For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)
So often quoted, so often preached, you even see it on signs at football games or on Tim Tebow‘s face. We know what it means, we have heard more than any other piece of scripture. The question I pose to you is this: Do you know what ‘love’ is?
“God so loved the world”
It is almost like static or white noise to those of us in the church and is easily ignored to those on the outside. Do we know what love really looks like? Can we comprehend the love that this scripture is referring to? Can we even begin to attempt to live it out in our lives and relationships?
Lets begin by looking at our lives. This may hurt a bit but the truth and self reflection often does. That is why it leads to growth and maturity.
In my experience and with a little (a lot of) help from God I have come to what should be an obvious conclusion. We don’t often love unconditionally (agape). In fact, I fear it is rare. I have been in some less than desirable relationships, it appears to me us human beings “love” with conditions attached.
Let me explain, we often give someone what they want so that we can get what we want. This is not really give and take it really is take and take. We give something in order to get something. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are doing it. I honestly believe it is a natural mechanism on which we rely to make us feel as if we have the control or fulfillment that we think we need. In reality, we desire more than “need”
For example: Do you love your wife or husband? What does that love look like?
The wife gives in to her husband’s desires and he thinks he is getting what he wants. But, the wife runs the show and the husband is disengaged with the things with which he should be involved. He “lets her run things” often emasculating himself in the process and creates an imbalance in the home.
And the same works in reverse.
I am not picking on any one gender here. Both parties are using each other to get what they want. Did I mention the divorce rate in Canada is about 38% and its only that low because marriage is on the decline and shacking up is on the increase. In the U.S.A. the divorce rate is around 50%. It is this high in Christian marriages as well, so don’t think we are immune. There is no guilty party on one side because it takes two to mess things up. My dad would call this a 50/50 relationship. Sounds even right? Wrong. 50% is only half in. Each side must give 100%.
100/100 marriages last. You have to be all in. What does this look like?
It looks like a Cross.
It looks like God, nailed to the cross after being tortured by Roman soldiers.
It looks like that blood stained rugged cross with the Saviour of the world hanging from it.
It also looks like an empty tomb.
Getting the picture yet? He loved, He came, He died, He rose again. Knowing that there was nothing any one of us could do to repay Him. It was all for us, He most certainly did not have to have left Heaven and His father, but He did. He did without any hope of reciprocity.
Why can we not do this in our marriages? Perhaps it is because we need to be reminded what love really looks like. It is giving without expecting ANYTHING in return. Not only that, but doing it joyfully and graciously.
Can we do that?
Now the next bit of scripture does not go over well in the age in which we live. Mostly because we don’t take the time to understand what it really means.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24 (NKJV)
It does not mean to put on shackles and give up your rights and freedoms! It means to love and honour your husband, be faithful and honest, sincere.
Guys: this next part gets very little airtime (38% less in Canada than it should)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she
should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. Ephesians 5:25-29 (NKJV)
Remember how I said 100/100? More like 100/110-115. At the end of the day they both essentially mean the same thing.
We are to give ourselves completely over to one another, without expectation of anything in return. By the way, men, if you want your prayers ignored, treat your wife poorly. God will make sure he turns off the ringer and deletes the voice mails.
What have we !earned? Love is many things; what it is not is a weapon or tool to get what you want. It is to be the way you can give others what they need and so find even greater fulfillment in the process.
If Jesus can do this for us, is it not reasonable to expect that we can at least try to treat each other the same way? I’m afraid so often we don’t treat those we love remotely as loving as we should.