Monday, May 26, 2014

Living a Jesus-Kind-of-Love

"Follow," that's what Jesus had said to me last May, when I retired from my position at Arizona Christian.  It's just one word.  It sounds simple.  When someone says, "follow," you follow.  It doesn't get any harder than that.  You simply do what they do.  Go where they go.  Seems easy enough...unless it's Jesus you are following; and, some things are just downright difficult (example: rejoicing in the midst of trials)!  So, while I've been following a little more attentively this past year, there's one stand-out, fall-short, heart-wrenching, I-don't-do-well-at item that Jesus does well:  love.  Yes, love...plain and simple.

I've argued with myself over this fact.  The truth is, I thought I did love just fine.  Yet, over the Easter season, as I dove into the prayer of examen, this one word kept creeping up.  Fact is, real love, for me, is like trying to take a running jump across the Grand Canyon.  Impossible.  The Lord has his ways of driving his point home.  Practically every passage of Scripture I land on has to do with loving others. Every podcast I listen to...yes, love is the theme. Then I went away for a weekend retreat, and the focus of the retreat centered around a book I mentioned last week (on love, of course).  It's like everything has collided in synchronization simply to show me this need to learn Jesus-like-love.

The exclamation mark came this week, as I continued on in my own study of 1 Peter 1.  Last week, the Lord so sweetly reminded me of His love for my sake, in spite of the fact that I am just one annoying little grain of sand (which by the way, is the stuff of what pearls are made).  God shows me His So-Great-Love through Jesus.  I am amazed by it!  Humbled.  Truly brought to tears over it.  However, lest it draw me into self-centeredness (which is such a temptation), like all things on my spiritual journey, the Lord has led me through that truth to drive home the more important (and, he, now, uses his Apostle, Peter):

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable.
1 Peter 1:22-23(a)

There it is: sincerely love, fervently love.  Here's how I know I don't understand a Jesus-Kind-of-Love.  Digging deep, I uncover what a Jesus-Kind-of-Love really looks like in a Jesus-Follower:
Deals kindly.
Responds faithfully.
Gives generously.
Doesn't hold grudges.
Treats patiently.
Responds rightly, not out of emotional impulse.
Sacrificially commits (in spite of, anyway)
Stubbornly persists and pursues.
Always focuses on the positive.
Resets itself quickly (Ok, I have to spend a minute here.  This is what I do  Whenever conflict arises, and it does, a Jesus-Follower overlooks offenses.  It isn't centered on having to be right.  True Jesus-Kind-of-Love doesn't look for fairness.  In fact, it is totally an unbalanced love; because a True Jesus-Kind-of-Love always attempts to outdo The Other. It isn't moody, touchy, grumpy, or fragile-spirited.  It never pulls away, or pushes away, but leans-in to The Other at all times.  True Jesus-Kind-of-Love never allows an ugly space to grow... Oh, Lord, HELP!)

See, just as I said, Grand-Canyon-Impossible!  EXCEPT for Jesus.  Look at what follows in Peter's admonition to love: for you have been born again!  Born again (in some circles that has become a taboo phrase, but it's the phrase Peter uses) to new life.  Born again, because there has been a death to self, and a surrender to the Spirit of God, which produces a new heart in us.  A new heart that I learn to grow into... The good news is that it's impossible for me, but not for Jesus-in-me.  I tend to forget that to grow into that new heart of flesh, it's a continual cycle of surrender, death to self, embracing my new identity, and living loved.  Over and over...until one day, with practicing righteousness and loved-ness, I live rightly. I live loved.  I live "hesed" (the Hebrew word for a Jesus-Kind-of-Love). Oh, Lord, please keep making me like you!  If we all lived that way...well, it would be heaven!

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