How Do I Love: Grace Upon Grace

22 Aug

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
-John 1:14,16

It is so easy to be conditional in the way in which we love others.  It is the default setting of our hearts.  Our love for others is all to often determined by what is said or done in relationship to us.  Thus, if people are doing what we would expect, what we want, then our love for them is evident.

Yet, there are times when others fail to meet the standards we set for them.  They forget to call; they have to cancel your lunch date; they move hours away and you rarely see them; they say something that hurts you.  The list can and, because we are all fallen, sinful people, does go on.  And it is in these moments that the conditionality of our love for others rears its ugly head.

Shut Up & Shut Down

I hate to admit it, but I see the conditional nature of my own love come out most glaringly in my marriage.  There have been times when my wife fails to meet the standards I have unconsciously set up in my mind.  She might respond to a decision that I have made in a seemingly negative way (usually its just her way of expressing her concerns or feelings), or she might not do something the way I would have done it (as if my way is always so much better).  In these moments, the ones in which I most need to be the loving, caring husband that Christ calls me to be, I fail to do so.  Rather, I tend to shut up and become distant, revealing the conditional nature of my love: I will love you when you are saying and acting as I would like you to.

Grace Upon Grace

Yet, when I remember the Gospel, I see that my notions of conditional love are in stark contrast to the love God has shown us in Jesus Christ.  I think its best summed up in Romans 5:7-8: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What powerful words!  God’s love for us is the exact opposite of the love we so often show others.  Its unconditional.  It was for sinners that Christ died, bringing forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God and a renewed life in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we least deserved love, when we failed to meet God’s holy and righteous standards for us, He did not become distant and ignore us.  Rather, He came and dwelt among us; He drew near to us and loved us!

Thus, through Christ, we have received grace.  Grace to believe and place our faith in Him and the salvation His death and resurrection proclaim.  Grace to live a life of joyful obedience to the Lord our God.  Grace to show to others.  Grace is an undeserved outpouring of love.  And I believe it most clearly shows us the unconditional nature of love that we are called to exhibit as followers of Christ.  And how do we do it?  You guessed it: Grace!  Unconditional love is fueled by a recognition and cherishing of the grace that has been shown to us, and a passion to live it out in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Unconditional Love: Showing Grace Because I’ve Received Grace

This has been my prayer for the last month or so: God, help me to show grace to others because of the grace you have shown me in your Son.  This does not mean that I will not tell people of their need to recognize their sinfulness, and Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of mankind.  And it does not mean that I will never point out sin in the lives of those whom I love most.  But, God willing, it means that I will set aside the standards that I have set for others and love them regardless of their thoughts, words and deeds directed towards God, others or myself.  May I, and hopefully you, seek to live out the unconditional nature of love that has been shown to us.  Thanks be to God for His grace in His Son, Jesus Christ!

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