Love is much more than a feeling of attraction. It is more than just strong affection. Love is deep sense of commitment that we have in our relationship with God. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ, His only son, to endure death for our sake. Love is demonstrated by a willingness to sacrifice.
We come to know love in our relationships. Love is present where there is a mutual desire that the other be blessed. Love is demonstrated not just with words but with actions. Like in “The Gift of the Magi, the story of a couple, very much in love, but also very poor. It is approaching Christmas, and they have no money to give gifts to each other. The only thing of value he has is a gold pocket watch given to him by his grandfather. The only thing she has is her beautiful hair.
Separately, they come up with a plan. He sells his gold watch to by her a brush set to comb her beautiful hair. She cuts off her hair and sells it to buy him a gold chain to go with his pocket watch.
It is a sad ending, but it demonstrates something remarkable about love. When we love, we care so deeply about another that we lose sight of ourselves. We become deeply involved with the needs of the other, we want what is best for them so much that we are willing to sacrifice, even something of great value. We are willing to let go of ourselves; to give out of love.
This is the love God has for us. When God is asked, “How much do you love us?” God in Christ stretches out his arms on a cross and dies. God gives up life, endures death, for our sake. There is no greater love than this.
In giving up his own life, Christ sets the supreme example of love for us to follow. We must be willing to let go of ourselves — our comforts, our desires, or power — in order to love God and each other. 1 John poses this question of us: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?”
Each of us must ask ourselves this difficult question. When we have more than enough to live and others have so little, how can we say that God’s love abides in us? God gave up everything, even life, and we have trouble giving from our own abundance.
How can we do give of ourselves? Sometimes simple things go a long way. Spending time listening to a neighbor in need. Fixing a neighbor’s furnace, or preparing a meal when there is an illness in the family. Leading a Bible study or caring for children so others may worship.
Little children, says 1 John, let us love, not only in word or speech, but in truth and action. Think of one thing you can sacrifice for the good of another and do it. Spend your time, your money, your talents making someone’s life a little better. In doing this you will reap a great reward. God’s love will abide in you.
One of the tragic things I have seen in life and ministry are relationships that become distorted by an unbalanced view of love. One person in the relationship is expected to do all the sacrificing, while the other reaps all the benefits. I’ve seen this in families where children expect their parents to go in debt providing for them. I’ve seen it in couples where the wife is expected to sacrifice her happiness, her goals and dreams, while the husband preserves his. I’ve seen it in friendships where one friend always gets to set the terms of the relationship while the other goes along.
It is not love when the sacrifice is not mutual. It becomes a distortion of love and it eats away at the core of the relationship. This is why it is a terrible thing when we fail to respond to God’s love. God has already given so much to us. Christ has already sacrificed his life for us. It is now our turn to give back, to love in truth and action, to reflect the love of God in our own relationships — encouraging one another, building up one another, searching for each other.
Love that flows from virtual sacrifice is a wonderful thing that gives life to everything around. It is contagious, like the laughter of a child. Little children, let us love, as God in Christ loves us.