We ended yesterday with the idea that true love, demonstrated in Christ’s life, is utterly self-sacrificial. Yet it isn’t a vacuum where we lay ourselves down and receive nothing in return. Hebrews 12:2 says about Jesus, “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross” (emphasis added). Living and loving sacrificially is not an end in itself, but it rises up out of a vision of greater things to come. We sacrifice in the present for what’s coming in the future.
John, aka the “Apostle of Love,” writes in chapter 4 of his first epistle: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
He has let us in on the deepest, most wonderful mystery: God’s primary characteristic is love. When we think of all the other attributes John could have placed there, it’s easy to appreciate the loveliness of God all the more. What if John had written instead, “God is anger”? What if he had written, “God is judgment”? A God like that probably would not have sent His Son into the world to redeem us.
But because we know that God is love, we can understand that when He becomes angry or expresses judgment, it is at whatever gets in the way of love. Even in judgment, God is making a way out for us.
John continues: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” This means that the love of God takes initiative. God pursues humanity before humanity pursues Him. God’s love preempts us and gives freely to us, regardless of whether we reciprocate. The one who loves like God gives in this same way.
At the end of Matthew 6, Jesus promises that when we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be given to [us] as well.” By “all these things,” Jesus is referring to food, drink, clothing—basically the things we need in order to preserve ourselves. His point is that, contrary to the fears of those who live lives of self-preservation, when we commit our lives to seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness, everything we need will be given to us as well. It may not look exactly the way we expect it to look, but this is Jesus’ promise to us. Not only that, then we’ll be living into our original purpose: communion with the One who created us.
Again, as John pointed out, seeking God’s kingdom involves loving one another; and as Jesus modeled for us, true love is utterly self-sacrificial. So what would it look like to grow in this during Advent? We’ll give you and your family an opportunity to practice this Saturday.
To put living self-sacrificially into practice, we want to encourage you to find an opportunity to serve others this weekend. Is there a soup kitchen, retirement home, rescue mission, or food bank near you where your family can volunteer? Find a way to serve a local organization. If it’s not possible, brainstorm as a family a way you can live self-sacrificially and serve others. We recommend not just giving money to someone on the corner. Instead find a way to support local organizations that truly know how to help people in need.