Core scripture: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 12-13).
Message: The word love has so many different levels of appreciation today. I find myself saying them all. I love pizza. I love my wife. I love the feeling I get after connecting with a needy student. I love the Jayhawks. Especially after they overcome a 14-point deficit in about two and a half minutes to defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers at Allen Field House. And God bless, I still love them when they lose, snapping that 51-game home court winning streak last week. On this Valentine’s Day 2017, it is time we reevaluate the different loves in our life.
Praise God for them all! I sat down this morning, devoting a mere 7-8 minutes of prayer time to the Lord. It wasn’t enough! I couldn’t begin to list all His blessings that have flooded my life. I started typing them out. Family. Friends. My job. Jesus. I had to stop there. My eyes became blurry. I couldn’t write anymore. God compelled me to stop praying and to send an e-mail to my pastor, Darren, and two close friends, Zack and Ryan. You see, five years ago today I wasn’t doing so good. As a matter of fact, I was sinking in a spiraling black abyss of depression that choked all the good out of me. I was humbled down to nothing, but their love carried me through.
I found Christ a couple months later, and once the cobwebs cleared, I truly embraced that perfect love of Jesus. It was a love I had never known before. I weep now as I write these words here at my computer in school, overwhelmed with the love He showed me. It is impossible to love that way for me. I always find a way to mess it up. My sinful nature always jacks up that perfection that I strive for. Yet God still wants me to strive for that perfection. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5: 48). Alright, Jesus, thanks for setting the bar so high for me. I want to be perfect, yet I never am. That begs the question of how do we get there?
The answer? We don’t. We’ll never be perfect. Romans 3: 23 tells me that, yet I don’t want this blog to be a Debbie downer. This blog is not so much about that scripture as it is about this one: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8). That’s how you get there. Grace. Humility to the cross. The love God showed that day is unfathomable. I can’t imagine sacrificing EITHER of the boys God has blessed me with. But to sacrifice your only son? The way Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac? I can’t go there. Yet that perfection that Christ speaks about above is indeed found in His loving grace. I can go there. Every second of every day, I cling to that grace.
That grace does a lot for me this time of year when my students can’t find a rhythm in 3rd quarter. The short weeks get the best of them. I laugh because my buddy Zack that I mentioned above loves to razz me about the number of days my school district gets off. Shoot, even I find it difficult to keep up the tempo! If you only knew what I’ve dealt with in my classroom since January … ha! I bet you all have your own stories from the trenches. For me, I find it hard to sum up in words. Lack of homework completion, snarky attitudes, and a lot of complaining from my end during our team plan hour—that’s for sure.
But do you know what pulls me through? Love. Jesus Christ wants us to love no matter what. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4: 16). Is that love inside you? Can you forgive and show grace when Satan is screaming at you to show anger? I am trying so hard to live in that word I have chosen for the new year, that word being patience, and though it may not be easy, patience and love are indeed winning. They won when that kid was singing the Star Spangled Banner at the loudest volume possible down the hallway when my students were reading quietly. Satan told me to stalk him down and yell at him. God told me to be patient. What did I do? I stood at attention and placed my hand over my heart, turning to the flag. If you can’t beat em, join em!
I can’t count the number of times I have needed that love. It came at conferences when a kid was eye-rolling me right in front of her mom. It came when I assigned a five-minute video to watch over a four-day weekend, and only about 40 percent of my kids completed it. Although that still burns inside me, I douse the flames with God’s love. It all boils down to Ephesians 4: 32: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” So, I grit my teeth, I hold true to that love, that grace, and I power through the trenches of 3rd quarter. How? Because Somebody loved me that much more. Somebody loved me enough to be scourged, carry His cross to Calvary, have nails driven through the bottom of His hands, and die a hideous, grotesque death that makes my spine shiver.
Do me a favor. Show love today. To your students, your spouse, your family. Show love to strangers. Show love to your colleagues at work. Show love to the gas station checkout clerk, and if God so compels you, tell that person about the love of Christ. That perfect love that Christ showed us can be summed up in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7: “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; 5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.”
Thanks for the words, Paul. Blog done. Mic drop.
Challenge: Who is God calling you to love on today? Pray about, and express that love in whatever way possible.
Song to bring it home: Toby Mac, you nailed that love spoken about in your newest song “When Love Broke Through.” That song is going to be playing all day long as my kids file in and out of my class. Why don’t you do the same?
Prayer: Lord of love, thanks for showing me an unconditional, unbreakable, all-powerful love that I find hard to fathom. That love was shown through sending your son Jesus to die for us. May I love the same way you do. Amen.