In light of tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, I thought it would only be appropriate to write about the topic of love. Now, before you roll your eyes or close the window on your screen, you should know that this is going to be a pretty brutal post. And for that you have Michael Jackson to thank.
I woke up Saturday morning with the idea to write about serving one another in love- and on my 5 minute drive home from the grocery at 8:30am the radio confirmed this was the way to go. I mean, it was like divine intervention via the FM. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I heard the song Man in the Mirror on the radio, yet there it was blaring in my Ford Focus (don’t judge- the heated seats are amazing). Say what you want about Michael, but that song gets me every time. Probably because I remember that music video so vividly. I was only 7 years old when it was released, but those images of starving children and other gruesome historical events still flash in my mind every time I hear that song. I truly think as a child that was my first glimpse of the ugliness of the world. Yet the video footage is somehow counterbalanced by the positive and hopeful message that change in the world is possible, and that it starts with…me.
That morning as I listened in my car, the lyrics “I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love” jumped out at me. You know why? Not because others have been selfish in their love for me, but because that is my number one obstacle to loving others well. I like things that are comfortable and convenient, and if I’m being super honest, things that play to my interests. That doesn’t sound very much like love, and it certainly doesn’t sound like Jesus.
Any ideas this world had about love were pretty much flipped upside down when Jesus showed up. He taught that the first shall be last and the last shall be first; that those who want to be great must be servant to all. Christ was the ultimate example of sacrificial serving love; for Jesus himself, the Son of God, came to earth from all of his heavenly glory to wash the feet of sinful men and to die a grotesque death on a cross. As Matthew 20:28 tells us, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As Christians that is our model; we are to imitate Christ by loving as he loved.
It’s funny the things that stick with you sometimes. After returning home from a Toronto missions trip in 1999 one of our youth leaders very wisely created a board (which hung on the wall of our youth room) comprised of a water bottle, brown paper lunch bag, and a squeegee. Above the board was the verse “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did unto me” (Matthew 25:40). It stood as a beautiful reminder of our trip, and every time I looked at it I could picture myself and the others giving food and water to the homeless and helping the “squeegee kids” earn some extra money. It also reminded me that when I serve others, I am ultimately serving Jesus. To this day I cannot read (or hear) that verse without thinking of that board.
When it comes to weeks like Toronto, it’s easy to have a servant mentality because the whole point of the trip is to serve others. I am forever thankful for those trips (perhaps more on them in a future post), for they impacted me very deeply and in some important ways, set the stage for my future. But for me, where it gets really real is serving the people in my every day life. It’s easy to get focused on my agenda, making sure I get the things done that I want to do. I take care of myself, but in the process forget to take care of others. It might show up in simple things- like taking my dirty dishes to the sink but not offering to take my spouse’s, or sitting on the couch for an extended period of time reading (or writing) instead of playing that game of Clue with my 8 yr old. But it also shows up in bigger things like my attitude or filtering my whole thought process through my own lens first rather than thinking about what someone else might want or need.
When my husband and I got married on June 19, 2004 we had a foot washing ceremony to symbolize our commitment to serving one another in love. Before all of our family and closest friends we got on our knees- me in my wedding dress and he in his tux- to demonstrate this servant love Jesus calls us to. I’m so grateful we did this, and although it is at times painfully convicting, it helps me to remember the way I am to love him. And trust me, over the last 15 years of marriage my husband has by far been the better model of this. I am acutely aware that I need to continuously be in prayer for God to incline my heart to servant love- both for my spouse and for others.
James 1:23-24 says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” It seems I’ve come full circle on this post as once again the idea of a mirror is used to call us to action. I want to be a doer. Specifically, a doer who with humility serves others in love. I need to remember that just as I am feeding Jesus by giving a homeless man in Toronto a sandwich, so am I serving Him when I serve my husband, children, friends, co-workers, and strangers.
As Michael said, it does start with the man in the mirror- but with a pivotal twist. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this kind of love is beyond my sinful capability; for it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit and Christ in me that this love is possible. To love others well I have to stay connected to the One who is love Himself. May this be ever in the forefront of our minds as we take up the call to walk in servant love with the One who served and loved us perfectly.