I think the jist of tonight's lesson can be summed up in these two sentences: "Love is not reciprocal; love is sacrificial. Love gives itself without waiting for others to give."
Even non-believers are pretty familiar with the love verses from 1 Corinthians 13. (Love is patient and kind...)
Our generation has come up with its own set of love verses:
Love is patient...if you don't push my buttons.
Love is kind...so long as you are nice to me.
Love is not jealous...unless you get something better than me.
Love does not brag...except on Facebook.
Love is not arrogant...unless I have the opportunity to show you how great I am.
Love does not act unbecomingly...except when someone easily angers me.
Love does not seek its own...so long as you are giving me what I want anyway.
Love does not provoke...unless I want other people to rally beside me on my behalf.
Love does not take into account a wrong suffered...at least not after you have received your payback.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness...unless you deserve it.
But rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...so long as it is still beneficial to me.
We are a generation all about reciprocity. You give what you get. What goes around, comes around. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. An eye for an eye...
Tonight we are challenged to take the fist step. Tonight we are told to give before we get. Tonight, we are told to love like Jesus loved; unconditionally. I often think about Jesus loving Judas. Jesus had an inner circle of twelve disciples, and Judas was one of them. He was one of Christ's own chosen followers, and he is the one who betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
I am so glad I am not Jesus. If I knew someone I loved and trusted had just betrayed me to the people who would condemn me to die WITH A KISS, I am pretty sure I would have kicked him in the crotch--real, real hard. I am a friendly gal, and I am able to mesh with many people very well for the most part, but I certainly don't like everyone I meet. There was a lady not too long ago who I KNEW was spreading rumors about me to other people, and every time I saw her, she would come up and greet me with a hug. My skin would literally crawl. It took everything inside of me not to punch that person in the face. (What can I say?! I get my charm and "people skills" from my husband!) I was so proud of myself for containing my anger. But what I really should have been doing is hugging her back!
Jesus loves without us doing anything to deserve it. Other people shouldn't have to earn our love, either. I don't know about you, but that's really hard for me to swallow.
(A side note--Just now as I wrote that, my mind thought of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" and then Mary Poppin's "A Spoon Full of Sugar." It kind of fits though, doesn't it?!)
Here is the deal. Jesus says to "treat others the way you want them to treat you." He doesn't say, "Treat others the way they have treated you" or "Treat others the way you want them to treat you and then they will." He just says to do it. Unfortunately, more often than not, this means you will be acting out of sacrificial love. All of us are smart enough to know by now that just because you are nice to someone doesn't mean they will be nice in return. And sometimes, people will take your genuine niceness out of context and assign ulterior motives to it. But there is no sub-clause to Jesus's Golden Rule. There is no fine print. There is not a breach of contract that allows you to get out of doing nice things and showing sacrificial love for your neighbor...There is only one simple instruction: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
So I have to take the first step. And while I feel this may be one of those "two steps forward, one step back" kind of things, it is still up to me to make the move.
Are you ready boots? Start walking...(oh wait...that song probably doesn't apply here!)