From the time we are born into this world, we are scrutinized, tested, and evaluated. Our physical bodies are poked, prodded, and sculpted into “normal” or “average” modes. Our blood is examined for possible abnormalities, cells inspected under microscopes, stature and weight measured. We are programmed to accept labels of Below Average, Average, or Above Average from the “get-go.” We are constantly assessed at school and given tests to gauge what we have learned, and compete for accolades or glory or honor or acceptance in sports, education, and job performance.
None of these things, in and of themselves, are necessarily negative or bad, but I believe it sets us up to concentrate more on the “here and now,” too often at the expense of the “there and after” of eternity. As a believer and follower of Jesus, I wonder, if I am graded daily for my actions, attitudes, obedience to God (or, lack thereof), would I pass or fail, or fall someplace in between?
I am amazed at how selfish I am—with my spare time, my possessions, or my abilities. I believe that I have multiple choice questions in front of me each day. For instance, do I:
B—Spend time with a neighbor.
C—Weed the garden.
Even if I am given an A+ for performance, this is not the thing that registers on God’s measuring stick. According to I Corinthians 13*, I can do all good things, but if I don’t have love, they mean nothing. I picture myself, standing in front of God on Judgment Day, giving a list of all the good deeds I have done and all my accomplishments, only to hear him ask,
“But my child, did you love?”
“What would Jesus do?” is a popular statement today that has been exploited, almost becoming blasé. But the only way to know the answer is to read what Jesus DID, recorded in the Bible. And everything He DID was LOVE. Love is more than words, more than good intentions, more than knowledge, more than martyrdom, even. Love involves humbly serving others at my own expense without expecting anything in return. ‘Does what I’m doing point to myself, or point to God?’ I often ask myself. Ah, that really shows my true motives! Love does not promote me!
It is easy to confuse love with lust and so it is difficult to regard it as an action instead of a feeling, when in reality, love is a choice. I have no control over my emotions, but, with God’s help, I can control my actions. I wonder if Jesus, emotionally and physically exhausted after a day of ministering to the needs of others, FELT like teaching His disciples? Did He put Himself in harm’s way, subjecting Himself to a miserable death on the cross because He FELT like it? No, it was an act of the will, an iron resolve to prove His LOVE for us in submitting His very life for all we who are “weighed in the balance and found wanting.”**
Jesus did not love because we are lovable, because we deserve it, or because we’ve earned it. He loved to show us His Father’s love and to rescue us from ourselves. He loved without judging, something we find it almost impossible to do. He chose to love the adulterous woman, the mercenary tax collector, the lost sheep, the ugly, the maimed, the rejected and the lonely. If He loved us as we love others, He would not have sacrificed His time, His energy, or His life. He would not have burdened Himself with our cares and concerns, our stubborn attitudes or our pride. He would not have humiliated Himself and become a servant or, in the ultimate test, taken our sins upon Himself which separated Him from His Father’s presence while He was dying on the cross.
Many times, I have asked God to give me wisdom and discernment, not just knowledge. Recently, I was challenged by a statement made by Paul in Philippians 1:9-10*** where he indicates that the more one LOVES, the more discernment and wisdom one gains. Wow! But loving is much harder than doing because I don’t FEEL like emotionally investing myself. So, again, I have to CHOOSE to love.
In the end, it only matters how I am graded by God, for only He can examine the motives of my heart.
*1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
**Daniel 5:27, The Bible
***9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ
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