How does Jesus love?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… These words by Elizabeth Barret Browning came to mind when I read 1 John 3:18: “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” John encourages us to live God’s commandment, to “believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.” (1 John 13:23) Jesus’ command to love one another goes beyond the “Golden Rule” of “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commands us to love “as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) How does Jesus love? Consider what the Gospels tell us:
Jesus loves by seeing the people he encounters. I recently heard a story of an L.A. gang member who went into a rival gang’s territory with the intent to be killed. He thought that was the only way out of the hell he was living. The rival gang didn’t kill him, but chased him back into his own gang’s territory. As he crossed the border of the territories, a woman stopped him. She told him, “I see what you are doing. You help the people on the street by bringing them water and blankets. You help the elderly neighbors carry their groceries home. Don’t give up on yourself.” He broke down and sobbed. He told her, “I’m so used to being looked at, but I never thought I was being seen.” Jesus doesn’t just look at the people he encounters, he sees them. He looks into their eyes and into the deepest recesses of their hearts. He sees their pain and struggles. Then he calls them out of their suffering and into healing and restoration. When we encounter people, do we look at them or do we see them?
Jesus loves by tending to the needs of the people he encounters. He heals their wounds. He feeds them. He calms their fears. In his parable of the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46), he invites us to love in the same way by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, welcoming the stranger, and caring for the sick. How do we tend to the needs of the people around us?
Jesus loves by sacrificing his own life to bring life to all people. Turning to John again, we hear that Jesus tells his disciples, “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus lays down his life as he is crucified on the cross. His loving sacrifice opened the door to restoration and eternal life for all people. When we lay down our lives and sacrifice ourselves for others, like Jesus, we open doors to restored relationships. Sacrificing ourselves, our desires, our needs, for the good of others is always a life-giving experience. What sacrifices do we make to restore and bring life into our relationships with others?
This week, let us consider how we love as Jesus loves. Let us count the ways.