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Need Less, Love More

That is the name of my friend Melissa’s blog, or at least it is her url address, and I love it. What she is referencing is the reality that the less we need people (to fill up our tanks, to make us feel valued, to satisfy our sense of significance and worth, to validate our existence, to approve of our every moment, etc.) the more we can love them unconditionally. When I back off from a relationship with a neighbor, for example, because the person doesn’t seem to like me or see things my way or even want me around, that reason for withdrawal is a good indication that my pursuit of them was more self-serving than I may have consciously intended. When I withhold my affections or attention or participation from a person or group because of an offense or lack of desired reception and appreciation of me and my contribution, it may be a good opportunity to examine my motives for extending affection, attention and participation in the first place.

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21

If I were to be kept in God’s love, His perfect, satisfying, limitless love, would I be so needy of the building up from others? What if my faith built me up in such a way that my confidence became secure, not in my doing or thinking everything perfectly and having others affirm I was doing so, but because I fully trusted and rested in His judgments more than the assessments of others? How much more courageously and generously would I begin to pour out my heart to others (not in the sense of sharing my feelings, but offering my love and life blood) if my source of strength, motivation and life transferred from their responses to the completed work of Jesus and my secure relationship with Him?

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:10-11

I lose my zeal way too easily and most often it is because my efforts feel pointless and fruitless. I am looking to those I am called to serve to serve me back, in some way, which rarely happens. (I want raving applause for finally getting the laundry put away or cleaning the kitchen or tackling some other project that I didn’t really want to do, for example. I want recognition for acts I see as heroic sacrifice and costly to my well being. And so on.) But if I am serving the Lord rather than His creation, my zeal comes from His victory, His success, His certain ultimate dominion and elimination of all strife and forms of suffering. His efforts will always bear fruit and I can trust in that, whether or not I see the fruit directly from the jobs He gives me to do in the process.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3

How might I love others better if my eyes were fixed on Jesus rather than the human responses in front of me? (Am I advocating that obliviously interact with one another as if to dehumanize the people around us? I hope not. But rather, minimizing how much larger the objects of our service can become than the One whom we truly serve.)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34

“Yes!”, I say with Peter, “I will not just love with the humility of You, Jesus, but I will lay down my life for You!” And like He said to Peter, Jesus reminds me that not only will my zealousness fade at the first hint of crowd disapproval, but I will quickly go so far as to deny Jesus, even if only in my own heart. Surely Jesus wouldn’t have a purpose in my being rejected, ridiculed, or even ignored completely, would He?

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:10-11 And yet He came anyway, served steadily, loved compassionately, healed tenderly, obeyed faithfully, taught masterfully, forgave mercifully, died excruciatingly and was raised victoriously. I cannot love like this because I need to be recognized and received. But He gives me more grace! He continues to love me out of His own resources rather than for anything I have to offer to Him and slowly transforms my heart to do the same for others. He has not commanded what He has not already fulfilled.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thess. 5:23-24

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