Friday, February 20, 2009

I Love You, I Love You Not

The night was calm with a sweet surrender. The air was cool and the trees swayed gently in the evening breeze. And there in the middle of a little garden surrounded by tiny flowers He knelt. His face tilted toward the heavens, I listened closely as I overheard what sounded to be an agonizing plea, yet a surrender of the will. The tears falling from His face quenched the thirst of the flowers, and the sound of His voice was so sweet that even the birds hushed their singing. What was He praying about? What was the burden that lay so heavy on His heart? I decided right I simply must know as I moved in closer to ask my interruptive questions. I came to a sudden halt when I heard His final cry: “If it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done!” The next thing I knew there were soldiers marching up the path heading straight towards Him. Was He a criminal? I hid myself in the shadow of a large oak tree to avoid being seen anywhere remotely close to this man, or being mistaken as being associated with Him. The jumbled sounds of questions being hurled in His direction sounded like nothing but confusion to me. Then He spoke. “Whom seek ye?” All at once the angry mob shouted “Jesus!” Unmoved, He quietly yet confidently answered, “I am He.” I watched as the mob took Him away and brought Him before a judge called Pontius Pilate. There He was questioned and sent to be flogged, beaten, and scourged. Once the soldiers had finished their task He stood again before the judge. Questioned once more, the judge sentenced Him to be beaten again and then to hang until dead upon a cross on the mountain of Golgotha. But what was His crime? What had He done that had been so wrong – so wrong that He deserved to die for it? I must have been uttering these thoughts out loud, for someone came from behind me and answered my questions. “He’s done nothing to deserve this. He’s perfect; He’s sinless. He’s the Son of God, and this is what He came for – this is the purpose of His coming.” I couldn’t help but ask this person why; His only response was “because He loves us.”

Love? Really? The man has been sentenced to death! How is that “loving us”? Well, what is “love” anyways? Is love just a mere feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a passing idea? No. Love is so much more – so much deeper than the human mind can truly comprehend. One man put it this way: “Love is a verb.” Meaning that love is an action; love gives of itself without holding back. Love is unconditional – no matter the color, the race, the religion, the creed, or the political views. Another man said it like this: “Do not seek to be loved. Seeking to be loved makes love impossible, for such actions are selfish, and love cannot be selfish.” So not only is love unconditional, but it’s selfless. Better yet, what more beautiful and truthful way is there to put it than how it’s already been presented! It’s a familiar text – often recited at weddings, or other such occasions. Love is willing to suffer long, without resentment. Love doesn’t envy, but wants what is best for the other, no matter what it may cost itself. Love does not behave wrongly. Love is not selfish, nor does it seek to satisfy itself. Love is not easily angered. Love thinks no evil. Love does not rejoice in the sin and downfalls of others, but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things. In short, love never fails – it cannot fail. It’s rare; it’s complete; it’s perfect. What does it mean when it says that love “cannot fail”? God claimed that He Himself is love – and God is perfect – therefore love is perfect.

Often we hear people talk about “love at first sight”. I have to ask though, is there such a thing? I understand “like at first sight”, or even just plain and simple “lust” – but love? I don’t think that’s possible. Love is something you go through with someone. It’s a journey – something that takes time to develop. It doesn’t “just happen” overnight.
Love is not words, actions, passion, or intimacy – those are merely the results of love. I am always a bit skeptical when someone tells me they love me because I don’t think they understand what it really means. Of course, there are several types of love – the love a parent has for their child, the love someone has for their friends, the way a woman loves her husband, or the way children love their toys.

So then, let’s get back to the story. Jesus has been sentenced to death even though He’s done absolutely nothing wrong, and somehow all that is supposed to mean that He loves us. Let’s look a little farther down the road. He’s been sentenced to death, and now all of Jerusalem is lining the streets as they watch what barely even resembles a man anymore dragging two wooden beams behind Him as He walks towards a hill where two other criminals already hang. Jesus has already been betrayed, denied, forsook, and left alone by His so-called “friends”. He’s been beaten, mocked, scourged, and falsely accused – and that was nothing compared to what was still to come. Once He reached the top of that hill, He was stretched out on a cross, naked, and had three nails pounded through His flesh to keep His body on that old, rugged cross. The sky darkened and the storm howled while angels watched from heaven awaiting the orders to save Him from His creation; yet the orders never came. He had a purpose to complete. Finally, that moment came as the sins – past, present, and future – of all the world weighed heavy on the shoulders of Jesus; the Heavenly Father turned His back on His only begotten Son because He is too holy, and sin cannot enter the presence of Holiness. “My God, My God! Why Hast Thou forsaken me?” the cry pierced through the air as the thunder rolled. Then with His final breath He spoke, “It is finished!”

So what does it mean? How is this “love”? This is the greatest example of love – true, real love – that there will ever be. Remember, love is unconditional, selfless, sacrificial, unending, undeniable, and perfect. The truth is that because of our sin there is a price to pay. We were created with a free will which allows us to make a choice – either we pay the price for our sin ourselves, or we accept the sacrifice Jesus made in our place. He was our substitute, and paid the price for crimes He had not done. As for me, I know I have never loved someone sacrificially or perfectly. After all, I’m only human.

Thankfully the story doesn’t end there! My God didn’t stay dead! My God conquered death and the grave and won the victory! I know that my Redeemer lives and is ever making intercession for me on the right hand of the Father. I’ve been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb in that all my sins are covered by His sacrifice and by His love.

See, love isn’t just a feeling. Love isn’t a mere emotion or some idea thought up by humans. Love is so much more than that; it is so deep that we cannot completely and fully understand it. Love was planned by God to be something so wonderful for us, yet so often we misuse those three little words. We lack true understanding in this area. I often wonder how different our world would be when people tell others that they “love” them, if they really meant it. Would they do anything for that person? Would they give anything for that person – even if it meant sacrificing their own life? People like that are few and far between. I’m glad I know one person who knows what it truly means to love me. He gave everything He had to come to love me!

© Heather Vires 2008, all rights reserved.

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~ Heather ♥

I am Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice! I am intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive. I have a good head on my shoulders, and oftentimes find myself the lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness. I take great pleasure in many things. I am proficient in nearly all of them, though I will never own it. Lest I seem too perfect, I have a tendency toward prejudgement that serves me very ill indeed.

I am Elizabeth Bennet!