“What does love require of me?”

Its been a hard week y’all.  Just a hard week.  I won’t bore you with the details, but have you ever had one of those weeks when you feel like you’re being pulled in a thousand directions and you just can’t catch up?  And, just when you think you can sit down on the couch and rest a few minutes while the oven heats up, the oven catches on fire.

Well, that’s the kind of week I’ve had and let me tell you I didn’t really need that fire extinguisher dust all over my house.

One more thing to clean – adding fuel to the fire you might say.

So as I sit here in the late hours of Good Friday and the early morning hours of Saturday, if I’m honest, I need a little attitude adjustment, as my Daddy would say.  I need to just get over this week and get glad.  And, a little sunshine wouldn’t be a bad thing either.  I’m not sure where you live, but Nashville has been so rainy and gloomy lately I’ve been wondering if someone out there is building an ark.

The chaos of this Easter week always makes me smile because, being raised in a pastor’s family, this is as big as it gets.  Easter Sunday is the pinnacle of the Christian faith and, as a child, watching my parents prepare and pray for this Sunday, I understood it’s importance.  Because, without the resurrection, there is no christianity.  I’ve always understood this day needed to be celebrated, but over the past few years I’ve really started understanding why.

I mean, I’ve always known Jesus, his life, and his death in the Sunday School sense.  I’ve heard every bible story a couple hundred times and I can even quote a fair amount of scripture.  But, it’s a whole different ballgame when you have to really put those words into action.

I think we all reach that point in our lives in some form or another where faith and action collide.

James 2:17 says, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”.

Until my faith required real action, I’d always been confused by this verse because we are not saved by works, we are saved by grace.  But, what I think James means is that if we have been saved by grace, it will produce good works.

Now, I think that the “works” has often been misinterpreted among Christians as we use this to judge and compare.  But, for me its very simple and it’s the core of the message of Jesus.

You see Old Testament law or the law of Moses was comprised of over 600 laws beginning with the Ten Commandments and extending from social and moral laws to purity and sacrificial laws.  This started from a covenant between the Israelites and God.  This is very important to understand because Jesus says in Matthew 5:17 that he came to “fulfill” the law.  This meant that he came to bring a new covenant and a new way.

At the last supper or the passover feast, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13: 34-35).

Andy Stanley describes this so perfectly.  The old covenant says, “what does the law require of me?”.   The new covenant says, “what does love require of me?”.

And, the disciples, y’all, when they heard this they probably didn’t really understand.  They didn’t know that before this dinner was over, Jesus would be betrayed.  They didn’t know that in a few hours Jesus would be arrested, beaten and crucified.

But, Jesus knew.

He knew when he started the passover feast and he began to show them “the full extent of his love” (John 13: 1).

He knew that Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him, but he washed their feet anyway because that’s what love required of him.

He knew when he was arrested that he would be wrongly accused and sentenced to death, but he surrendered willingly because that’s what love required of him.

And, as he carried his cross, he became the sacrificial lamb.

You see the old law required sacrifice for sin and Jesus came to fulfill this law.  So, the cross he carried wasn’t really his – it was yours and mine.  He took our place because that’s what love required of him.

So, there I stood at the intersection of faith and action.  Trust had been broken in my marriage and forgiveness was required.  And, if I’m honest, I’d have given anything for the old law.  Why?  Because, although the old law is complicated and burdensome, it’s a little easier.  The old law says that if I love God, I just have to follow the rules, and as everyone knows rules, especially 600 rules, are filled with loopholes.

You see I could have practiced forgiveness by the rituals of the law without really forgiving.  And, you better bet I could have used the law to my advantage.

But, the new covenant says, “Love one another”.  However, it doesn’t stop there.  Jesus keeps going, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.

This is the intersection of faith and works.

There are no loopholes in this covenant.  There are no gray areas or special interpretations.  You cannot work for this kind of love.  You cannot earn this kind of grace.  But, when you receive it, it will begin to work in your life.

Before I could forgive my husband I had to fully accept this love, grace and forgiveness for myself that was extended to me through the cross.  You see I couldn’t give something I  hadn’t received.

Although I continue to mess this up almost daily, I always find redemption at the cross.

That’s why the cross is so important for us to understand.  The cross is where Jesus showed us the event of his love.  It’s where grace flows and forgiveness dwells.  The cross fulfilled the law and established the new covenant between God and man.

But, there’s just one more thing.  When Jesus died on the cross he knew something else that the disciples didn’t understand. He knew he would rise again.  Just as the cross established the new covenant, the resurrection established a new promise of eternal life.

So on this late Good Friday night/early Saturday morning, I pray that you will not only understand the cross, but that you will accept the love, grace and forgiveness that was demonstrated through it.  I pray that you will truly feel the extent of His love and comprehend what love required of Jesus that day.  And, on Easter Sunday morning, I pray that you will celebrate a resurrected Savior in the fullness of this new covenant.

And, in those difficult times when our faith requires action, may we ask, “what does love require of me?”

~Mary Ann

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