Thursday, March 18, 2010
Beyond All These Things
"Beyond all these things, put on love which is the perfect bond of unity." Colossians 3:14
Our final verse gives us the ingredient which is essential and even foundational to the Christian life: love. Notice that Paul tells the church in Colossae to "put on love," as if it were a piece of clothing. But godly love does not come naturally to any of us.
"But wait, Kristen! I might be selfish with my husband, and even with my friends, but I am a mother. I know real, sacrificial love!"
You might think that a mother's love for her children is sacrificial - the "you before me" kind of love, but in truth, even mothers are naturally self-preserving rather than self sacrificing. Don't you remember the delivery? That panicky feeling that you might not survive? Be honest now...at times it's difficult to think about the baby during hard labor. I can remember Dave trying to encourage me by saying, "Hang in there. It's almost here!" ("It" because back then we didn't know ahead of time the sex of the baby.) And I was thinking, "What in the world is he talking about? I'm dying here!"
Need more examples? Every late night feeding, did you have a great attitude? Or were you a bit miffed that he didn't even wake up to the crying baby and you were the only one in the house who was deprived of a good night's sleep? Oh, I am sure there were those warm, fuzzy feedings where soft music was playing by a dim light, with you in the rocking chair, softly humming a hymn and thanking the Lord for the precious gift of life, but the norm was a tired, grumpy, "I-can't-believe-he-needs-to-eat-again!" attitude that got you through the feeding but didn't necessarily create a Kodak moment.
Or maybe your self-preserving flesh flared its ugly head when you sat at that first AYSO soccer game and your precious little goal scorer didn't play where you thought he should play. Or didn't get as much playing time as you thought he should. Or sat on the field picking at the grass with the shirt over his head instead of engaging in the animalistic, aggressive, score-score-score method of soccer that you had taught him. The feelings that boiled within, were they sacrificial? Or were they more self-preserving? Was your pride bruised?
Do you do your child's science projects because you want the tender experience of building an electrical system, complete with bells, whistles and flashing lights, that can be run on a potato with your child? Or is it so that when you walk through the classroom during the science fair, you can hear the oohs and ahhs of the other jealous parents that your child is such a genius? Is that sacrificial or self-preserving?
I think you get my drift. Even in the most personal relationship between a mother and child, our sinful, fleshly, self-preserving character shines through. We might disguise it well, but it still lives there.
So Paul tells us to "put on love." You can't put something on that you don't own. I went to my children's schools basketball game last night - playoff tournament - and an email from the school instructed everyone to wear green. I don't have anything that is green. Sad, I know, but you can't put on something that you don't have. Thankfully, Dave had a lovely, puke green sweater that I wore and yes, it was very attractive.
But again, you need to have love to be able to put it on. Where do you get sacrificial, godly, "you before me" love? From God. He not only examples it for us, but He gives it to us so that we can share it with others. When you give love to someone, it's not your love you give, it's God's love. He has enabled you to love in the same self-sacrificial manner in which He loved you. Without Him, that type of love is impossible.
So the call to put on love is a very real and practical instruction. Go to your closet, find that green sweater and put it on. If you're struggling to love someone the way you know God would have you love, you need to get into the Word and be reminded that you actually have a closet full of love to wear and to give away. Don't reach deep inside yourself and try to do this alone. Let the One who is the source of love provide you with the resources and the motivation to put the needs of others before yourself. Every time you put on love and give it to someone else, every time you turn off your self-preservation mode and sacrificially meet the needs of someone else, you are being the hands of God to that person. It's not you, but it's Him. And as John the Baptist said, "I must decrease. He must increase," the more we act in love, the less we look like ourselves and the more we look like Him.
So as you start to look at our final memory verse start by going to your Heavenly Father and asking Him to show you just how much love you actually have to give. Go to Him because He's the only One Who carries it in your size.