Friday, March 4, 2016

Transforming Love Into Action

He tends his flock 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 with 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 said. "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

So with just a few brief words, Jesus Good Shepherdsummarized the core message of the entire Old Testament: 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 hard concept for many people because they link the term "love" with that squishy word associated with weddings, boxed chocolates and Valentine's Day. But Jesus wasn't teaching his followers about that often fleeting, awkward emotion. As Christ-followers, we're to follow God's call to walk in step with him by putting our love into sincere, tangible action. This can come in many forms: from helping an elderly neighbor with their groceries to revealing God's light 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 for us? 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. And not just any field, but one holding buried treasure. The cost to buy the land was staggering, but the man does whatever it takes to gain the prize.

That's how God loves us. He'll go to any length 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 we've broken his laws and fallen far short of his standards. But our Creator'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 human vocabulary prevent us from fully describing the meaning and implications of how God cherishes his children. We can only skim the surface of that deep and vast ocean. But maybe it's really not so difficult. After all, it takes only three simple words from the Book of 1 John to sum it up: God is Love. And it's when we live out our own faith through his example that we transform love into action.

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