Thursday, 3 March 2016

To Love as God loves is to Totally and Absolutely Sacrifice One's very Self for Him, Without Apology, Reservation, Regret or Shame

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:7-8)

Love. Everybody loves love. All of us want others to love us, and do not want others to hate us. So, what exactly does it means to love according to the Bible? 

Love is not an emotion, or an affection towards another. Neither is it fondness towards another. One need not 'like' a person to love him or her.  Indeed, a person can dislike a person but still love that person, for love is not about liking the person's character, personality, or mannerisms. Love does not need to manifest in emotions and speech, but rather, in action. Love is made manifest only by actions. It is not actions which are love, but rather the manifestations of love. 

Here is what the Bible says about love:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:1-7). 

What a glorious truth! Love has many characteristics to it, such as patience, kindness, not envying others, not being proud, and forgiving. These characteristics are all manifestations of love. Love is the root of patience, kindness, not envying, not boasting, not being proud, not dishonouring others, not being self-seeking, not being easily angered, forgiveness, a hatred of evil, rejoicing in truth, and the desire to protect, trust, hope and persevere. Love is the root of such things. Such love is the love God has, which is made manifest through the true follower of Christ:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us (1 John 4:7-12).

No where ever does the Bible refer to love as some mushy emotion, fondness or affection, for it is not emotion, fondness or affection. The love which the follower of Christ is commanded to have, and not merely show, but have in one's heart, is the outwardly directed care towards and the desire to serve others, which totally denies one's own self, but absolutely seeks only to serve and care for others. It's willingness to make sacrifices for others is not conditional, and limited like the earthly, worldly love that the world has. Rather, it is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice one can make to serve others, despite not liking agony, pain or suffering it may endure.  

Such agony, pain and suffering are no barriers to genuine love, but rather, love is all the more manifested in persevering through such agony, pain, affliction and suffering. This is in contrasted to worldly love which is not willing to go through such agony, pain, affliction and suffering for others, but rather, is limited to only what one can do out of one's own convenience, and concerned ultimate with what one can gain in return, or what one will not lose.

Genuine true selfless love, which comes only from God is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for a people who are not seeking or desiring it, but rather, hating and rejecting it, because of His great love. Indeed, greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). He sought us before we sought him, and sought us when we hated Him, so that He could reconciled us to Him to make us His friends. As Jesus continues in John 15:14-15, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." 

God, in seeking to reconcile us to God while seeking to reconcile us while we were still sinners, his enemies (Romans 5:8), became a Man, Jesus Christ, so that He can take up the punishment for our sins which we deserved, by suffering and dying for our sins. He had to shed His blood on our behalf so that we may obtain forgiveness from God for "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus persevered in His suffering, agony, affliction and pain, as He was separated from God for the first time, knowing that the wrath of God would be laid upon Him. Psalm 22:1-22 describes the suffering, agony, affliction and pain that Jesus felt, but yet persevered through to pursue a people who hated Him, to reconcile them to Him:

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Despite the ultimate, complete and absolute sacrifice Jesus Christ made in reconciling His enemies to Him, He was willing to persevere through His suffering, affliction, pain and agony:  For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard (Psalm 22:24). Such is the ultimate love of Christ.

Such true genuine love only comes from God. To love demands absolute sacrifice of all of oneself, not partial sacrifice, or an almost total sacrifice, but an absolutely total sacrifice of oneself:

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:34-37)

In Mark 8:34-37, Jesus was not just speaking to His disciples that if they wanted to follow Him they must totally and absolutely deny their own self. He was saying that if anyone wants to follow Him,  they must totally and absolutely deny their own self. He explains what He meant when He said "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" in Mark 8:35-37. What is meant is that anyone who wants to deny himself must be willing to totally and absolutely give up all that he has, wants, and is for Christ and Christ alone. 

To truly love God is to totally deny all of what one desires, wants, aspires or hopes for, to gain Christ. It is to totally and absolutely sacrifice one's very self for Him, and Him alone, without reservation, shame or regret whatsoever.