Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sacrificial Love: What's In It For Me?

Jesus commands us to “love one another” and even to “love your enemies”, but there are some who hear this and ask the question we’re all wondering, “What’s in it for me?”

Sure, we want to follow Jesus and to obey His teachings, but it would be great to know what we get out of it before we start with all that self-sacrificial love stuff.

I mean, everyone knows John 3:16, but most of us aren’t as familiar with 1 John 3:16:
“Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

So, we understand that part in John 3:16 about just believing and receiving. That’s all about what we get out of the relationship without too much emphasis on what we have to invest. But this whole thing about 1 John 3:16 is a bit much. I mean, sure, Jesus died for me, but now I’ve got to turn around and die for those chuckleheads at my church? Are you yanking my chain?

Hardly. Jesus himself explains it this way after washing the feet of his disciples during the Last Supper:

“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” – (John 13:12-15)

Unfortunately, Jesus seems to have left out the part about what you and I are going to get out of this. Certainly he had to realize that we’d want to know what the payoff might be. Right?

Well, Jesus does mention this one little part at the end that says:

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” – (John 13:17)

This is a bit of a paradigm shift for many of us in America. See, most of us have been lead to believe that knowing God’s Word is all it takes to be blessed. Isn’t this why televangelists urge us to tune in and to buy their tape series and to show up at conferences? Surely knowing more stuff is essential for being blessed? 

The more you know the more you grow…right? Maybe not.

Jesus seems pretty clear that we cannot stop at knowing the truth. We have to go one more step and actually put what we know into practice. That’s where the blessing comes in.

See, the blessings that Jesus refers to are not always immediate, and in fact there’s a very good chance that you might actually suffer for doing those things that Jesus commanded you to do.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” – (1 Peter 2:21)

Yes, suffering is also part of the example that Jesus set for us, not just foot-washing. So, we need to expect to suffer as we follow His example. That means the blessing that Jesus promises us is more about the reward we will receive at the Judgment for our obedience to His command to love others, and to wash feet, and to suffer in the process.

We’re all called to follow Jesus. That calling carries with it a price. Jesus urged all of us to “count the cost” of discipleship before we set off on the path. Because the cost is steep (our entire life) and the way is difficult (carrying our cross daily), Jesus asks us to understand what is required. But the promise we have from our Lord and Savior is this – He will go with us, and there will be a reward waiting for us at the end.

Until then, when Jesus asks us to lay down our lives for others and to love sacrificially, we probably shouldn’t ask “What’s in it for me?” It sort of betrays our ignorance of this calling and puts the focus on ourselves rather than on those who we are called to love.

"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."


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