Let me tell you something about love—it requires sacrifice.
Think of your favorite love stories. In every one, the lover is required to sacrifice something in order to win their beloved. Elizabeth lay aside her prejudice and Mr. Darcy humbled himself. Prince Charming disregarded tradition and his father’s expectations to marry Cinderella. In Titanic, Jack sacrificed his life to save Rose’s. Gatsby took the fall for Daisy and ended up dead in his own swimming pool. Love requires sacrifice—especially if you’re Leonardo DiCaprio.
The bible puts it this way:
If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
This passage is sort of the disclaimer of the bible. You usually find statements like this squashed into size 6 font at the bottom of the page, but Jesus just comes out and says it: Love me, sacrifice yourself.
They say it takes two, and in our relationship with the Almighty, Jesus is your man. It’s a pretty epic love story really—the all-powerful Yahweh, pursuing the heart of His fickle bride throughout time and space. Rescuing her from the tyranny of Pharoah, guiding her into a land of milk and honey, delivering her from her enemies and providing for her needs.
Then, in the resounding climax of a love story unlike any the world has ever known, God Himself sacrifices His life in exchange for the heart of His beloved, forever shattering the power of sin and death and returning to earth victorious and very much alive.
Mind totally blown.
If love requires sacrifice, Jesus is off the hook. He’s already proven just how broad and long and deep and high His love is. He’s already humbled himself, already given His power, His time, His reputation. He’s already been born in a barn and died on a cross, and now it’s our turn. But how do you respond to a love like that?
Let’s look at it this way—God is holy. Not a milk-sop, goody-two-shoes kind of holy, but an awesome, fall flat on your face kind of splendor that goes beyond any standard of human righteousness imagined or exhibited. He’s the God who’s so disgusted by sin, He destroyed the entire metropolis of Sodom and Gomorrah. He’s the God who struck down Ananias and Saphira when they dared to lie to His Holy Spirit. When Isaiah witnessed the holiness of God, he wailed:
Woe is me, for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips!
It was a holy God who hung on the cross and died. Not a bastard carpenter from Nazareth, but the all-powerful I AM. The God who’s never sinned died so you wouldn’t have to, and when He asks you to love Him and nothing else, it’s not up for discussion.
It’s simple really—Jesus doesn’t do open relationships. He loves you and He’s not interested in sharing you with sex, money, or rock and roll. He’s jealous for you, but it’s not the kind of jealousy that reads your text messages, it’s a jealousy that comes from sacrifice. You’ve been bought with a price, set free from a debt you never could have payed yourself. Why, for one single moment, would you want to go back to that life of slavery?
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16
It’s time we stopped messing around with God’s love. This was never a game. This was never about our comforts, pleasures, or preferences. Jesus is asking for all of us—what’s your response? Will you hold back a heart that’s longing to be whole or will you lose yourself for love?
It’s time we stopped clinging to a life that’s tainted by death and took up our crosses, died to ourselves, and finally, freely started living.