Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Loving Freely

Loving Freely

I quit trying to be great. Once I had aspirations of making a name for myself, becoming a famous person. Now I just want to learn to be a person. I dreamed of speaking before thousands of people frozen under the spell of my voice. I was going to change the world. Now I realize: I cannot even change myself.

I am not even free to love as He loved.

As Jesus gathers with his disciples for a final meal, he looks around the room and sees people who will not be faithful, who will not love him to the end, who will abandon him in the hour of his greatest need.

He sees Judas and knows that in just a few moments, Judas will leave to meet with conspirators seeking to kill Jesus. And there’s Philip, Andrew and the others. When the hour of reckoning comes, they’ll abandon him, escaping into the night.

His three closest friends Peter, James and John will fail him. The one time he asks for prayer, they’ll fall asleep, leaving him alone in his greatest trial.

These three has shared a rare intimacy with Jesus. He took these three up the mountain and revealed glories beyond imagination. They saw him in a light no other living human would see, and they still failed him.

Peter wasn’t always Peter. He was Simon. Jesus named him “Peter,” the rock. This headstrong man was to play a special foundational role in Jesus’ purposes. Bursting ahead of pack in his passionate way, Peter experienced the power of Jesus in amazing, unique ways like walking on the water.

Yet Jesus knows that his darkest hour, Peter will deny him. Jesus said, “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father in Heaven.” Peter not only denies him before men, he curses anyone suggested otherwise.

So as Jesus prepares to spend a final evening with his disciples, he sees a group of strangers. He is alone. These men will not be faithful. These men will betray, deny, abandon him. “Having love his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

Resting in the love of his Father alone, Jesus kneels down before each man. Humbling himself before them, he washes their feet. His life will soon be quenched. He pours that same life into these men.

He speaks words of comfort, encouragement, instruction. His love has no constraints. He freely embraces his betrayer. He freely serves and loves all those who will disappoint him, forget him and leave him.

As he demonstrates this free gift of love, he exhorts, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This love is not fickle, changing based on circumstances. It is a wellspring that never stops flowing. This love flows freely and continuously between the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus comes to earth, revealing the express image of the Father. He reveals a love that is never restrained. Beaten, mocked, humiliated, spat upon, lied about, cursed and crucified: he continues loving: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

In his complete freedom to love, Jesus reveals what the Father looks like. He also reveals what humans were created to look like. Created in the image of God, humans were made for love. As I gaze upon a love that is freely flow, I realize that most of my dreams of grandeur cannot compare with the highest calling of simply becoming a human being, becoming free to love.

But I fear we are not free to love. We are nice instead.

We live in a nice country with nice people who drive nice cars, and live in nice houses. Take away the nice house, the nice car, the nice food, the nice family, and will we still be nice?

I wonder if we have any idea what it means to love freely. It is natural to hold our hurts closer than our love. I think we love the idea of love, but the act of love costs too much. It requires our life.

Paul suggests that where the Spirit of God is there is freedom. He suggests that Christ comes to frees us from the bondage to sin. Those in bondage are not free. While we speak of freedom and salvation and redemption, I wonder, are we really free to love?

I think about Jesus loving the disciples, loving the thief on the cross, and forgiving those who crucified him. In his act of unrestrained love, I am most amazed by the love expressed to Peter. As he looks down from the cross, he confesses that they don’t realize what they are doing.

The Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers, and the gaping crowds never shared the same quiet intimacy that Peter shared. They never walked on the water; they never climbed the mountain to behold a vision of transfiguration. They never saw what Peter saw, heard what Peter heard, and lived what Peter lived.

Peter acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ. And in a moment of terror, he denied that same Christ before all men. The breach of a friend wounds far deeper breach than the arrow of an enemy.

The Gospel writers brand Judas as an enemy from the beginning. So we are not surprised when he betrays Jesus. But Peter, he was an intimate friend. He knew the secrets of love. And he denied that love.

In Jesus’ darkest hour, Peter abandoned him.

We may find the courage to love our enemies, but can we love the friends and family who misunderstand us, disappoint us, and even abandon us?

Jesus loves freely for he knows a love that will not stop. He knows a love that continues even into death. He knows a love stronger than death. In his final moments, he tells the disciples that they can know that same love. In fact, he is preparing the way through the cross for them to enjoy a place in that love.

The wondrous promise of our faith is not about mansions and crowns and golden roads. The wondrous promise that Jesus offers is the love of the Father that will never be quenched. We are loved. And we will be loved. And we will be loved. And we will be loved. And we will be loved.

Nothing will stop this love. No angels, no demons, no hardship, no suffering. Not even death. We rest completely secure in His love. If we ever but catch a glimpse of the wondrous security of this love, we may discover a way of loving freely. We may actually forgive the hurts and failures and spears of friend and foe alike.

We may actually love like Jesus loved and lay down our lives for one another.

And then? Then world will know...


Milton Stanley said...

Amen, my brother.

John said...

A wonderful post Doug!

Be encouraged!