What does it mean to love? Is it baking a cake for a new neighbor? Is it treating an ornery waitress with exuberant cheer? Possibly. But has anyone else stopped to wonder if our vain attempts at love are drawing people to Christ?
It seems like there have been many discussions on the topic of love lately. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Love the sinner. Even nonbelievers are quick to shout, “God is love!” when Christians disagree with them on an issue. Now, I am in no way saying that love is not important; after all, it is a command given to us by Jesus. But honestly, there are times when I don’t even know what “love” is supposed to look like. The American culture has adulterated loved and has often turned it into something akin to a dancing cupid or a “Kumbayah” sing-along. Romance movies have condensed love into some kind of awe-inspiring, one-liner: “You had me at ‘Hello’,” for example. Commercials have turned it into an object of desire only fulfilled by the mass accumulation of material things.
It would be surprising if we did not confuse it.
Recently, I attended a Bible study centered around Kelly Minter’s book, Ruth: Loss, Love, and Legacy. In the book, she brings to light the fact that Ruth’s position was less than that of a servant girl. As I went through the study, questions began filtering through my mind until this thought occurred to me: Maybe it’s humility (not love, necessarily) that has the potential to change the world.
I don’t know about you, but I have often prayed, “Lord, help me to be more like Jesus,” only to find that I steer clear of the things that are considered “less than” or things that would require me to go out of my way for someone else. And yet, here are some things I noticed when I read Philippians 2:6-8:
• Jesus humbled himself.
• Jesus made himself to be nothing (“of no reputation,” NKJV).
• Jesus took on the nature of a servant.
Honestly, this was not what I thought of when I prayed to be “more like Christ.” These requirements were much more difficult than anything I had ever imagined. All this moved me to ask my next question, “How is this love?”
Almost immediately, I thought of the verse, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NKJV). In verse 12, Jesus commanded his disciples to “love one another,” but in verse 13, He tells them how.
For some reason, I always associated the phrase, “to lay down one’s life” with death, maybe because I knew the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us when He laid down His life on the cross. However, it occurred to me that this is more likely a death of self. What I personally gleaned from this was: “Sacrificing your needs for the needs of some one else, is the greatest act of love.” This is in essence what Philippians 2:3-4 tells us. And in verse 5, it admonishes us to have the same mindset as Christ, which would require that we:
• Humble ourselves
• Become nothing (as in, do not worry about obtaining a name for yourself)
• Take on the nature of a servant
This, then, is love.
I can’t even imagine what the world would look like if we stopped loving people and started serving them. It seems like lately, we have been “loving” people right out of the church. Dare I say that some of our ideas regarding love have become muddled and in some cases, worldly. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see the church try a new approach. Maybe love through humility and sacrifice is the key.
I think I’m going to pray for opportunities to serve others this week without expecting anything (not even a “thank you”) in return. It’s not going to be easy to do something my flesh doesn’t want to do. But if my flesh objects, I’m probably doing something right. Of course, this will require me to cling onto the greatest Servant of all, Jesus.