I sacrificially and unconditionally love and forgive others.
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us."
1 John 4:10-12
We love pizza. We love puppies. We love our kids. We love Jesus. The English word “love” needs some help, doesn’t it? What’s the difference between loving pizza and loving our kids? We love them both, but not in the same way. What would you do to show the extent of your love for a good deep dish Chicago style pizza? Now what would you do to show your love for your children? The gap between those two loves is pretty significant, I would hope.
I propose that the value one places on a person or thing determines the sacrifice of self that you would be willing to make for that object. Our chosen verse for the Central Virtue of Love (1 John 4:10-12) reveals the extent of God’s love for us—he was willing to give fully of himself by sending his Son for us. Jesus, then, willingly bore our sin and the punishment it deserved. How great the love of the Father and the Son for us!
God did not send his Son to die for us because we loved him so much. In fact, just the opposite was true. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved us first and his love changed us from enemies to friends. We went from dead in our sins to alive in Christ. We went from hopeless and hellbound to saved and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
So based on this amazing, unfailing, and unconditional love that God has for us, his children, we are called to sacrificially love and forgive others. To struggle with this is to somehow not fully comprehend and appreciate the depth of sacrificial love that God shown to us through Christ. However, we all struggle to love others this deeply. Thankfully, God invites us to consider the fact that Christ now “dwells in our hearts” and so his love can be expressed through us. Consider Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19:
“For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
May we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us grasp and give away this love that “surpasses knowledge.”
God, I want this to be true in my heart. I know it is your desire that I know your unfathomable love. You want me to experience it. Please strengthen me in my inner being so that Christ is at home in my heart and not just a visitor. As I experience your indescribable love, my love for others will overflow in my heart, in my words, and in my actions. I can love out of simple obedience, but you want me to love out of the abundant overflow of your love through me! I know that you can do this, and I ask that you would. In Jesus’ name, Amen.