A few years ago, my oldest son Jonathan and I were tending a burn pile down by the barn. As we sat in camping chairs, water hose ready, watching the dried limbs and brush blaze, he had something to tell me that was very hard to hear.
As my eyes followed a black ember dancing upward in the billows of smoke, he said, “Dad, growing up I felt as if you cared more about the relationship than you did about me.” He went on to explain that he knew I loved him, but he could tell I cared a lot about being viewed as a successful Father.
Jonathan’s words pierced my heart. At that time my identity was very closely tied to success in all my roles. I feared failing as a husband, father, provider, brother and friend. This is exactly what he was pointing out to me. My love was not pure. I needed to know I was doing a good job and depended on the response of others for assurance and validation.
My conversation with Jonathan was very hard, but it was exactly what I needed. I’m so glad he cared enough about our relationship to point out how he was feeling. His honesty helped me understand that I loved with a selfish love, expecting something in return. I thanked him for his boldness and sincerely apologized. I asked God to heal this part of me which craved affirmation and the approval of others.
God has and is answering my prayer. I’m now much freer to love others with the sacrificial love of Jesus, but I also know He’s not through with me yet. At times, I still find myself expecting certain responses from others as I seek to love them.
My prayer is that I will love others as Christ loves me, not with a faulty human love, but with the love of His Indwelling Holy Spirit.
Consider the following verses:
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, gets up from supper, and lays aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He pours water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. John 13:3-5
Right before Jesus performs a service, done normally only by slaves, John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives us a peak into Jesus’ mind:
Jesus knew who He was and where He came from. Jesus is the Son of God. His Father sent Him forth, giving all things into His hands so that He could rescue us and restore us to right relationship with God. Jesus didn’t need anything from those He came to rescue. He was completely filled with His Father’s love.
If we were sent to an ant colony to rescue the queen from an anteater, to return when the job was done, would we really care what the ants thought of us while we were there? No, we could care less how the ants felt, we were visiting from another place.
As believers, our citizenship is in heaven. Like Jesus, our true home is not this world. We are free to love others as Christ has loved us, needing nothing in return.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Philippians 3:20
Because this world is what we see, it’s easy for us to operate on its terms, looking to society to tell us how we’re doing. But consider the following amazing fact, spoken by Jesus concerning you and me.
Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; Remain in My love. John 15:9
Jesus loves us just as much as God the Father loves Him. Let this soak in before you read on.
Ours is to remain in this great love, a love we did nothing to deserve to begin with. Remaining in the love of Jesus allows us to love freely as He did.
If we remain saturated in the love of Christ, untethered from the need for human validation and approval, we love freely, expecting nothing in return.
But how do we remain in His love? Read the following verses carefully for the answer.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. John 15:10-12
We remain in His love, by loving others as He has loved us. His love flowing through us, completes our Joy. Our life becomes a continual rhythm of receiving His love and giving it away. Free to love because He loves us..
- Jesus loves us as much as God loves Him
- We can do nothing apart from Jesus, including loving others
Challenge: Think about a time recently when a person didn’t respond to your love as you would have desired; a time when your feelings were hurt or when you found yourself fishing for a response.
Ask the Lord to wash away your expectations and hurt in His great love. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart that you might get a glimpse of how much God loves you. His love is wider and deeper and longer and higher than your mind can understand. But His can speak to our hearts and reveal His ocean of love.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19