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Lenten Devotional: March 8, 2024

by Loren Russell, Director of Contemporary Worship

As Christ followers, we are familiar with the basic tenets of our faith, chief among these being love.

Jesus reminds us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:37-40 CSB)

Most Christians could recite multiple verses at will pertaining to love, but I wonder, as I look across the vast landscape of American Christianity, if we truly understand what love is.

Paul clues us in to the attributes of love: patience, kindness, it doesn’t envy, and so on.

These are great reminders of what love should look like, but in my years of ministry, marriage, and parenthood, I’ve found that in life, the concept of love can almost become ethereal.

We love our spouses. We love our children. We love our favorite sports team. We love coffee. We love our favorite music…

While the word love here is applicable to all of those things, its deeper meaning also seems to get lost in the shuffle.

I know in my life, I needed love to mean something more than just a feeling, especially when it comes to connecting it to the Gospel.

So if I had to reduce love down to one word to exemplify its meaning, it would be this: Sacrifice.

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 CSB)

The key to love that I think many miss in this verse is that God's love was not passive. It required action. God so loved that He GAVE.

God's love came in the form of sacrifice.

As we enter into this Easter season, it may do us well to ask ourselves: How do I love?

For many of us who love God, we give our time, our tithes, our worship.

For our families, we give much of the same.

But when it comes to loving our neighbor, what does it cost us?

It’s easy to say as Christians we “love people,” but if it just results in shallow words with no action, we may be guilty of reducing the most powerful tool God has given us to simple platitudes.

So today, a good reflection point may be this…

How does love equal sacrifice for my God, my spouse, my children, my enemy, those with different political affiliations, those who live different lifestyles than I do, the orphan, the widow, the homeless, those I flat out disagree with?

What are you willing to sacrifice for those who need it the most?

What does love look like when it costs you something every time?

I believe this is the process of sanctification that God is looking for.

Love isn’t always easy. It requires strength and a toughness that many people lack. to set yourself aside for those who need it most.

To quote the Boss:

If you're rough and ready for love Honey I'm tougher than the rest.

-Bruce Springsteen


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