Monday, April 8, 2013

Loving Jesus by Loving Others

The December 11, 2012 devotion in Our Daily Bread stood out to me.  It's by Randy Kilgore, and it started out as follows:

"Some years back, another man and I were reading together Matthew 26 about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  'I know this much,' he told me as I read along, 'if I'd been with Jesus in Gethsemane, I'd have had His back.  No way would I have fallen asleep!'  Indignant, he continued, 'How could anyone fall asleep after hearing Jesus tell them how troubled He was?  He was practically begging!' (v. 38)."

Randy then goes on to say that he wondered out loud to his friend if the two of them did not pay enough attention to their families and friends.  As Jesus wanted personal attention from his disciples when he asked them to watch and to pray with him during his time of trial, Randy noted, so do our families and friends want attention from us.

This probably hit home for me more than anything else I have read about how we should show love for Jesus by loving others.  I used to wonder how I would have reacted to Jesus had I lived in the first century.  The friend Randy was talking about had strong ideas about how he would have treated Jesus had he lived back then!  But it doesn't have to be so speculative or hypothetical, for we show love to Jesus when we show love to other people.  After all, in Matthew 25:40, Jesus says that "Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me" (KJV).

You'd think that it is so much easier to love Jesus than it is to love other people, especially when the people in question are difficult.  And it probably is easier to love Jesus.  For one, Jesus loves us, whereas we can't necessarily say the same about every human being on the face of the earth.  And two, since the disciples on some level recognized Jesus' exalted status, you would expect for them to accord to Jesus a degree of respect, as many of us honor or curry favor with those we consider to be the higher-ups.  But even the disciples' love for Jesus was not consistently demonstrated, for they fell asleep when Jesus needed them.  Moreover, Jesus was not loved by everyone in his day, for there were people whose power he threatened, and there were many who easily forgot how spectacular Jesus was.  In short, there are plenty of times when love requires a conscious effort on our part because it does not occur naturally.  Randy's devotion indicates that we need to make a conscious decision to be present to our families, for we can easily ignore them as we get caught up in our work and activities.

Is love difficult, then?  I think that a number of Christians make it look difficult by how they conceptualize it.  They act as if we have to love everybody on the face of the earth, and that we need to love others as Jesus loves us----and Jesus was willing to die for us.  They also define love in terms of self-sacrifice.  And they base these concepts on the Bible, even drawing the concepts from it.  I for one am in favor of showing respect to every person on the face of the earth, maybe even going so far as to desire all people's well-being.  But being willing to die for people?  I'd have difficulty with that.  Not to mention that it's a challenge for me to have and to show the same level of affection and attention to everyone on the planet, even everyone with whom I come into contact, for that can be exhausting, plus it's natural that we'd feel closer to some people than to others.  I doubt that I can love on the same level as Jesus Christ and God the Father, for their love will always be deeper and wider than my own.  But I still recognize the value of getting out of my own little world and reaching out to those who are outsiders, who are lonely.

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