Not All Roses

Valentine's Day.  It's a time of year that comes along with an abundance of love songs, chocolates, and cute one-liner cards.  It's fun, it's friendly, and it usually makes us feel all warm and fuzzy.  But something I read this morning reminds me that love -- true, biblical, Christ-like love -- isn't all roses.  I don't mean to be a Valentine's Day scrooge.  I'm just realizing that it's easy to let love become so romanticized that we forget love's ultimate expression:   the quintessential Man on an old rugged cross, graced not with a bouquet of roses but a crown of thorns.

Now THAT is love!  Love is more than the feeling that values and appreciates someone else, more than the doting and adoring.  Love is the choice to give yourself for someone else.  It's a giving of self that requires the denial of self, and even the sacrifice of self.  That's the part that doesn't always FEEL good, but it IS good because that love is of God.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16, NIV).

Hours before Jesus revealed to the entire cosmos what love ultimately is, our Savior and King got up from the servant's position of washing His disciples' feet and commanded them and disciples of all ages to do what only God's transforming grace could enable us to fulfill:  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34, NIV).

The self-giving love that Jesus revealed in that upper room and later on Calvary is the kind of love He calls us to reflect toward others.

Jesus calls us to love others -- not just in the rosy and romantic sense, but in the giving and serving sense.  Jesus calls us to adopt His principles and motivations, His character and compassion.  He calls us to unite our lives with His so He can live out His mercy through us.  No doubt, this may not always feel good or pleasant, but this truly is the most satisfying, joyful way to live.  It may seem like a contradiction, but the best life we could ever live is found when we give our lives for others.  

So what was it that I read this morning that sparked this reflection in the first place?

Jesus did not count heaven a place to be desired while we were lost. He left the heavenly courts for a life of reproach and insult, and a death of shame. He who was rich in heaven’s priceless treasure, became poor, that through His poverty we might be rich. We are to follow in the path He trod.
Love for souls for whom Christ died means crucifixion of self. He who is a child of God should henceforth look upon himself as a link in the chain let down to save the world, one with Christ in His plan of mercy, going forth with Him to seek and save the lost (E.G. White, The Desire of Ages, 416-417).

This is mission and identity in its basic form.  May God make us more than just a church that runs great programs.  May He make us into a community of Spirit-filled givers of self, links in the chain let down from heaven to seek and save the lost.