Monday, September 26, 2011

Submit to Love

Our relationship with the Lord is inseparably connected to our relationships with the people around us. I believe it's an Amish saying that, "If you want to know if I'm right with Jesus, ask my neighbor; he'll tell you whether or not I'm right with Jesus."

The Apostle John was one of Jesus's disciples. He spent three years in friendship with Jesus, following him,  learning from him. And then, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he spent decades passing along what Jesus had taught him. Look at what he said:
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:20-21
That's got to be more than just having loving feelings for each other. It's supposed to be seen in our actions -- and not just toward those we have loving feelings for!

Yesterday I had to tell people that to follow the Lord means being willing to suffer insult, loss and hardship for the sake of love.
  • If someone insults you, your instincts will tell you to end the relationship. God says to remain available for relationship. Yes, that also means, remain available to insult.
  • If someone causes you loss, your instincts will be to cling to what you have, to not suffer any more loss than you need to. God says to be generous with them. Yes, that is not an economically sound financial model. 
  • If someone causes you personal hardship, your instincts will be to get away from them as soon as you can. God says to serve them beyond what they are demanding of you.   
Followers of Christ, the bar is being raised. He didn't just bring us into a "safe zone" where life would be easy. He didn't promise ease for our lives, and he didn't promise ease for our relationships. What he did promise is that we would suffer insult, and loss, and hardship. And he promised that we would be able to bear up under it--not just "barely surviving", but radically loving!

Today someone will insult you. It's okay, you already decided to die to your pride, didn't you? Overlook the insult, and look for ways to befriend them. God will help you. (Matthew 5:39)

Today someone will require something costly of you. It's okay. Count the cost, round up, and pay it with a generous heart. Look for a way to bless them with whatever resources God has given you. He will help you. (Matthew 5:40)

Today someone will ask you to do something that's really their responsibility, and it won't be enjoyable for you. It's okay. When you're done doing what they asked of you, ask them, "Is there anything else I can help you with?" Or, if you have opportunity, serve them without them knowing, just because you want to make their life a bit better today. And God will help you. (Matthew 5:41)

If we're followers of Jesus Christ, it will be seen in our relationships. Make sure there is evidence that you are not living by the common "wisdom" that elevates self-protection, self-advancement and self-preservation in your relationships. Don't let your own interests get in the way of your interest in loving others. Willingly yield your interests to others'. Submit to love.

RESOURCE: For more on this, go to "Why Do Things Always Have to Go Your Way!" to watch the service or download the audio podcast (sermon only).