Loving with your whole heart is not for the faint of heart. Shoot, even the stout-hearted can wrestle with whole-heartedness. It’s vulnerable. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes raw, but it is always sacrificial. So once again, I stand on this ground and open wide to share what I am learning and stumbling through. Truth be told, more stumbling than learning, but I’m giving it a go, you know?
So here’s the latest in my ponderings. Though they may not be popular, they will always be honest.
Love is a command, not a courtesy.
The Pharisees, who were reputed to have great gifts of knowledge and family lineage, asked Jesus a question:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Ouch. I’m guessing they had the “loving yourself” part down just fine. But loving your neighbor…now that is a different story altogether.
First, loving God. Second, loving your neighbor.
You may not like it, and it may, at times, make your skin crawl, but it is what it is. I didn’t say it, He did. So how do you argue with that?
As much as we wrestle with what this looks like and how we flesh it out, it is not negotiable. As believers, it is what we do. It is what marks who we are…or it should.
Love is the greatest gift we can offer another soul, and the only gift that makes all the others hit the mark.
We can pour ourselves out over and over again and we can do it with excellence and commitment. We can dedicate our lives to studying and practicing, sharpening, honing our gifts and talents. We can spend so much time pressing into how to teach a great Bible study, sing a great song, and preach a sermon to rock the house (don’t get me wrong – pursuing excellence is a good thing).
BUT without love, all these things have no power. They become just noise.
“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. 2 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. 3 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.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
I don’t want to live my life in pursuit of something with only a fruit of noise. I don’t want to be, and gain, nothing. I’m guessing you don’t either.
Love creates a space for redemption to multiply. And in God’s math, love wins. Every time.
It did in that garden.
It did on that cross.
It did in that tomb.
Notice, however, that in all those circumstances, the evidence of His great love was only revealed after the suffering. That garden, that cross, and that tomb were incredibly painful – for God, for Jesus, and for those that were doing their best to walk with Him.
The greatest examples of love from our Heavenly Father were accompanied by the greatest examples of loss and suffering.
And as much as I want to deny this potential in my own life and walk with the Lord, truth is, loving well does not mean that I will somehow be exempt from suffering or pain. It is more likely that I will suffer for loving well.
Loving well does not guarantee being loved well in return.
But Jesus never set that standard…I did. Sure, I want to be loved well. We all do. But heaven forbid I live and breathe by the standard of how I am treated. No. I won’t do that. I can’t do that. As a believer, you can’t do that either. Not if you want to live a life with impact.
When I think about the lives of Nate Saint, Elisabeth Elliot, Corrie Ten Boom, and so many others, their testimonies just SHOUT the glory of God. Why? Because they suffered greatly and STILL chose to love the Lord and those who persecuted them. This is what makes their stories different.
This great suffering accompanied by such great, enduring love is what sets these lives apart and gives them a voice that actually speaks into and changes lives.
That’s the kind of life I want to live. Out loud. Wholehearted. Loving my Savior and my neighbor. Don’t you? Let’s choose today to live our lives whole-hearted – holding nothing back from the Lord and from those He has called us to serve.
The song I want to share with you today is not a new one, but it sure is a good one. It’s from Francesca Battistelli entitled, “Choose to Love.” Now THIS is a song I love to listen to and sing out in my car – LOUD!
With joy for the journey,