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Love’s Journey to the Cross – Lent Reflections
Col 3:12-14 NIRV and ERV – Unity in Love
We continue to countdown the days of Lent towards Easter Sunday, as we focus on dying to our selves and living free in Christ, …as we focus on love’s journey to the cross…
Reflect with me…
God calls you and I to difficult things.
…and to put on love, …which holds us all together in perfect unity.
12 God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So put on tender mercy and kindness as if they were your clothes. Don’t be proud. Be gentle and patient. 13 Put up with one another. Don’t be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive others because the Lord forgave you. 14 Together with these things, the most important part of your new life is to love each other. Love is what holds everything together in perfect unity.
…quiet your heart and receive the undeserved gift that God loves you unconditionally no matter what you’ve done. God loves you perfectly and endlessly. And then He calls you to share His love even when it’s tremendously difficult…
Ask God where you need more of His compassion, more kindness, more humility, more gentleness, or patience. Ask Him for His Holy Spirit to give you the boldness to love others.
God, you freely forgive us. Please give us your peace when we face challenging situations and people. Help us to remember the undeserved grace you show us so that we can be humble and treat others with kindness and patience. Help us remember that we are one part of the whole body of Christ, chosen to be your holy people, …for the world to see and be drawn to you and your perfect love. Fill us with your Spirit to give us peace in all that we say and do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
God always takes the initiative in His love relationship with us. The trouble is too many of us miss His constant invitation to a most extraordinary relationship. We begin to philosophize it away, or deny it, or simply call it coincidence when anything good comes our way. It’s like we receive love letters constantly each day but we never get to know the one who sends them. We deny they come from anyone. Dear friends, someone deeply loves you… Sit up, look up, take note that God so desperately loves you. Get passed all the noise of our cultural Christmas, and look to the simple yet extraordinary #Christmas miracle when God came down for you. God is with YOU. Do you see Him in every moment? Look and you will see… You. …Are. …Loved… by a God who is the author of all perfect love. Open the door and receive this love in every way, in every circumstance, in every joy, and every hurt. His love is what turns brokenness into wholeness, ashes into beauty. Life is sweeter when you know the One who sends you His love in every moment of every day. Every relationship, every friendship is sweeter when you build it on His perfect love. Even every moment of loneliness can be a sweeter moment with Him alone, the Creator of the Universe. Look up. Love has come down to you in this moment.
The second half of my sabbatical I asked God the question, “How can I possibly love you in return, Lord?” My thoughts went to the love languages and I asked God what His love language was, and how best I could love Him in return. I was reminded of how He says that to love Him is to obey Him. My mind went to the commandments that He calls us to observe. Yet, when one loves someone, they naturally seek to honor them.
Honoring the commandments is simply pointless when you do not understand the depth of God’s love for you. Our acts become religious law. However, when we honor the commandments out of a deep love for God, and for His sacrifice of His son, our hearts long to honor Him in return. We love Him because He first loved us. This simple truth dug deeper within me.
I again pondered over how, when we grow up to become adults we often make things so utterly complicated. Our minds become overwhelmed by things that we must do in order to be a follower of Christ. We mistakenly find our identity in doing things rather than in being with Jesus. Our minds instead go to doing ministry and doing things for Jesus. Yet, what He asks of us first and foremost are our hearts. If we do things for Him and without love for Him, we are just making noise.
We can easily succumb to noisy selfishness even in ministry. We resort even to doing ministry in order to honor our own name. His name becomes forgotten and in thinking we are doing things in His name, we can fall into the trap of doing things in our name and building our own kingdoms. How does one know when this happens? For one, when ministry leaders become envious of one another, this selfish kingdom building becomes evident. The body of Christ is torn in two, the name of Christ is tarnished. Yet, others will know we are Christians by our love.
Our love for each other only shall flow out of our love for God. If our love flows for each other out of anything but God’s love, it becomes abusive, controlling and manipulative. Our love becomes bondage over others. Perfect love casts out fear and God’s perfect love brings freedom. Yes, the commandments are summed up in two points; love God, love others. Of all the deep and theological truths that one can learn, if one never learns how amazing God’s love is and instead takes it for granted, no theological truth will satisfy. No hearts and minds will ever be transformed. No freedom will ever be gained.
Sabbatical thought…. Do I even know how to love? Does anyone? …besides the Lamb? …Only in His Spirit can we possibly love as we are called to love…. like this…
At my favourite retreat centre, I spent time alone listening and reading and writing today.
Now, I just finished watching two hours of The Bible: Passion and Courage, and I wept uncontrollably. (Holy Week reflection for me is not over…) I was moved to realize just how much we’ve taken for granted, including how much Christ loves us and what he’s called us to do.
I also found myself clutching my Bible realizing how much Paul and John alone went through in order to write and preserve all that we read from them now today.
Now I sit on my resting bench in the afternoon sun trying to process all that I have just seen and felt.
“Jesus, what do you want me to know and do in the time that you’ve put me here?”
I am prompted to pray…
“Jesus, lead me to love as you have loved. Forgive me for my selfishness and pride. I see that I so often love others because they love me first. You, Father, love us regardless of whether we love you!”
If we are more self-conscious than ever, with the ones we “love”, that is not love… but fear. Our ‘love’ is unmasked as a battle in manipulation and power – one person using another to make them feel good, even in a pecking order, or to simply chase away loneliness. True love is… safe,… forgiving… and unrestricted. (And I’m not jumping all the way to romantic love. Apply this to friendship too.) Perfect love is fearless. If you are afraid of someone, you don’t truly love them. And perhaps not yet anyway. It may be because of a wall you have put up, or it may be they are not truly safe to give your love to. It may be you have some questions not yet answered. So ask yourself why you fear them. The answer will help you determine the next step you will need to take. Step forward in trust or step back in self-preservation and boundaries. But, always… pray through it. Putting up walls doesn’t bring peace. Putting up walls brings about war and hostility. Jesus challenges us to break through and face our fellow person without fear and to enter with Him in the fellowship of the weak, knowing that it will not bring destruction but new life and a new world.
(My thoughts after reading Henri Nouwen.)
Matthew 22:36-40 (NIRV)
36 “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the most important commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5) 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18)
In your quest for self-gratification, do you neglect others?
“Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” (Luke 10:27 The Message)
And if you don’t love yourself, ask God to show you how He sees you. Understanding His great love and mercy ignites our love for others – even those who are hard to love.
“Whether you deny Jesus in what you do or don’t do, he forgives and restores you as he did Peter.”
I shared this above with a friend and she replied…
“That was fantastic!!! Thank you for sharing! I love all your ‘Peter’ moments! What an honour to know that you (we) will rise and fall, but that our Father is there EVERY TIME to pick us up, dust us off and praise us, sending us back on course.
You are beloved! Your energy is contagious as it exudes the love of our Father! I LOVE that about you! You share that same twinkle in your eye that your Dad has. Captivating, inviting, loving and spunky! Don’t ever change! I love you, just the way you are!!!”
Wow, I certainly have found a friend who has Christ’s love in her heart. May we all be so blessed. May we be that friend.
May we also know that we can be freaking out one minute, turn to Jesus and He makes us fearless!
A loveless world is a sightless world – it does not see the bigger picture. Sometimes loving others helps open their eyes to see it, and when they don’t see it, we must keep on loving… no matter how hard it is. I fail at this over and over. It’s so much easier to shut out those who are lacking in love but this is not love. Surrender.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” – Matt 9:36