“We love because he first loved us…”
1 John 4:19
A friend just told me a story about a guy who insulted him in public – cussed him out while he was stopped at a traffic light. My friend was probably in the wrong and probably had cut the guy off. Instead of apologizing, he pretended to be someone he wasn’t and wound up intimidating the guy with deceit.
Our eyes, ears, interpretations, and feelings can easily deceive us. When we respond only to them, we stand in the seat of Jonah the Prophet. Jonah was clearly a passive-aggressive exploder – the kind of person you and I probably find impossible to love. When confronted verbally, he often responded non-verbally with avoidance. When confronted more severely, he cranks up the pity-party music and deflects with suicidal ideation. “Throw me overboard… I’m the reason everything is miserable and I’d rather die than carry out my assignment.”
This deep seated self focus makes it impossible for us to love or be loved – giving love is a selfless act and receiving love demands humility or it quickly devolves into a gift giving contest where one party tries to “pay back” the love. That’s not love at all… it’s false humility.
Cristine and I had one of the most extravagant dates ever on Saturday night at a restaurant we’d never have eaten at were it not for the gift card that got us there. We felt like the Beverly Hillbillies as the valet parked our Toyota minivan between a 4 door Porsche and a $100K+ Mercedes. We were so wrapped up in the extravagance that we almost missed the meaning:
Christ loves us extravagantly. Not because of what we have done, but because we are His. So much so, that one day He will sing over us with rejoicing – see Zeph. 3:17. It’s unconditional love and while the meal we had was outrageously delicious and refined, it’s nothing compared to what we’ll taste in heaven.
I shared my friend’s story with her as we ate, not knowing what we were in store for later. We drove to a nearby outdoor mall for a walk under the stars in the unseasonably warm evening. Pulling into the parking lot, a pedestrian raged at me:
“Hey, d!c#! Don’t you know how to F&$ing stop?!”
Wounded heart? I mean, who would publicly spout that much venom if they weren’t deeply wounded, and likely lost, separate from the love of Christ?
Thank God for my friend’s story. I could have pulled a Jonah and yelled back at the guy to protect my honor… Yet, like Jonah, I knew I was in the wrong and God was far more concerned with the soul of that man than with my dented pride or Jonah’s comfort (see Jonah 4:9-11).
Wish I could say I got out of the van, humbled myself before the guy, shared the gospel and brought him to salvation in Christ… But, that just wasn’t on the agenda. He was too busy staring the van down all the way to when I parked and aiming one, singular finger at my face as he walked to his destination.
What’s important is that God got through to me –
“Don’t get so caught up with the glitz and comfort of the things that are here today and gone the next… let your heart be broken for those who are far from me and far from each other. Don’t get so caught up in what others do to “not” deserve love that you forget to love them like I loved you when you were dead in your sin. That guy was created in my image and I love him, too. I will sing over him with rejoicing someday. The world has taught you well to love those who love you and are kind to you. But, I am the Lord and I challenge you to love them, bless them, pray for them even when they curse you (twice in the same breath).”
I can love a God who would pick me up out of the mud I made and stuck myself in. In His honor, how can I not love a few people who throw mud at me?
Love without expectation of anything but cursing in return. If you get better than that, it is a blessing. If not, you will be blessed at the judgment seat as one who overcomes.
Give ’em heaven.