I hate love. I’m not talking about the “love” that appears around Valentine’s Day every year in the form of Hallmark cards and flower bouquets and heart-shaped boxes of candy. Or the “love” that puts butterflies in your stomach in those early days of dating and keeps you awake at night thinking about the other person. I’m not even talking about the “love” you feel on your wedding anniversary as you clink glasses in a toast and celebrate another milestone with a fancy dinner or jewelry or an all-inclusive trip to Bermuda (without the kids, no less!). Chocolates, gifts, romantic bliss? Who wouldn’t love those things?!
No…the “love” I’m talking about is real love. The kind that requires sacrifice on my part. The kind that involves me doing things I don’t necessarily feel like doing. If I’m being honest with myself, I hate love because it requires me to lose.
When it comes to love, Jesus was the ultimate loser. Hear me out. Jesus — the Savior of the world, the bridge between God and us, the only One to ever live a perfect and sinless life on earth — literally lost His life on our behalf. And just because He didn’t sin, it doesn’t mean that He didn’t feel afraid. In His final hours, He begged God to find another way. In His final minutes, He asked His Father why He had forsaken His Son. And yet, with His final breath, Jesus prayed that the Lord would forgive those who were about to kill Him.
The reality is that often, love is less about the roses and more about the thorns. That was literally true for Jesus as soldiers placed a crown of thorns on His head before they drove nails through His body. Even as He hung dying, Jesus forgave those who hated Him most. If that’s not real love, I don’t know what is.
Before He was arrested and crucified, Jesus taught His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). Jesus was telling them — and us — that to love means losing our own agenda. To love means putting the needs of others above our own. And sometimes, to love even means making the ultimate sacrifice by laying down our own life.
Who is God calling you to love — and how’s He asking you to do it? Is it your own spouse, who’s closed themselves off to you after so many years of emotional distance? Maybe it’s your child, who’s heading down a bad path in life and needs you to love them in spite of their decisions. It might look like forgiveness for a friend who’s wronged you in the past but doesn’t even know they need forgiving. And what about those who we’ve never even met but who are in desperate need of the good news of the Gospel? The homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, the diseased… the one whom society deems “unlovable”?
If love is for losers, then I want to be a loser! So my prayer for each of us, is that we’d ask that God open our eyes to loving others by losing ourselves. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11)