Are you a "people-watcher"? You know - - you enjoy just sitting in the mall, sipping a cup of coffee, watching all the people pass by. You observe their attire, hair styles, the way they carry themselves, and the people they are with. In some cases, you see "attitude", as when the young men are gathered together in group, one working to outdo the other with a story of some kind. At other times, you might just see the "loner" gazing absent-mindedly in the windows, not really intent on the "shopping", just on the fact they are out of their homes and escaping life for a little while. When you stop long enough to watch another, you might just see a thing or two which you'd have missed otherwise!
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG)
I believe Paul probably was a people-watcher. He observed their behavior, gleaning much from their "attitude", and coming to some conclusions as a result of what he observed. The power of "observation" is a learned habit. It just doesn't happen one day. In fact, you have to learn to look beyond the surface to get really good at this - otherwise, you draw conclusions which are far from reality. It would be like the game we used to play as kids. We'd see people walking in the malls, then we'd make up some story about them. Like the man with cowboy boots and Levis strolling along becoming the Sheriff intent on keeping justice in this hear town! We saw what we wanted to see and formed the story around what we interpreted in our mind's eye! But...in the real world, this is a dangerous thing!
Paul gives us the example we are to "watch" - God himself! He is the one we should "observe" - taking in his "behavior" in order to learn how we are to approach life, answer life's questions, and create life's best outcomes. Watch what God does - and then do it! So, instead of just "creating" a story about God, we are to do like God does! Now, in the make-believe world of the gentleman dressed as a cowboy, I don't think I'd be very comfortable strolling up to him and asking him if I could be his deputy! But...in God's world of reality, I am quite comfortable asking God if I can be on mission with him!
Look at what we see in this passage. "MOSTLY what God DOES is love you". I added the emphasis here because I think it is important to realize God's greatest and most easiest observed attribute is his LOVE. It is in his actions, even when we don't see it! Look at how we learn how to make this attribute ours - we "keep company with him". I have special friends - enjoying every moment of "company" I get to keep with them. They fill my days with laughter, hold me close when I am low, and can just fill my "space" with warmth without even speaking or doing a thing. At my weakest moments, nothing and no one else fills my "space" as well as Jesus, though. In his extravagant way, he reaches into the "space" of our lives - loving us through to wholeness! It is more than making the lame walk or the dumb talk. He meets us at the point of our most desperate need and there, he transforms us.
Now, this may not be significant, but his love is learned in observing his extravagance. His love is not miserly - it is extravagant. In what actions can we observe the extravagance of God's love? First, we see the extravagance of laying down his divinity to take on the form of a human - in coming as a babe in a manger. We see the extravagance of his love in being willing to touch the untouchable in the world - those labeled as unclean by the others in society. He never skimped on his love - making not only wine from water, but the best wine of the evening. He always found time for even the least in the crowd - embracing the child, touching the grief of the mother who'd lost her only son, and restoring the guard's ear to full function after Peter attempted to lop it off. Nothing is "outside" of God's extravagant love - he is willing to humble himself for the sake of another; give the touch of hope where no hope exists; and restore what we so foolishly destroy in our haste and misunderstanding. Yet, his greatest display of love - his willingness to hang on a cross for our sins. The man who knew no sin, becoming sin for all mankind. Now, this bespeaks the ultimate sacrifice - the ultimate display of love.
When Paul reminds us we learn by observing, he is asking us to consider the many "extravagances" of God's love and then to begin to display those same extravagances in our actions. It takes a little change in our focus to do this. We have to begin to see the extravagances of God's love - first through our eyes, then through his. I really never understood the extravagances of my parents' love until I was a parent myself. In fact, as I was being loved through some of the ugliest period of my life, they were faithfully extravagant in their love, but I was oblivious to their extravagance! I am older now, and I hope a little wiser. As I look back at their example of love, I see the extravagance of God's love imitated in their lives. It is like God opens our eyes to his "extravagant love" not so much when we are experiencing it, but almost after we have been through it! Maybe it is because we have "clearer perspective" after the fact than we do when our emotions are all muddled up in the moment.
What examples of God's extravagant love have you been observing of late? If we look hard enough, we might just see the example of his love in the one right next to us today. If we are willing, we could be the very example of his extravagant love the one next to us needs! Just sayin!