Limitless Love

Matthew 5:38–48

Serving with Safe Families for Children I have learned that you cannot walk alongside people who are in crisis without love to give. But I think sometimes we assume that love will just come naturally and when it doesn’t, it means we aren’t obligated to act. That’s why we hear things like “Adoption isn’t for me.” or “Fostering would be too hard.” or “I don’t really think people can change, so I don’t think I could do Safe Families.” We assume that if it was meant for us to do we would feel the warm fuzzy kind of love that makes us want to do something. That if we were “called,” we would have an emotional reaction. But there is nothing in scripture that says that. Followers of Christ are already “called” to care for the orphan and the widow and for those in distress. With or without the warm fuzzies. While I’m not saying that adoption, fostering or serving with Safe Families IS made for everyone, I do think a lot of us allow ourselves to be talked out of doing things that would allow us to be effectively utilized to advance God’s kingdom because it would be too hard, too inconvenient or because we don’t feel an emotional love feeling. I want to write, today, about a more effective, more beautiful kind of love.

God shares freely with us this different kind of love. A sacrificial one. A “while we were yet sinners” love. And what we learn from scripture is that we are most effectively reflecting God when we love that same kind of way. There are a set of verses that most Christians are at least familiar with, but I’d like to break it down bit by bit and encourage you to really think on what this kind of sacrificial, love without limits should and could look like in your own life. These are words that came out of Jesus’ mouth. He was so intentional with the things that he said and I think it’s really worth it to take the time to meditate on why he chose these examples to express how we should love:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also…” Jesus was referring to Mosaic law here. Technically, the people he was speaking to had the legal “right” to repay evil for evil. But Jesus was asking them to abandon those rights for the sake of loving well. We do this today “He mistreated me so I had the RIGHT to cut him out of my life.” “She doesn’t appreciate everything I’ve done for her so I have the RIGHT to stop.” Yes. You do. Except that when we agree to die to self to live instead for Christ, it means we will care less about our own rights and more about others. In embracing that humility we will reflect God’s love.

“And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well…” Jesus was also referring to the laws at the time that he was on earth. You could literally sue someone for the shirt off their back if they owed you a debt. They could technically sue you for your coat as well, which went over your shirt and was also used for sleeping. However, if they sued you for your shirt AND your coat, they were legally required to give you your coat back in the evening for you to sleep with. Jesus is saying “I know you have an actual legal right to your coat…but what if you just gave it to them anyway?” And this speaks volumes to me in our present day because we get so entitled as Christians and talk about how persecuted we are and have this great angry concern about what rights we have. We act as though our “kingdom” is the United States of America and not heaven. We act as though we will be here forever. We act as though Jesus didn’t already warn us that we would be persecuted on Earth. Why does it shock and scare us when we feel a little of that persecution?  And I think the same Jesus who told the followers of his day to give up the protection they had under the law in order to show love would tell us today to chill out a little about what we are entitled to. To choose love instead of righteous indignation. Our hope is secure. And eternal. Why do we care about that which is temporary? How many opportunities have we missed to show grace to those who persecute, who scoff, who mock the love and grace of Jesus because we are offended and have the “right” to defend and protect ourselves?

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles…” This is my favorite part of this chapter. Jesus is also referring to another law. During His time, any Roman soldier could go up to a Jew and tell him to carry his load and the Jew was required by law to do so. But only for one mile. And the Jewish people obeyed…right down to the mile. They counted step by step to ensure they walked no more than they had to. The Roman soldiers and Jewish people weren’t exactly fond of one another and you can imagine the animosity that built. You can imagine the haughty way in which a solider demanded some random, probably busy, person on the street going about their day stop what they are doing to carry his bags. You can imagine the annoyance and frustration that person felt having to carry someone else’s belongings because the law demanded he must. But Jesus is asking for humility, to not only do what is required but then to say “Is there anything else I can do to serve you?” And the reason why this is my favorite part is because it’s such a challenge. It is so hard to serve those who we dislike, the people who have personalities that clash with our own. The people we feel are undeserving or who will take advantage or the people who we feel act too entitled to deserve servant hood. What kind of love would we speak to people if we not only served those who were in great need and so grateful for the help, but also the entitled, ungrateful people who we feel don’t deserve to be served over and over? I think we forget, (I KNOW I forget) that we are perfectly loved with a love that we could never deserve. And I think that manifests itself in us only wanting to give to those who we feel are deserving.

May we turn the other cheek. May we hand over our coats. May we go the extra mile. Can you imagine? I dream of a day when, whether people agree or disagree with our faith, they have no choice but to recognize that we are the lovers. We are the humble in heart. We are the ones who serve, who give cheerfully, who have our sights focused on something greater than what we are entitled to on earth. If they chose that same walk or if they chose a different walk, they would acknowledge that the God we are serving is one of limitless love.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

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