By Kevin Howell
“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.” Eph. 5:2 (The Message)
Love like that? How do we love like that?
That was the question running through my mind when I read that verse this week. It’s a beautiful scripture that speaks of God’s love. How love is embedded in His character. But the Apostle Paul ends the verse with sort of a punch line. A challenge. A call to action.
Love like that.
A love like that doesn’t come easy. A love like that doesn’t come cheap.
Sometimes I think we gloss over such scriptures rather casually, not realizing the magnitude of what’s stated. OK, let me rephrase that, I gloss over such scriptures too casually.
We’ve become accustomed to hearing about God’s love. When something is emphasized so much, we become too used to it. The mention of it doesn’t pierce our hearts as it should. But when we take time to digest the scriptures and allow ourselves to be challenged by what lies within, nothing about God’s character is taken casually.
Especially His love.
LOVE’S NOT CAUTIOUS
I tend to love cautiously. There’s a certain level of restraint in my love, especially initially. I can’t say there are past hurts that cause me to hesitate to go all-in on love, but rather it’s my nature. Not that I don’t trust people, it’s just I don’t know how others will respond to a full-court press of love. Nor can I be sure love will be reciprocated. So I remain cautious. Instead of jumping in, I dip my toe in the water to test the temperature of the other person. After all, the definition of caution is “to minimize risk.”
Of course, this isn’t the type of love Jesus modeled for us. His love lacked temperance, risk aversion, timidity, and all types of caution. His love was extravagant.
ex∙trav∙a∙gant [ik-strav-uh-guhnt]: exceeding the limits of reason or necessity; lacking moderation, restraint; unreasonably high in price.
His love wasn’t safe. It wasn’t reasonable actually. It was full of risks. He put Himself out there, loving without regard to receiving anything in return. Not knowing if there would be a positive response. Unsure if He’d be loved in return. Not expecting a smile, a friendship, a shared bond or any of the things we look for when we love others. His love was not about receiving anything; it was about giving everything.
Love is giving. It’s the concept of taking everything within you and pouring it out for someone else. I told you it isn’t cheap. It’s unreasonable.
LOVE LIKE THAT
So back to the challenge — or the command if you look at it that way — from Paul. How can we possibly love like that? That unreasonable, risky, liberal kind of love? Paul preceded his challenge with the answer: “Keep company with God and learn a life of love” (Eph. 5:1)
We can learn to love like that, develop a love based completely on giving, by simply spending time with God and letting His ways rub off on us. Difficult? Indeed. But it’s not impossible. That’s why it’s a process. Paul wouldn’t admonish the church to love like that if he didn’t do it himself. He was no different than you and I (well, accept you and I probably never hunted down Christians to throw them in prison). He learned to love like that. To risk everything to love.
We likely won’t face the risks and dangers Paul did in following Jesus’ model of love. Love may not cost us our lives. But it may costs us our pride, reputation, comfort, convenience and, most of all, time. But you and I can love like that. We can give everything. We just have to be a little bit unreasonable.
What holds you back from loving? Are there ways you are too cautious with your love?
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