Christ is Risen!
Love is a gift that is given from God to us, from us to God and from one person to another. And love requires that something be given. For instance, if you love your children, you spend time with them, you help them with their homework, play with them, and encourage them. In order to express love for them, you have to give them time and tangible help. If you spend no time with your children, how can you express love to them? Of course, in giving time and help to your children, you receive a measure of reward as well, as you watch them grow up to be productive adults. The “purist” kind of love is to give expecting nothing in return, and this too, requires the sacrifice of time and effort.
Love requires sacrifice. I would argue that loving one’s self is a conflict in terms. You can’t take something from yourself and give it right back to yourself. That is self-serving. To love means to take from yourself—time, effort, etc.—and to offer these things to someone else. There is no “self-sacrifice.”
Many teenagers (and plenty of adults too) mistake lust or infatuation for love. If a 15 year old tells me “I’m in love with someone,” I would ask them “What are you willing to sacrifice for this person? Three free meals a day at home? High school? College?” Love is expressed when you have something significant to sacrifice for someone else. This is why we don’t let children or teenagers get married. They haven’t learned yet what sacrificial love is.
A loving relationship with God also requires sacrifice. There are plenty of people who claim to “love” God but who spend virtually no time with Him. They rarely pray. They seldom attend church. They don’t read scripture. And they don’t offer much in the way of charity. They may have a “relationship” with the Lord but where is the love?
A genuine relationship with the Lord, just like a genuine relationship with another person, requires giving time—time in prayer, time in worship. And it requires sacrifice, it requires giving of something to the Lord. If I look critically at my own relationship with Christ, I see lots of places where I can improve and the greatest of these is with my time. How often do my thoughts go to Him? How much time am I actually praying to Him? How much time am I actually “with Him?”
So, we’ve established that love requires sacrifice. However, sacrifice has the connotation of suffering. And love, when offered as God intended, is made with joy. I have enjoyed writing these prayer team messages for well over two years. They require a significant sacrifice of time. Sometimes I wonder what I could do with the time I spend writing these messages if I was not writing them. However, I choose to not focus on the sacrifice of writing, but rather on the joy of offering these reflections to whoever wishes to read them. When we offer love to our children, we focus on the joy it brings them, and in turn, the joy it brings right back to us. And in loving God, in prayer and worship, we should focus on the joy that the genuine relationship brings, not the sacrifice that it costs. Same thing with charity. When we give, we should focus on the joy of giving, not the sacrifice involved. Because to focus on sacrifice takes away joy. And for the recipient of our “sacrifice” we create guilt, rather than joy.
To love is to give sacrificially, but to have the sacrifice overshadowed with joyful giving. To love is to give without expecting anything in return. And to love is to give without the recipient knowing what you sacrificed in order to give.
To love God is to spend time with Him joyfully, to follow His commandments joyfully. Many times, people have said to me that they will give to the Church depending on what the Church will do with their gift. That is not giving with love. To give with love means to give whatever you are going to give, and to offer it to Christ, and the results of your gifts will be what they will be. To love is to focus on the giving, not on the return. This applies to what we give to the Lord and what we give to one another.
Saint Paul told early church leaders “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20: 35) Love requires giving, and in offering love, it is not only more blessed to give than to receive, but when we give, we always receive something back in return—personal satisfaction, and God’s blessings.
Almighty Lord, thank You for the example of love You showed when You laid down Your life for us on the cross. Your sacrifice brought joy to all the world. Please teach me what it means to love, by learning how to give love with joy and without condition. Amen.
Give love with joy today!