“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”1 John 3:16-18 NLT
Love is not abstract. It is a solid, tangible thing. It has a real effect in space and time. It is demonstrable and repeatable. Yet it is also too large and important to grasp by our finite comprehension. As humans, made in God’s image, love has always been a mystery. We feel connected to it but can only describe it dimly. Jesus changed that. An essential piece of the gospel message is the sharp clarity that Jesus brought to love. In him, love became accessible. Because of him, we can know what God’s love looks like. We can access it, measure it, follow it, and join with it. We had always believed that the key to this was found in controlling it. We thought that by an exercise of will, we could overtake its power and tame it, but love is not a stream that can be forded and routed. It is an ocean that masters the foolish and the faint of heart. It turns out that the key to mastering it and sailing upon its waves is trusting the one who made them. To navigate it, we must lean into them. Christ showed us the way. He showed us that submission to the will of his father is the way in which to live in love. This led to his death on the cross as an act of self-sacrifice. All love must look like this: faith leading to self-sacrifice. This is tangible. Real love is more than an idea. It is idea paired with action. Without Christ, we would never have understood this. Without our action, how will anyone else understand it?
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