Love can mean lots of things. We can love our cars, love chocolate, love our favorite sports team, and even love pizza. I think we all know that each of these is a trivial kind of love – more of a preference or attachment to a pleasure. We also know that when we say we love our family, love our spouse, love our children, we mean something deeper. I would not sacrifice much for a slice of meat-lovers pizza. I would, however, sacrifice much for my loved ones. That gets closer to the kind of love we talk about in relation to the love Christ shows us on the cross.
Next week, Holy Week, as we walk through the passion of Christ, we will see real love – the kind of love that is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of another. We will see the kind of love that, perhaps, we can imagine offering to those we love the most.
Jesus, however, sometimes has a strange way of talking about love. Take for instance his teaching in Matthew: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).
Love Jesus more than mom, dad, sister, brother, son, or daughter? Really Jesus? If we dismiss this too quickly, however, we miss the truth about love – at least Christ-like love. You see, until we have been loved so unconditionally and can rest in that love, we will never have the capacity to love anyone, including our most beloved ones, as Christ loves. To love another completely is to risk giving away every part of ourselves, even unto death. To do that, we need to know that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.” (Romans 8)
You see, only when I am free to not worry about myself, only when I have relinquished all claims to what I want, what I need, what I desire, can I love someone else like Christ loves us. Only when I rest in Christ’s unquenchable love can I love my wife or my son completely, never concerned about myself. I need to be loved in the embrace of God before I can love. That is what taking up the cross is about. That is what loving Jesus wholly is about. When we love Christ as he loves us, only then are we free to love others without conditions.
As we walk the way of love this coming Holy Week, rest in the loving embrace of God, and there you will find the power to love not only your beloved ones, but the whole creation.
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor