Because Jesus DIED. He gave up his life. And as the famous saying goes, "Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die." Nobody wants to die. But it does seem that there is a correlation between loving and dying. Ask any parent, spouse, sibling, child or human who has attempted to love. True love requires sacrifice, some giving up of our desire or preference, some dying to self. Some letting go of the life that I imagined for the life that we now share.
But here, the apostle John is not just talking about our closest friends and family. He is talking to the faith community and urging them to love one another this way. And well, today this is a hard concept to wrap our heads around. In a culture that is fiercely independent, fragmented, frenetically busy, and commitment-avoidant, it is hard for us to think in terms of the collective "we". And even more foreign to think about loving our fellow church members in this sacrificial way, no less our neighbors! And yet...isn't this the greatest commandment? To love God and to love our neighbor even as we love ourselves.
This is why I believe that we must reimagine our lives together as those who are seeking to follow the Way of Jesus. How can we ever begin to live out these challenging words without a context of sharing life, proximity, and meals together? It will take more than seeing each other a few hours on a Sunday to learn how to lay down our lives for one another. For love is more than an ideal or sentiment. It is lived out in the everyday, gritty realities of our lives. Love is far more than words. It is action. And we all sense this as we perceive the world around us -- we can only trust love that is proven, tested and lived. This is why John urges us in I John 3:18,
Children, let us not love in word, or in speech, but in deed and in truth. [NTE]
Somehow we have to move beyond the utopian ideals, theoretical debates, sanitized notions, and deluge of words and begin to live this out.
In real time. With real people. In real life.
Like choosing to show up and be present for someone when you're tired and spent. Like crossing the street to talk to your neighbor when you'd prefer to run inside. Like being vulnerable to share your anger when you'd rather hide. Like attending a "thing" that isn't your thing in your desire to know the other. Like sacrificing your scarce time, energy, and money to embrace the abundance of the community.
This is love -> Love = life laid down.
This is not something that comes easy. It will take practice. But love, true love, has the power to transform us, heal us and uplift us. It is the essence of God and the reason why we are all here.
My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality.
[I John 3:18 The Message]
by Jessica Ketola