Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. 2 Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)
Are you told to distribute to the poor? Do it, not because charity is a burden which you dare not shirk, but because Jesus teaches, “Give to him that asketh of thee.” Does the Word say, “Love God with all your heart”? Look at the commandment and reply, “Ah! commandment, Christ hath fulfilled thee already—I have no need, therefore, to fulfil thee for my salvation, but I rejoice to yield obedience to thee because God is my Father now and he has a claim upon me, which I would not dispute.” May the Holy Ghost make your heart obedient to the constraining power of Christ’s love, that your prayer may be, “Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.” Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, and not the apologist of sin.
This brings up a second popular misunderstanding, closely related to the first. It is easy to have love for humanity, but it is hard to have it for one’s neighbor. For the mass of humanity is not here on my doorstep, my neighbor is. Humanity never surprises you, never disappoints you, never bugs you. Humanity is as safe as a picture in a museum. It is just that: a mental picture in the museum of the mind.
Jesus never once told us to love humanity. If preachers tell you that he did, they are serving up their own recipe instead of Jesus’. The only Jesus we know, the Jesus of the Gospels, told us to love as he did; that is, to touch and serve the specific individuals we meet. Jesus did not come to earth for the sake of humanity. He came for you and for me.
I didn’t do my devotional reading earlier this morning, because I was watching my son, and truly amazed at what he experienced.
At the invitation of a brother of a friend, 7 people from my church went about 30-40 minutes up the freeway to go help distribute food at a food bank. And while I worked on one table, William was coordinating the food at another table.
His reaction to help some 240 households have food for a week? “Dad, can we come back next week, no every week?” He was even willing to get up early and ride his bike if need be. ( I don’t think he understands what a forty-mile ride would be like!
It didn’t matter! Putting faces to people he was helping, helping them know what they could have, talking them into healthy choices, that was his entire desire!
That’s the kind of love that Kreeft (purple letters) is talking about. Not living humanity, but loving individual humans. Touching and serving specific individuals. Even the ones who bug you, disappoint you, even shock you. Even those you have to lovingly remind that there are limits to the food.
Love them.. each of them.
Spurgeon also knew some of what my son learned. He was indifferent about going, or maybe just tired. He learned to love what he was doing, and that is the desire to go back. Not to impress me, not to impress God, but because loving people is actually something you can enjoy. It shows the “claim of God” on us, and that is why obeying the command is so energizing, so enjoyable, so fulfilling. (Even when it isn’t, it is!)
Which brings us back to scripture. I am pretty sure my son wasn’t planning on getting something back when he was enjoying himself. That wasn’t his intent. But he did… something more valuable than much of anything else he could have gotten today. In the same way, God’s true love isn’t self-seeking, yet His love instills and compels us to love in return. To love Him, and to love people we interact with.
And that is contagious! Ask my son!
Heavenly Father, continue to show us how to love those around us…and to help them see that You love them. In Jesus’ name, we pray! AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 54.