURE’S TEACHINGS
It’s in view of His love that Scripture teaches us: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...” “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
It wasn’t easy for Jesus just because He is God to go to the Cross, or to allow Judas and His disciples to betray and forsake Him, or to “set His face toward Jerusalem” knowing all that would take place. Out of LOVE for US Jesus undertook the hardest task ever accomplished! The power for you and me to love like Him isn’t found merely in our own struggles to perform, but is found in HIS first loving us to the death, and rising and ascending to glory on our behalf! It’s found in His whole earthly purpose being to forgive and not count our trespasses against us! If that doesn’t inspire in us all kinds of ways to forgive, love and care for other, then nothing ever will. Amen.