One of the most challenging aspects of being a Christ follower is engaging with others. There are times when I would rather find a rock and hide under it or join a monastery. It certainly seems easier.
We all come to Jesus with a lot of junk. It’s always a junk of the sin variety. It could be stuff that has caused us noticeable pain like an addiction to substances, problems with giving or receiving love, greed, lust, etc. Some of us come with less noticeable problems, such as pride, arrogance, selfish ambition, or conceit. Whatever it is though its there and dealing with it is difficult. It’s also difficult for friends or loved ones who take the time to dig into the weeds and help. After all, it would be easier just to ignore the issue and put some distance from it.
This past week some new insights were shared with me while serving on a mission to Mexico and I wanted to take a moment and share them here.
The first is that Jesus gave us a “new” commandment to love each other the way that He loved us (Jn. 13:27). We all know that we are commanded to love God first (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37-39; Mark 12:29-31), but he also commands us to love one another. In John 13:27, he gives us a new command to love the way that He loved.
This is an incredibly tall order! It is a very hard pill to swallow for some of us because there will be a lot of pain involved in choosing that path. Jesus went all the way to the cross and died for those He loved. He suffered ridicule and mockery at the hands of the very people he was there to save and He still endured all the way to His death and resurrection. His kind of love is the most radical, relentless and revolutionary love there is.
As God, He could have chosen so many other paths. Why would he choose the seemingly most painful one? What kind of person gives that sort of love?
The second insight is that being a Christ follower means that we must sacrifice ourselves, take up our own crosses and follow Jesus where he went… all the way to the grave. Are we willing to serve beyond where it hurts all the way to the point of ridicule, mockery and pain to the point of death? Are we willing to give so much to others knowing that they may reject the love that we’ve given?
A few years ago I wrote a blog about Jesus washing Judas’ feet. Jesus was with this man for three years along with the other disciples and he loved Judas, in spite of knowing what Judas was going to do.
I’ve heard stories about the crucifixion all of my life and while I still am amazed that a man could endure such a mockery and beating, I’ve never experienced anything even close to what Jesus did. I can not even begin to truly understand the gravity of that part of His life and what He endured out of love for us. Most of us will never know that kind of suffering, nor be tested to endure that level of commitment or sacrifice.
Paul tells us that:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.1 Co 13:4-7
These families we served live each day dependent on God to provide their needs all the while serving their community with all of the blessings that God provides them. We visited them as short-term missionaries to share Jesus with them, but in many respects, they shared Jesus with us in the way they love. They love with sacrifice and service, but they take up their cross every day risking everything to love the way that Jesus did.
As I contemplated writing this post, I realized that there are some people that are hard to love, but Jesus did not give us an out. He gave us a command. Love can take many forms, and there are some forms of love that are needed for certain special circumstances.
Hypothetically, for instance, if you are trying to love a drug addict by keeping them in your home, you may have issues with things disappearing to pay for the addition. Offering your home up may not be the best thing for them, but it may be the easiest thing to do. Love sometimes involves hard choices that we do not want to make.
Jesus’ kind of love means getting involved in the situation and helping the person find their way. It’s not easy offering this kind of love to a family member or friend, but it can be even more difficult offering it to a stranger. Loving means being vulnerable and exposing our hearts to heart ache. It means we may not receive love back, but may instead receive a lot of grief.
Yet, we are still commanded to love.
How far are you willing follow Jesus on that path and will you take up your cross with Him?