A survey was done recently on the occasion of Valentine’s Day in which the question was asked, “What do you think of first when you hear the word “love?” Fifty-nine (59) percent said God. This is as it should be because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) It has been said that love is the quality that “you’ll know it when you see it.” That might or might not be true depending on what kind of love you’re seeing displayed.
There are many false forms of love which go under the category of love which are not REAL love—all of them with some amount of self-service. By contrast, real love is the kind God has for us—a self-sacrificing, unconditional love that seeks nothing for itself but only seeks the good of the beloved. The example of that love is Jesus.
How do you spell love? J-E-S-U-S. Jesus Christ, subjected himself to the cross, subjected himself to the most excruciating suffering. And He did it gladly. “For the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross …” --Hebrews 12:2b Jesus actually welcomed the cross which is quite different from grudgingly taking on the cross, or out of a sense of duty to the Father. The thought that he would be saving us from death and hell gave Jesus pleasure.
So the kind of love Jesus has for us is not just self-sacrificing, but it is glad self-sacrifice. This is different from my sacrifices for family and friends. I sacrifice but it isn’t always glad. Often it’s mercenary sacrifice because I’m hoping to get something in return—at very least the gratitude of the other person. Sometimes I sacrifice out of duty because I think it’s expected and if I don’t, people will think of less of me. So, approval-seeking is sometimes the motive.
In real love, motive is everything. This is why Jesus’ death on the cross is the perfect symbol of REAL love—it was for our good, AND it was joyfully given. Jesus wanted me to be with God so much that he GLADLY substituted himself for me on the cross to reconcile me to God.
As we seek to emulate Jesus’ true love, it must be self-sacrificing and it must be done GLADLY. How hard that is. But what helps motivate me is my desire to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” --Matthew 25:23