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When people are looking for an example of love, they often point to the love a mother has for her child. A mother’s love is a very special, self-sacrificing love. The sacrifice starts even before the child is born, maybe with morning sickness, with the discomfort of having another body growing bigger and bigger inside of you and being kicked from the inside out. Then there is the pain of labor and delivery, but self-sacrificing love is only beginning. There are weeks, maybe months of interrupted sleep for feeding and changing diapers. And it continues even as her child becomes more self-sufficient, as she sacrifices her wants and likes so that she can give her child gifts, make sure they have what they need for school, and get to do fun things like sports and music.
Mothers and children are connected by a very special kind of love; a love that shows itself in self-sacrifice. But as special as the love of a mother for a child is, it’s not perfect. God says through Isaiah, Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
As special as the love of a mother for a child is, God’s love for us is even greater. God’s love for us is perfect. It endures forever.
Jesus says, As the Father has loved me, so also I have loved you. How is it that Jesus has shown his love for us? He didn’t have morning sickness. He didn’t go through labor and delivery. He didn’t get up in the middle of the night to feed us or change our diapers. What did he do to show his love for us?
To fully appreciate what he did we first need to remember that we were not born one of his children. The Bible makes it very clear that we were born children of sin and Satan. We were born his enemy, being trained to despise and hate him the way some in this world are trained to despise and hate those who are not like them. Unlike a mother and her child, he had no natural connection with us, no reason to love us.
In spite of the fact that he had no reason to love us, he chose to love us anyway. He chose to do what is the greatest indication of self-sacrificing love, for he says that there is no greater love than this. He chose to leave the glory of heaven. He chose to take on flesh and blood. All so that he could lay down his life for us. And Paul reminds us again of the situation under which he chose to do this. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. As Jesus says, you did not choose me, but I chose you.
By laying down his life for us he rescued us from a fate worse than death. He redeemed us from the condemnation we deserve. He set us free from the control of sin and Satan. By adopting us as his children he made us heirs of all that is his, all the glories of heaven. It’s all ours, given to us as a gift of his love.
We are connected to Jesus by love, not our love for him, but his love for us. We love because he first loved us.
Jesus now encourages us to remain in his love. He has not adopted us as his children only to lock us in a room, to make us slaves, to rule over us through fear. He has truly set us free. By making us his children he has created a new heart, a new person in us. We are now able to choose to continue to live as his child, or to leave him and go off on our own. He will not force us to remain. He wants us to remain because we are connected to him by love, not because of fear or obligation.
What does remaining in his love look like?
If you tell your parents that you love them, but when they ask you to pick up your toys, or to take out the trash, or mow the lawn, you stomp your food and say “NO!” Will they believe that you love them? If you tell your parents that you love them, but as soon as you think they aren’t looking you do all the things they told you not to do, will they believe that you really love them?
Parents strive to develop a connection of love with their children so that a child will respond when asked to do something with a joyful, “Yes, I’d be glad to!” even when they don’t feel like doing it. They strive to develop a connection of love with their children so that, even when a child knows their parents aren’t around, they will do what they were told because they love their parents so much that they don’t want to disappoint them.
Jesus says that we remain in his love if we hold on to his commands. He says, if you hold on to my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have held on to my Father’s commands and remain in his love. The perfect love that exists between the Father and the Son enabled Jesus to keep all his commandments perfectly, not just for himself, but for us.
There is one command in particular that Jesus emphasizes. He mentions it twice. Love one another. In fact, he mentions a specific way in which he wants us, as those who are connected to him by love, to love others. As I have loved you. Love each other with that same self-sacrificing love, that love that is greater than mother’s love, that same kind of love that moved him to lay down his life for us even when we were his enemies–love each other with that kind of love.
There are lots of opportunities in our world today to demonstrate that kind of love. It seems our world today is filled with hatred and anger. People are angry at each other for wearing a mask or for not wearing a mask. People are angry at each other for being a certain color. People are angry at each other because of what they think or say about the flag, about the police, or about how much money they think a person makes and what they chose to do with their money. There are a growing number of people in our world who hate us because they think that Christians are the cause of all the world’s problems. If you live in the world today there is going to be someone who is angry with you, or who hates you, for some reason. That’s an opportunity to love as Jesus loves you. That’s an opportunity to show kindness, gentleness, patience and self-control. That’s an opportunity to let people know, even those who hate you, that because Jesus loved them enough to die for them, you are choosing to love them too.
There are lots of opportunities in the church to demonstrate that we are connected to Jesus, and then to each other, by love. The early church was known for the way they showed love for each other. They showed it by gathering regularly to hear the Apostles’ teaching, to pray with and for each other, and to enjoy each other’s company. Because they gathered often, they were aware of each other’s needs, and they willingly and gladly supported each other in those needs.
As we come out of the pandemic there are opportunities for us to value what we didn’t have for a year. There are opportunities for us to become aware of each other’s needs and do what God intends us to do when we gather, to encourage each other especially as we realize the day of Jesus’ return is approaching. Hopefully this pandemic has helped us appreciate more than ever that we are connected to Jesus and to each other by love, God’s great love for us in Jesus. Nothing can unite us or give us more joy than that.
As we remain in his love and grow and mature in our faith Jesus doesn’t continue to treat us as little children. He treats us as adult children, as his friends. He lets us in on his business. Everything he has learned from his Father he makes know to us. He gives us his word to study daily. He sends us out to work in the fields, to go and bear fruit.
What greater way to bear fruit is there than to be like Lois and Eunice, to be a Christian mother and grandmother who makes sure her children and grandchildren know about the great love that Jesus has for them. What greater way to bear fruit, fruit that lasts for all eternity, than to stand firm in God’s love in the midst of temptation or persecution so that other believers are encouraged in the faith, and unbelievers are won for Christ when they see his love for us and our love for them. What a blessing to be a part of the Father’s business of saving souls for all eternity!
As great as a mother’s love is, Jesus’ love for us is greater. He laid down his life for us. He purchased us with his blood. He paid the price to adopt us as his dear children. We are connected to him by his love for us. Motivated by that great love, strive to keep his commands, especially his command to love others as he has loved you.