There is always sacrifice in love. We sacrifice sleep for our children, whether it’s night time feedings with a three week old or waiting up all night for a teenager. We hand over our schedules, our time, and our hearts to our children. We sacrifice ourselves in our marriages, uniting with another person, becoming one, sharing one dream and one future. In the best way possible we give up part of who we are to become one with our spouse. We sacrifice the way of the world for our faith, when we choose Christ we surrender our will for his. You cannot love without sacrificing something. Love costs. It has a price.
Now as a believer the first thing I think of when I hear sacrificial love is Jesus. I think of the price he paid for me, and for you. The cost of grace. The price tag attached to love. I know as a mother I truly believe that I would do ANYTHING for my girls. When they hurt, I hurt. When they smile, I smile. How many parents out there would not say the following? I would do anything for my children, I would sacrifice (and have in many ways) anything for them. But the truth is that even this love, that we have for our children, pales in comparison to the love Christ has for us.
So when Scripture commands us to love one another, to love our spouse, to love our neighbor . . . This sacrificial love of the cross is the love it refers to. In Ephesians 5 Paul talks about this love when he reminds us we are called to love like God loves us, we are to follow his example. He tells us “as dearly loved children, [we must] walk in the way of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Sometimes I overlook this. I love the way I want to love, or maybe the only way I know how to on my own. Conditional. Selfishly. With strings attached. Limited. Because my definition of love differs from God’s. It has conditions and judgment. It has limits, because I have limits. I am desperately in need of grace and without it I simply cannot walk in the way of love as Paul refers to in this letter to the Ephesians.
But here is the good news. The news that sets me free when I feel like I am failing to love those in my life the “right” way; when I feel like I am failing as a mother, wife, pastor, friend, sister, daughter, neighbor. It is not MY love that fuels me and sends me to love others, but instead it is God’s love that fills me, overflows, and pours out through me. Through the Son I have direct access to the Father, and to His love. Because actually, when I love it is through me that Jesus loves . . .it is God’s love that inspires love in me. So when Paul commands us to “follow God’s example” he is actually reminding us that we not only have an example to follow but a source to draw from, that we may love as Christ loves . . . Because we are loved by him first. He reminds me of this simple truth: my love does not have to be enough because I have access to Jesus’ love.
The love of Jesus does something in us that enables us to love. When we recognize the love God has for us it changes the way we love others. Think about it like this. When Adeline tells me, ” I love you Mommy” I cannot NOT say it back. Her love for me, expressed so genuinely and regularly, inspires love in me. I have to kiss her and hug her because I know that she says I love you because we have taught her to express her love that way. (Hence, I hear this phrase more than ten times a day and it never gets old).
Love inspires love. Divine love inspires divine love. Because we are loved, we too can love. We can “walk in the way of love” as Paul urges us to do. We can walk in the way of Jesus because he made a way for us through his sacrificial love. He paid the price because love costs and because their is always sacrifice in love.