ineIn my first post on the nature of love that is all powerful, I briefly touched on the phrase that God’s love is efficacious, meaning it is effective to the end for which it is intended. In a term that goes back to the hippy drug days of the 1970s, this is heavy, extremely, insanely heavy! It is difficult for us to divorce ourselves from the modern conception of equating love with romance, with which love has very little to do. The problem with romance, other than it’s a wonderfully delightful human experience, while it lasts, is that it confuses love with emotion, as if love has to do with how we feel. This isn’t to say that love has nothing to do with feelings, only that love isn’t driven by feelings. True love, rather, is a commitment to the welfare of the other regardless of our feelings, and then in due course when faithfully rendered, results in a mutual affection of the one who loves and the beloved. That is how it reveals its omnipotent reality. We go from reluctant lovers, to those who love because we truly want to love the other person. That is Miraculous!
This kind of love’s enemy is the self, which looks for its own aggrandizement and to its feelings. To counter the unhealthy self-centered sinful self, Jesus said if we’re to follow him we must take up our cross daily and follow him. It is impossible living in light of 2,000 years of Christian history to understand how absurd, and offensive, this would have sounded to the people who first heard Jesus say it. The cross? You can imagine them thinking, what could a bloody horrible instrument of torture and death have to do with following him? It so happens everything. The only thing that could defeat death was the sacrifice of God himself in the person of Christ, thus showing us it is the principle of sacrifice that allows us to defeat the consequences of death in our fallen world. Jesus tells us this in John 12 when he is predicting his death:
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Jesus was giving us the secret of true life when he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The thief, who is the devil, works continuously to get us to believe that getting what we want is the secret to happiness, only it isn’t. I’ve learned through trial and much error as I’ve grown older, I have no idea what I want, only what I think I want; big difference. The more important question is what do I need, and only God knows that. I learned this definitively in the fifth decade of my life when I was praying through some trying circumstances, and I would pray, “Lord, it would be ideal if . . .” One day it struck me like thunder right above my head, “How in the hell would you know what ideal is, you moron!” How stupid could I be for so long? I’ve learned being stupid comes naturally to self-centered sinners, which is why God is slowly, but surely sanctifying us, to make us less so. That prayer now had changed to, “Lord, it think it would be nice if such and so happened, but Thy will be done.” That says, I trust you, not me; you know all things, I know nothing (Rom. 8:28, all things).
So, what has this to do with love? I asked that same question in my last post as I seemed to be going off track, but I wasn’t. The essence of love is sacrifice, which is why it is the hardest thing to do in the Christian life. I learned a lesson on how stupid I was back when I was 28 years old that began, and only began, to teach me the lesson of sacrifice. I worked with a woman who just rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t the first time I worked for or with a woman who annoyed me, and I asked God, “Why do you put me in situations with people who are so annoying?” He replied, almost audibly, “To teach you to love them, you moron!” Oh, how I did not want to hear that! That means it’s not all about me? And what I want? Nope. Again, I could almost hear him say, “You have no idea what you want, only what you think you want. I know what you need. And you need annoying people in your life to teach you how to love them!”
So, when God blessed us with children, and they would come to me complaining about people at school or work or what have you, I would ask them: Why do you think this person is in your life? And they hated my answer: To teach you to learn how to love them! They didn’t want to hear that any more than I did. I’ve said that to others who are friends and family over the years, and the response is always the same. Ugh! In the second the Elisabeth Elliott podcasts I linked to in my previous post, she tells a story of a woman who had a horrible marriage. She asked the woman if she thought her husband was her enemy, and the women said yes. Then Elliott said, you know what Jesus says about loving your enemies, right? Ugh! If you listen to that story, you’ll catch something of what the phrase, the omnipotence of love, means; how love rooted in Christ and his sacrifice for us, as we practice it toward others, is inevitably efficacious.
On to part 3.