Nearly every day I start out with one overriding heart desire, “Today I’m going to be a better, kinder person. Today I’m going to first listen and then follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Today, regardless of the cost, I’m going to yield my will to His will and choose to do the right thing every moment.”
That usually lasts until someone cuts me off in traffic or someone crosses me at work. Then, “Roar!” the other me comes out, the part of me that acts first and doesn’t stop to listen to anyone, let alone that “Still Small Voice.”
At some point after I’ve finished venting my spleen I ask myself, “What happened?” Of course I know what happened long before I ask myself that question, and that is—that when the moment of decision came, I wasn’t willing to suffer or deny myself in order to do the better thing. I wasn’t willing to walk the higher path if it meant I had to limp to do so. I wasn’t willing to pay the price to submit to the suffering of love.
We hear and read a lot about love, not only in the Scriptures but also in the world. Love is always esteemed as the highest goal, “It is the star to every wand’ring barque,” as Shakespeare put it. Scripture tells us it is one of three things that will endure, “And now these three remain, faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
We’ve been so programed by hearing such quotes that few of us have ever asked the why, “Why is love the greatest, highest goal?”
A Christian might respond with John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
I’ve included the entire Scripture above to draw attention to the last sentence, “…he who practices truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
What does it mean to “practice truth” and how do we do it “in God”?
I’m a seeker of truth. I don’t believe in relativism. I do strongly believe there is an absolute truth in everything, an absolute answer to every question, an absolutely most-correct way of doing anything. I’d say that most of my life, and most of everyone’s life, is a search (consciously or not) to find the absolutely best path, the truest truth. The question gets down to what you perceive that truth to be, and whether you make the correct choice about it.
The Bible states that this truest path is love. It’s important to note that the Bible doesn’t just state that God loves; but that God is love (1 John 4:8). God, Himself, is the very definition of the word. Not the other way around. Love doesn’t define God, God defines love.
So what can we deduct with this fact in mind? First we read that God so loved He gave, so giving is the primary hallmark of love. This is contrary to what the popular culture teaches, which is that love is—to get.
Young women especially, believe that if some young man will just love them then all their problems will be resolved, all their fears laid to rest. They see love as a guarantee against betrayal, uncertainty, and suffering – a guarantee of “happy ever after” like a fairy tale come true. “If someone loves me,” they reason, “he will never leave me. I will never be sad, abandoned or alone.”
Unfortunately for those who believe this way love offers no such guarantee. Indeed, the one sure thing that can be said about love is that love is costly. Love is expensive. It’s a true fact that everyone you love will someday hurt you, intentionally or otherwise.
To love is to entrust a very vulnerable part of yourself to often careless thoughtless hands. Those who seek security in love often find they’ve cast their anchor into sand from which it pulls free from, leaving them adrift in a stormy emotional sea. To offer up love for gain is a fool’s quest.
God, instead, calls us to love because He first loved us. It’s from the fount of His great self-sacrificing love that we are to draw. We are to love as He loved, unselfishly and often at great expense. To love is to give, and keep on giving in the face of ongoing self-sacrifice. A truly loving parent, for example, loves his child to give him wings knowing that those wings will give him the ability to fly away, and that he may never chose to return.
Likewise, God set His children free to choose to abide with Him or depart. Love gives, often through tears. Time and age reveal the cost and the fruit of our love—whether it bears good fruit or bad, whether it stands or fails the true test of the fires of time.
I’ve titled this article “The Wages of Love” because love is the payment for sin. We’ve all read, “The wages of sin is death.” So true. But the wages or payment for sin, is love. God so loved He gave to save us, and if we are to love as God loves we must also give sacrificially.
So let me ask you this about your own practice of love: When it’s all over, when you are alone, and everything that can be taken from you in life has been taken, what will be the fruit of your love? Good or ill?
When you are sitting in the rest home and your fledgling deeds have flown, will you be resting in the love of God with confidence that you loved as He loved; or will you be bitter and full of self-pity because you feel you gave to those who didn’t give back?
Will your works, whatever they may be, be found to have been offered up with open or grasping hands? Did you love as God loves, or did you have a self-serving agenda?
Jesus said, “Count the cost.” Love indeed costs. In the end love costs everything.