This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. (I John 3:16)
Disappearing love - does that sound like the state of so many homes these days? Did you know that in the US there were 5 marriages per thousand in the two-year span from 2020-2021, with 3 of those 5 ending in divorce within the same time span (and that is only 45 states reporting statistics)? Our homes were hard hit with the pandemic, weren't they? Relationships still developed, but they didn't withstand the pressure. It is tough to love someone, especially when there are external forces at work to tear the relationship apart! It is equally tough to love someone when we are so caught up in our own lives that we don't see the needs of others around us. Do we always recognize the need in another's life? Not likely. Are we sensitive to the 'unspoken words' that could give us clues as to their state of mind, attitude of heart, or waning willpower to go on with whatever is ahead of them? Not always. Do we always possess the 'means' by which to meet the need we see? Sometimes, but not with any consistency. As much as is possible, we are to remain sensitive to the needs around us - then work to see them met if it is within our means to accomplish it.
Sometimes all that is missing is our willingness to ask God to make us sensitive to the needs around us. It isn't that we don't possess the means by which to see those needs met as much as it is not being 'in tune' with those we are surrounded by each day. We don't recognize their withdrawal or see their downcast eyes and drooping posture. We don't look deep enough to see the happiness displayed is only a cleverly worn mask disguising a much deeper sense of loss, grief, or misplaced trust. There are times when all that is needed is a warm hug, a quieted spirit and a listening ear. At others, it will be time to roll up one's sleeves and get a little dirty in the process. If we don't want to see God's love disappear, we must be open to being shown where it is we can express his love and by what means we are to do it.
Asking to be sensitive to the needs of others is risky business for some, as it means we must lay down our own agenda and be open to taking on the agenda of another. Perhaps this is why so many struggle with this true kind of love - sacrifice being the furthest thing from one's mind in a culture that relishes building up oneself. I don't really think this kind of sacrificial love comes naturally to any of us, but when we are born into the family of God, I think the seed of this love begins to put down roots deep within us. We begin to see others with a little bit more clarity and have a developing sense of God's plan to use us to meet the needs around us. As we are faithful to do what little we can, God helps us be sensitive to even greater needs - but not without giving us the ability to begin to meet those needs, as well. It may mean we lay down something we were pursuing and take up a different kind of pursuit - one that focuses less on ourselves and more on others. Just sayin!
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