In a world that seems characterized by anger and division, the church stands out like a candle in a dark room. The Lord has gathered together in a single body His people whose primary trait is love (John 13:35). We follow His footsteps, and they have left a challenging trail through the turmoil of our times. They lead to the cross of self-sacrifice.
Jesus demonstrated through example what it means to love. It is a remarkable journey that began for Him in eternity past. He sat in equality with God (Philippians 2:6). We, too, have what we view as our position in life, but none of us has anywhere near the status that He had. Yet, He gave that up. Will we? Does something stand in our way? Is there anything that we are unwilling to let go of to demonstrate our love?
Pride is often the culprit. Jesus was humble, even to the obedient point of death. On the way to that brutal sacrifice, He served. The King of kings had every right to demand to be served, but he did not. He washed feet (John 13:3-17). Fed the hungry. Dined with the sinners. Ultimately, He gave His life to cleanse us from sin. Such a love exceeds our mental capacities without the help of God (Ephesians 3:19-20). Now, He says to do it as He did (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Love God. Love your fellow-man. Perhaps, we want it to be more complicated than that. It isn’t. The word of God reveals to us not only the how but also the why. That, too, is not complicated. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Motivation comes from a closer look at the baby in the manger, the footprints He left, the agonizing prayer in Gethsemane and the death that He died for us. But that was not the end.
That tomb is empty. The trail He blazed did not stop in a cemetery but in the presence of God, right where it began. That is where love always starts and stops. God the Father initiated it, God the Son embodied it and God the Spirit produces it in our lives as we follow His lead. It is the defining quality of disciples, and the world desperately needs it.
Yes, it is likely to be met with the same welcome that Jesus received. Self-sacrifice is rarely admired. It seems so weak from a human perspective. Love gives, and people take advantage. Expect it. It will happen. Remember their response to the Lord as He reached out to sinners and became a condemned man. It is a complicated road filled with heartache and disappointment. He who led the way experienced it as well. We must never forget where His journey ended. He is in the Father’s presence forever. Never lose sight of that. Following His footprints will take us there, too.