Saturday, November 17, 2012

Love In Action

He tends his flocks like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

-- Isaiah 40:11
When asked by one of the Pharisees--a strict religious sect--to name the greatest of God's laws, Jesus astounded his audience by the simplicity and clarity of His response.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment," Jesus answered. "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

So in just a few brief sentences, Jesus summarized the core message of the entire Old Testament: that God's love, translated into beneficial motivations and actions through our faith in Jesus Christ, is indeed an unstoppable, world-changing force.

This is a difficult concept for many people because they equate the term "love" with that squishy word associated with weddings, chocolates and Valentine's Day. But Jesus wasn't teaching His followers about that often fleeting, awkward emotion. As Christ-followers, God calls us to walk in step with Him by putting our love into sincere, tangible action. And this can come in many widely divergent forms: from helping an elderly neighbor get their groceries to revealing God's light to total strangers through a prison ministry. It could also translate into changing a co-worker's life by showing him or her how Jesus has changed your own. The possibilities and potential are endless.

How does God show His love? There's the famous Bible story of the Prodigal Son, where the loving father welcomes back his wayward--and totally undeserving--child with open arms. Or what about the shepherd who searches tirelessly for a single missing sheep? When he finally finds it, he returns it triumphantly to the rest of the flock. Jesus also told His disciples about the man who sells all his possessions to buy a field. But not just any field, but one that holds buried treasure. The cost to buy the land is staggering, but the man does whatever it takes to gain the prize.

That's how God loves us. He'll go to any lengths to bring you and me into His family. Perhaps the most famous passage in the New Testament (John 3:16) tells us that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son (Jesus) so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. God willingly let Jesus suffer and die to pay for all our wrongdoings--past, present and future. We rightfully deserve death because of how we've lived our lives. But God's love offers us joy and happiness...if we're only willing to accept it. By living on Earth among everyday people and then dying for our sins, Jesus has already paid the ultimate price.

The limits of the human vocabulary keep us from fully describing the meaning and implications of how God cherishes His children. We can only skim the surface of this deep and vast ocean. But maybe it's really not that difficult. After all, it takes only three simple words from the Book of 1 John to sum up: God is Love. And it's when we live out our faith through His examples of love that we walk in His steps.

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