I get thrilled every time I have the opportunity and privilege to walk into a juvenile detention center. I have been doing that now for over seven years. The thrill never changes. Why? I get to talk with young people whose lives have gone down a wrong path. It is generally a path of hurting themselves and/or hurting others. These young people remind me so much of many of my good friends from my youth center days. They have no quick easy Sunday school infected answers to questions. Once I have earned their trust and respect they are always honest--sometimes brutally honest. That honesty, no matter how brutal, is a refreshing breath of fresh air. It is fresh air compared to the trite, dry, easy, stale answers I often get. I find those when I am teaching both church youth groups and adult Sunday school classes.
One of my favorite lessons begins with me putting the following sentence on the chalkboard:
I Love __________!
I then ask the youth to fill in the blank with words they have used. They can also use words they have heard other people use in that sentence. I'm sure you can imagine some of the answers: sex, drugs, my dog, pizza, my boyfriend, my ladies, my moms, my pops, football, making love and on and on. Once we have a list of about ten or twelve different words, I always ask them a series of questions.
"Do you really love your moms the same way you love sex?"
"Do you really love your dog the same way you love your girlfriend?"
"Do you really love sex the same way you love pizza?"
As soon as I make that last statement, I turn to a macho young man in the group. I look him straight in the eye and speak directly at him.
"Because if you do love sex the same way you love pizza I'm never coming to your house for lunch!"
You can imagine the uproar. But they also begin to understand why they are always so confused about this thing we call love.
The way the English language uses the same word to mean different things makes it very hard to learn. This is why so many misunderstand the word, “LOVE.” Much has been written about this. Much has been written about how we confuse Godly love with feelings. Here I will not add to that discussion. I will surmise you have an understanding of that.
My question today is, “How do we change people’s misconception of God’s love?”
I know you think I will say, “Just go out and demonstrate Godly love.” Your right! That is what I would normally say. Godly love is only learned in real life situations. It can never be learned in a classroom.
Yet lately I have been thinking about something else. Maybe we are using the wrong verbiage.
You know, when we talk about God loving us. Maybe we are using the wrong verbiage when we talk about loving others as followers of Jesus. Instead of using the word “Love” to describe how God views us, maybe we should always talk about “Sacrificial Love.” Maybe instead of using the word “Love” to describe how we interact with others we should use the term “Sacrificial Love.” Just maybe instead of saying, “I LOVE God,” we should say, “I Sacrificially LOVE God."
Ummmm, I wonder what difference that would make?
The truth be told, that is what it means when the bible says that God LOVES us. It is what it means when the bible tells us to LOVE each other. It is what it means when the bible tells us to LOVE God.
Usually a man proposes to a woman by telling her, “I love you.” What would happen if he said, “I Sacrificially Love You? I’m willing to lay it all down for you. I will always put you and your needs before mine. My needs, my wants, my ambitions, my desires will always come after yours. They will never get in the way of you becoming all God wants you to be.” Would he be as eager to jump into that relationship? (Ladies if you ever hear a guy say that to you . . .JUMP! Jump quickly. Jump, especially if you have seen him live his life that way over time.)
Then again how often would we say, “I love you” to our mates if we used that other term. You know, “I Sacrificially Love You.” Do we say to our mates I’m willing to lay it all down for you? I will always put you and your needs before mine. My needs, my wants, my ambitions, my desires will never come before yours. They will never get in the way of you becoming all God wants you to be.”
More importantly do we live that way!
What would happen if two people would come to each other saying and living that exact same thing?
What would happen if the world would see that kind of love happening among a community of disciples of Jesus?
Could we tell God we love him if we used the term, “I Sacrificially LOVE you?” Can you say to God I’m willing to lay it all down for you? I will always put you and your desires before mine. My needs, my wants, my ambitions, my desires will never get in the way of yours. They will never get in the way of what you want to accomplish here on earth.
More importantly do we live that way!
Would we be lying through our teeth? You know, we do lie through our teeth whenever as Christian’s we use the word love. We do lie through our teeth if we do not mean I sacrificially love you. Worst yet, we lie through our teeth to God. When we sing or say I love you Lord. We lie if by saying I love you we do not mean I sacrificially LOVE you. I lay it all down for you. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. None of my needs or desires or wants will come before that.
Here is the rub. When Jesus talks to us about loving each other, he is talking about loving as he loved. When Paul talks about loving each other, he is talking about sacrificially loving each other. When the Bible talks about God loving us . . . You got it. It is talking about how God Sacrificially Loves Us.
In God’s kingdom there is no other kind of love. For a follower of Jesus, there is no other kind of love. Love, God’s Love, God’s Love in us, is sacrificial at its base nature. The God who is LOVE is the God of SACRIFICIAL LOVE. Those who are his children love as he loves—nothing less—nothing more!
Peter ran into that problem one day when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Remember that one. Peter had to eventually say he was a friend of Jesus. He could not say he sacrificially loved Jesus. Through that situation Jesus transformed Peter. So maybe we need to do the same thing with each other.
Do you sacrificially love the one you are dating or are you just their friend. You know what that means don’t you? You feel good about them when they make you feel good.
Do you sacrificially love your mate or are you just their friend. You know what I mean right? You feel good about them when they make you feel good.
Do you sacrificially love Jesus? Do you only say, “I love you Lord” when he makes you feel good? Are you ready to lay it all down for Jesus? Are you willing to leave everything for him? Will you let go of your power, your possessions, your prestige, your self-centeredness, your self-sufficiency?
That is really what Jesus was asking Peter.
He also told Peter that if he truly loved him he would sacrificially pour his life into others.
Will you let him ask you that same question?
Do you sacrificially love Jesus?
Here is my challenge for us this week. Instead of telling people or God we love them, let’s use the terminology “I Sacrificially LOVE You.”
What difference would that make?
Would we say it less often?
Would we be lying through our teeth?
But that my friend is the message of the gospel. It is what Father said when he sent Jesus.
It is the message of the Church. They will know Father sent Jesus by our sacrificial love for one another.
Is there any other option . . . I mean if we are disciples of Jesus?
Jim Warren highly recommends these books to go along with this weeks blog. When you click on them and purchase them from Amazon a portion of the sales goes to help provide scholarships for the youth and young adults we serve. Thanks for considering this purchase.