[Luke 10:25-37; John 3:16; Matthew 22: 34-40 All scriptures are from NIV]
By Gayla Parker
I love that movie!” “I love my present!” “I love Christmas!” We have all said the word ‘love’ about thousands of things. It’s a great expression.
There is just one problem; we use it so much we sometimes forget there is a much deeper and more relevant meaning.
“For God so loved the world…” (John 3:26a) reminds us of the real meaning of the word “love.” Just imagine it; God gave up His son on that first Christmas. Jesus gave up heaven, His life and His holiness as He bore our sins. That is intense! But it is how He loved. What does He ask in return? For us to love God and others. In Matt. 22:37 He says it like this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And in verse 39 He says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving God with heart, soul and mind is staying focused on God. When your heart starts longing for something different, refocus on God. When you take time to dream, seek God’s guidance. When your mind fills with worry, doubt and fear, remember God’s faithfulness. And then love God by loving others.
The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is a great example of loving others. In this parable a man is beaten by robbers. A priest and a Levi both saw him but chose to ignore him. When the Samaritan passed, he had pity on the man. He bandaged his wounds and provided him with a place to rest for as long as necessary. At the end of the parable Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor?” The expert answered, “The one who had mercy on him.”
The Samaritan teaches us a lot about loving others:
• He crossed cultural barriers. The beaten man was not a Samaritan. It didn’t matter that his culture was different, his language was different, or that his features were different. The only thing that mattered was his need for help.
• He was willing to get messy. Think about it, this guy was beaten, dirty, muddy and bloody. The mess wasn’t important, only that he needed care.
• He went out of his way. The Samaritan was traveling, he had a destination and most likely a ‘to do’ list. The destination and the lists were laid aside for just a bit to offer a helping hand.
• He expected nothing in return. The Samaritan did not give instructions as to how this man could pay him back. Taking care of the need was enough.
At the end of the conversation Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” That is not always easy, but it is possible. I know because I have seen it done.
A few years ago New Tribes missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham, were kidnapped while celebrating their wedding anniversary at a tourist location in the Philippines. Martin and Gracia along with many Filipinos were taken by a radical Muslim group early in the morning. It was not long before the group knew Martin was a man of God. Each morning and evening, Martin gathered the group together for prayer. When Martin prayed, he did not pray to be rescued instead he prayed God would protect the kidnappers until they had a chance to meet Jesus as Lord and Savior. As captors were released one by one, each one spoke of the impact of Martin’s prayer.
Martin was not concerned with cultural differences, only with the need of a Savior. He literally got very messy. He was hiking miles everyday in the tropics and sleeping on the ground every night. He got messy! He went out of his way to be cooperative in a very difficult situation. He helped whenever he could; not expecting his help to lead to freedom but to model the love of Christ before his enemies. After a year in captivity, Martin was killed in the midst of a rescue effort.
Most likely none of us will find ourselves in a situation like Martin. But every day we have the opportunity to model Christ by loving God and loving others. Some who are watching may be like Martin’s enemies; in need of a Savior.
The next time you say, “I love __________!” during this Christmas season let it be a reminder of the one who showed us the real meaning of “I love” Jesus Christ. Love on Him a little today by loving on others.
To learn more about Martin and Gracia Burnham read her book, In the Presence of My Enemies.