This morning, as I bumbled around my house- making tea, talking to Jesus, and getting ready for the day- I thought of something I heard someone say recently.
“I love some people so deeply that I would die for them.”
So, that would look like what? Taking a bullet for somebody? Throwing yourself in front of a moving subway car to push someone else to safety? Offering yourself to be the one killed by terrorists in the freak occurrence that they wanted to kill one person from your particular group of buddies? 🙂
Before my thoughts ever wandered down this road, I had felt like the Lord wanted to teach me something new about Christmas. (Which, is totally appropriate for this time of year.) But there I was, sipping my apple/cinnamon tea (thanks for sending that, Mom!) and thinking about love and death.
So Christmassy, right? At first glance it didn’t seem so, but then He taught me something.
Let’s hop back to that thing my friend said. It sounds quite similar to something Jesus once said: “There is no greater love than this – that a man would lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Now- isn’t that what Jesus did at Christmas? You may be thinking, “Um, no. That’s what Jesus did at Easter.” And you’d be right. But I think I’m right, too. 🙂 Please allow me to break it down.
When Jesus voluntarily took on human flesh, He was giving up His life. In enfleshing Himself, He was becoming “lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:7-9) and dying to heavenly glory. He was giving up every right and privilege that Godhood merits. He was becoming the least among a people who would reject Him. What a profound death.
I remember thinking as a young child, “So, Jesus died one time and the whole world gets to be saved? I could have done that!” Silly little me. Of course I couldn’t have lived His sinless life or borne the weight of humanity’s sin, sickness, and curse, and I now know Jesus’ death was much more than His suffering on the cross. Jesus lived His death every day of His earthly life for a people who neither understood nor accepted Him. They scorned Him. They plotted, schemed, and railed against Him. They lied about Him and physically abused Him. They finally killed Him. Love suffers long (1 Corinthians 13:4), and Jesus did that for us.
He chose to love us in that way before the foundation of the world, and we celebrate Christmas in remembrance of the greatest act of love that has ever been. A life of love lived in absolute humility, completely dead to self even in the face of harshest hatred and fiercest persecution.
Love is as strong as death (Song of Solomon 8:6). To truly love, we too must die. Not a death where the heart stops beating, but a death where the selfish ambitions and vain conceit melt away. Maybe my death for someone looks like giving of my time, resources, and energy for their good – and not only when it’s easy – even when it’s hell.
I’m so thankful to celebrate Jesus’ death this Christmas – His death to celestial glory and equality with God for my sake – and yours – His life of daily death for love. It is through His death that I am empowered to live mine. How beautiful.
For, “He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me,” (Luke 9:23) and “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:24)
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Give me Your attitude, Jesus. I need it. My own love falls far too short. I want to shoulder this cross with you- to share in the fellowship of your suffering in the way I love. Only let me walk this road with You, for You promised never to leave or forsake me. Ah. Thank You, Lord.
Merry Christmas from Sudan!!!