Sometimes nothing sets you up to suffer more than when you really love someone, especially someone who doesn’t reciprocate your love for them. Last week’s blog dealt with the subject matter of agape love, I want to continue with that same thought. This kind of love describes God because God is agape (1 John 4:8). Love such as this is sacrificial in nature. Rick Renner said, “when you love with this kind of love, it is impossible for you to feel hurt or let down by the response of the recipients of your love.” Love is never about you, and if we have the same attitude in us which was also in Jesus, then we will give our lives away to others just as He did (see Phil. 2:5-8). This particular passage in Philippians has been called “the emptying,” because Jesus “emptied” (kenoo) Himself, taking on the form of a servant, and gave Himself to us (Phil. 2:7). Jesus loved you and me regardless of our willingness to return His love; He was compelled to love us.
Jesus commissioned us to love others in like manner. He said, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Think about that for a moment. He told us to love our enemies! The word “enemies” describes those who are hostile toward God and people; these people oppose us, and they oppose what is right, godly, and decent. Jesus loved people who were incapable of reciprocating His love. They were sinful; they were “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). All of us were in the same condition. We were all filled with sin and incapable of loving God or people with agape. Yet, He loved us anyways, and His love made a way for us to be redeemed from sin. Our call is to demonstrate this exact love to a fallen world, but keep in mind that those whom we love will often be incapable of returning agape love. Moreover, I would argue that even in the Church people have skewed understandings of real love. So when you love someone who persecutes you or love someone who maligns your character or love someone who takes advantage of you, you will suffer because you are giving something away that isn’t being returned. But agape love doesn’t think about “self.” This love enables you to love without being offended or hurt. Like Jesus, you have been emptied of everything and filled with the Holy Spirit. Becoming love, then, is who you are; you are love because you are filled with the essence of God.
Jesus added more insight to this idea of loving others in Luke 6:27 “Do good to those who hate you.” We’re not to retaliate, gossip, complain, or vent our frustration on Facebook; rather, we have been commanded to “do good” to those who hate us. Jesus demonstrated that kind of lifestyle for us: “Taking on the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). Jesus descended lower; He made it possible for you and me to experience the love of God and to be set free from our sin. Our attitude is to be the same (see Phil. 2:5). Our call is to lower ourselves; our call is to go low enough so that it makes it possible for others to experience the love of Christ through us. This is how we touch our world for God. Most people will not listen to a message if the messenger isn’t demonstrating love. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8), especially when we speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
A friend of mine told me about a ministry group that was attacked by natives while conducting a Christian service in a remote part of Africa. Most of the group managed to get to the safety of their vehicles and escape without severe injuries. One person, however, stepped in to take the full brunt of pain so that the others could escape. They beat this person almost senseless. When the police captured the perpetrators they wanted to know if this ministry group would press charges. The group decided not to, but the man who had been beat asked to spend a few moments with the angry mob. His love for his abusers was too much for them to withstand; they were compelled to know the love of God that would enable a persecuted man to extend forgiveness as he did. That sounds a lot like Jesus, doesn’t it?
I have miles to go when it comes to loving people like Jesus does. I’m not sure that I would have responded in the same manner as the man in the story above, but I want to. I want to repent for anything that isn’t like Jesus; I want to empty myself of everything but love. I want the same attitude as Jesus. What about you? Are you compelled by love (2 Cor. 5:14)? If we love others, we will never adjust our attitude based on what people do to us because our attitude has been aligned with Christ’s. Jesus descended into greatness; we only rise higher by going lower, by humbling ourselves and loving others regardless of how we’re treated.
Jesus, love never fails. I repent of everything in me that isn’t like you. I ask that you will cleanse my heart and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Enable me to love; love through me, and touch others with your love. Amen.