Live like you’re loved

Live like you’re loved

by Rich Stearns on February 13, 2018
Love is in the air at the Stearns household as we prepare for my daughter Hannah’s wedding this weekend. Peel away the dizzying array of details (for the father of the bride, the price tags are definitely dizzying) and you find that a wedding is, at heart, a celebration of love that changes the lives of the bride and groom forever. 

I’m reflecting on love this week, and not just because of the wedding. This year, for the first time since World War II, Valentine’s Day coincides with Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent. How appropriate! There is no greater proof of love in human existence than Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. As it says in 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

The second part of that verse cannot be separated from the first: “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Simply knowing God’s intense, personal love is not an end to itself. It should change us fundamentally, cause us to be more like Christ – other-centered instead of self-centered, sacrificial rather than selfish. It should transform how we love, live, and give.
 
So a good question for Christ-followers this Valentine’s Day is: Do we live as people changed by God’s love?  

A helpful analogy is getting married, when we willingly rearrange our lives for love. Consider the elements of the wedding ceremony: The rings are a tangible sign of commitment to just one other, worn on the finger traditionally associated with the heart. The bride and groom lighting a unity candle signifies the coming together of separate lives and families. Even that goofy tradition of feeding each other wedding cake – with someone invariably getting smeared with frosting – represents a promise to always provide for each other and put each other first.

If we don’t seem different to the world after we commit ourselves in marriage, we’re doing it wrong. The same should be said of life before and after committing to Christ. In Christ, we are a new creation. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “The old has gone, the new is here!”  

To unpack this comparison even more: 
  • Once you’re married, you no longer pursue your own agenda, such as taking a new job or plotting a move to another city. You make decisions as a couple, for the good of the family. Similarly, as a Christ-follower, you don’t keep your own counsel. You allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and advise you in all things, seeking God’s agenda.
  • Once you’re married, time with your spouse greatly expands from what you used to spend on date nights. My daughter’s generation calls it “doing life together.” It’s the same with God – you overhaul your schedule not just for weekly church services but for daily prayer, reading the Word, and being in God’s presence.
  • Once you’re married, the concerns of your spouse become your concerns; you work to love what – and whom – she loves. Truly following Christ means embracing His concern for justice and compassion and reaching out to those He loves, especially the overlooked, the lost, and the poor in our world. In Matthew 25 Jesus makes it clear that He identified so profoundly with “the least of these” that when we reach out to them, it’s Jesus Himself we are loving. 
  • Once you’re married, your money is no longer just yours – it becomes “our money.” In life with Christ, you realize it’s God’s money, entrusted to you for His purposes. And in several parables Jesus told, it’s clear that the last thing God wants is for us to hoard His wealth or squander it on earthly pleasures. He’s got a plan for it, to further His kingdom.
  • Once you’re married, you can’t help but talk about your spouse, sharing the things you love about her and the positive impact she has on your life. It’s the same with Jesus. You feel compelled to tell people what He is teaching you and give Him credit for what’s good in your life. It becomes your testimony, always on the tip of your tongue. 
This year, Valentine’s Day presents a special opportunity to launch into the season of Lent with a focus on the life-transforming love of Christ. Love was Jesus’ ceaseless message – a litany of valentines, conveyed even as His death approached: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

If we’ve taken these words to heart, we live so that everyone knows we are loved.  


Richard Stearns is president of World Vision U.S. and author of The Hole in our Gospel and Unfinished. Follow him at twitter.com/RichStearns.
back
Help Syrian Children Refugees /matthew25challenge/
Help Syrian Children Refugees /pastor-resources/small-groups/m25-group-guide.html
/activate-your-church/raising-awareness--funds/gift-catalog.html