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Monday, July 21, 2014

Learning to love deeply

Stop to consider for just a moment how it is we learn to love - how we learn what love actually is.  Isn't it learned in what we see modeled for us?  As we come into this world, those close cuddles, all wrapped warm in little blankets, cozy in the arms of the ones who hold us are probably the earliest memories of love we can possibly understand.  Later on, as we grow up a little, we might associate love with the protection we feel as we are swooped up into caring embrace when we are scared by a frightening noise and the times we are just cuddled up in the lap of one reading us a bedtime story.  Much later in life, we might associate love with the tender things someone does to make us feel appreciated and the warming hugs of a friend.  All of these memories have one thing in common - they are all action-based.  Love is learned in the actions we see and experience - not just in the words we read or hear.  We can learn a lot about God's love in what we read in scripture - we learn more about his love in what we see modeled in his Son and in the lives of those who make the Son of God their center!

I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love. (John 15:10 MSG)

As Jesus presents it to us, he wants us to understand he is modeling the love of the Father in his actions among us.  He loved us exactly the way his Father loved him - in turn, we experience not only the love of Christ, but the love of our heavenly Father.  Our part - to make ourselves at home in this love.  In other words, we are to get very, very familiar with his love - through his actions on our behalf.  Many times we think about what it is we "do" for God and all the while he is asking us to just get very familiar with what he has "done" for us.  Love is modeled on our behalf - so we might be embraced by it, affected in the depths of our being, and then model it for others to experience in turn.

So, in order to fulfill this command to make ourselves at home in his love, we need to understand how it is we model what it is we have come to enjoy.  It goes without saying, this is the hardest part of learning - for it is in the modeling of the behavior that we finally make the connection between what we know and what be come to trust.  It probably comes as no surprise to you that Jesus equates love with obedience.  His "modeled" behavior was to do the will of the Father who sent him - to lay down his agenda long enough to do what the Father asked of him on our behalf.  In turn, he asks us to model this same behavior - laying aside our own agendas in order to take up the agenda of the heavenly Father.

Keeping God's commands is more than just "Thou shalt not lie" or "Thou shalt not steal".  It is learning to put God first in all areas of our lives - even those areas where we want to hold out a little of ourselves because obedience in those areas will "cost us" a little too much for our liking.  It is learning to consider the needs of another above our own, for our role-model certainly didn't consider his needs for comfort, acceptance, or status as above our need for a Savior!  It is learning to love without strings attached - reaching out to another even when they don't "deserve" our love.

This is tough stuff - things hard for us to learn.  Yet, we are given the space of our lives to get this right.  As we start each new day, our opportunities to model this obedient love are renewed.  There is a fresh start each new day - so if we didn't do such a good job with this yesterday, we can start again today with a clean slate.  Obedience is learned behavior every bit as much as love is!  We may not take every step today in obedience, but those which are closer to obedience today than they were yesterday are the progress God wants to see!

In understanding where it is obedience is learned, I would have to say our scripture points us to close, intimate relationship with Jesus.  As we see the nature of Jesus role-modeled for us, we come to appreciate the aspects of obedience.  We come to understand the conflicts within which would play a part in each decision to either respond in love, or to reach out in a selfish display of anger, frustration, hurt, and other forms of "not so loving" actions. Jesus continually manifest love actions, even in the face of what most of us would see as taunts, rants, and ridicule.  He maintained these same love actions all the way to the cross - not because he had to - but because he loved his Father so much and each of us equally.  

It is only through intimate relationship with Jesus we learn of his love actions on our behalf.  It is in those times of deepest communion with him where we learn to love as he loves.  Just sayin!