How Can We Love Thee – In Review
Let’s review these four perspectives and how they led to the cross.
1. Physical Perspective: In Matthew 25, beginning with verse 35, Jesus says: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…Truly I tell you, when you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me."
Jesus provides the best wine at a wedding. He goes against custom and sometimes the law to recognize the rights of women, children, and those from other countries and cultures. Over and over he heals the sick, the lame, the blind…even healing on the Sabbath, and touching the untouchables. He does not worry about what people might think of him. For Jesus, there are no strangers because Jesus’ message is a message of love…in thought, word and deed. But, it’s also important to remember that he took care of his physical needs, leaving the crowds and stress to rejuvenate and rest. He allows his feet be washed and anointed with oil. He goes to dinners prepared for him. Love is a two way street…we need to think about how we show our love and how we let others show their love to us.
Physically, Jesus demonstrats that with the help of God, we can make it through the most horrible of situations. Jesus was rejected from his home town, accused of atrocities from faith leaders, betrayed, denied, and tortured; he shows us that no matter what happens, even if we might feel forsaken, God is with us. No one can judge us, only God. In God’s eyes we are made equal, and no one can be above us. With God there is ultimate and eternal love.
2. Intellectual Perspective: In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."
Jesus teaches us that in order to get our priorities straight, we must focus on love. He helps us understand that how we love is more important than any deed we can do. God is not counting our deeds, because there is nothing we could ever do to gain entrance into heaven. Our God is a God of grace and mercy, and most importantly a God of love. At every turn, Jesus does the unexpected: saving and liberating women, pushing men away to let children come to him, not living in fear – but instead reaching out to lepers, dirty beggars, dining with a tax collector, teaching, preaching, and developing common men to become leaders who would change the world forever. He teaches that what is most important is not status, money or rank. We learn that love stands out above all. Remember the story about the woman who put one coin in the offering? Hers was the greatest gift because she gave her all. In parable after parable we learn the importance of sharing what we have, forgiving, celebrating, and welcoming those who return to faith because we love.
Through Jesus, we learn that respect and love are tied. Jesus is the ultimate Servant Leader! He preserves the self-esteem of others, and honors people of all types…teaching us to respect all people…on the inside and out. Here’s the deal: whether or not someone acts disrespectfully, unloving or even evil toward me is NOT a measure of my character or my value; but whether or not I act respectfully, loving or forgiving toward that same person IS a measure of my character. It demonstrates my values, and it demonstrates how I live out my faith.
Jesus tells us to go and do likewise. This means we need to think before we act or react. We need to resist using derogatory language or thinking in terms of stereotypes. While we don’t have to be friends with everyone, can we at least be friendly? Jesus would have us give the benefit of the doubt and offer forgiveness. With this in mind, please continue to pray for governments, peoples, religions, and cultures in the world including and especially praying for those who persecute us.
3. Emotional Perspective: In two Gospel passages and in one of the Epistles, we learn that Jesus feels so deeply that he weeps! In Hebrews 5:7, Jesus weeps as he looked on a man’s misery. In John 11:1-45, we learn about the death of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. At the mourning, Jesus weeps even though he knew Lazarus would soon be raised and ultimately would spend eternity with Jesus. He weeps because he was moved by Mary, Martha, and the mourners. In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus takes his last trip to Jerusalem shortly before he is to be crucified. He talks about wanting to gather her children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but Jerusalem would not have it. As Jesus approaches and thinks about all the lost souls, he cries aloud in anguish over the future of the city…a future that in AD 70, less than 40 years away, would find residents dead from a gruesome siege.
In Matthew 21:13-14, we learn about a different kind of love, one when Jesus becomes angry over injustice, but we also learn he does not go on and on in anger about it. Jesus reacts in anger to stop injustice and cheating when he turns over the tables at the temple. "And he said them, it is written MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER, but you are making it a ROBBER’S DEN. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them." We learn he did not carry grudges; though he was denied by Peter three times, he continued to love him deeply.
Jesus shows strength, conviction, and consistency. His faith and focus is on God, and he follows the path of his destiny and purpose. We learn from him that loving and humbleness does not mean we have to be a doormat, ignoring wrongs, not standing up for what is right. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel anger, pain and sorrow. In fact, with a deep love…a deep commitment, we may feel those even more. Jesus did not let fear enable him; he stood up for the truth even with the threat of death. Jesus does not hold grudges, relive over and over condemnations, fear to trust even after being abandoned by his disciples, or fail to forgive. Jesus is not a victim. He has choices all along, and chooses to use every part of his heart, mind, body and soul to show that love is stronger than death. Jesus could have taken a "poor me" attitude and blame others for what was happening, but that is not his way. He does not worry about being politically correct; rather he continues to demonstrate love to the sick, the dying, the unlovable, the unclean, the old, the young, women, gentiles, heathens, and even criminals. Jesus is not discriminating about who he helps…he is the Good Shepherd to all!
Whether we are poor, or mourning, whether we are meek, hungry, thirsty, persecuted, fearful, angry, lost, or even deny our Lord distancing ourselves from Him, God is still with us, merciful, abounding in steadfast love and grace, not because of anything we do or some condition of love; God is there because we are God’s. God calls us by our names. In Revelation 7:16-17, we hear from John a final time. "They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes."
4. Spiritual Perspective: In Matthew 12:30 we learn "He who is not with Me is against me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." We are in God’s light, and we are God’s light. We are not only empowered, but called to be the light in the world. From Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but puts it on the lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven." And from John 8:12, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life." And so it is more important now than ever that we be the light. The world needs Jesus…the world needs us!
The spiritual perspective is about how we love through our spirit…with the depths of our souls. It is represented by how we love devoutly, religiously and piously. Spiritually, we learn that ours should be a life of loving service. The disciples learned they are not above a teacher, and a slave is not above his master. Jesus teaches us that hoarding and hiding doesn’t work, but instead we should sow God’s seeds. We should act in ways that increase love, joy, faith and understanding. We learn that being spiritual means healing, feeding, forgiving, giving, being humble, praying, respecting, lifting each other up…in a nutshell – LOVING.
Jesus shows us the ultimate love through his brutal sacrifice on the cross. He willingly shows that God will go through all measures to be with us, even sacrificing his son. God knows the depth of human suffering, and never forsakes us. Though we may separate ourselves from God, God is never separated from us. Through Jesus, we learn that even when God knows we are not going to be faithful, God will still wash our feet, and sacrifice all by breaking his body, and shedding his blood. God will die, so we can live.
Read Susan's conclusion to her month-long series in Journey to the Cross.