The Greatest Gift –
Categories: Expressing God, Family and Friendship, Jesus' Birth, Jesus' Commandment - To Love as He Loved
Christmas-time is filled with thoughts of gift-giving. And why shouldn’t it be? Since it is at Christmas that we celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever received. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…” (John 3:16).
God gave us Christ Jesus for a reason—to teach us about love, about God’s love for us, and about how we can share that love with each other. God’s love gave us Jesus, and Jesus re-gifted that love to the world, reminding us to do the same: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39).
So what are we to do with this love? How are we to re-gift this to our world?
We choose love…in every instance. As Jesus did.
How did Jesus love? Abundantly, unconditionally, always. He loved the sick by healing them. He took the untouchables, and touched them. He looked at the children and blessed them. He helped the blind see. He enabled the crippled to walk. He took the outcasts, the mean spirited, the tax collectors and transformed their lives through the touch of love.
He told us to bless those that curse us, to refuse to judge or condemn, to be peacemakers, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to take the initiative and treat others how we want to be treated, to solve our problems peaceably.
He taught us to turn the other cheek, to give others the shirt off our backs, and to not cast stones. When Judas betrayed him, he called him "friend." When Peter cut off the ear of Malchus, who was among those who came to capture Jesus, the Master healed the man’s ear. When Jesus was up on the cross, he forgave. He never ceased to love. Indeed, Jesus enjoined us to love as he loved.
And yet, somehow, love does not always come easily—especially with certain people. It is hard to love those who tell lies, cheat on a friend, blame someone else for a mistake, embezzle, commit acts of terror. Can we love others as Jesus did? And then of course, we have ourselves. Can we love ourselves as God loves us?
How do we love?
- We realize that often the ones who are least deserving of love need it most.
- We consciously feel God’s love for us. This is important to do because loving others becomes easier when we feel loved ourselves. If we feel outside of love, it’s hard to love. If we feel hurt or pained, angry or frustrated, sad or lacking, it’s hard to love. But if we feel the unconditional love of our Father-Mother God, then it’s easier to love.
- We remember who we are: we are God’s children, and God is Love. We are Love’s children.
- We understand that we are all God’s children. All means all—everyone. No one is left out. God loves us all.
- Then, we separate the action from the person—clearly and specifically. For instance: Lying, cheating, violent, abusive behavior, are to be condemned! But you, separate from that, you as God’s child, I can love. This is critical: the person is not the same as the action. The person is God’s child. The action is a behavior that needs to be stopped in order to start healing.
Almost 2000 years ago, Paul wrote: “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (I Cor 13:13 NLT).
Why is love the greatest of all? Because it has the power to transform lives, heal mental and physical challenges, satisfy the soul, direct our goals, comfort the mourning, beautify the world, soften the hardened heart…. There’s no end to what Love can do because “God is love” (1 John 4:8 KJV).
And because “God is love,” God’s love is not a one-time gift given a couple millenniums ago. God’s love is ever-present. God’s love was with all the patriarchs and the prophets. It was with the shepherds on the night of Christ Jesus’ birth. And it is present and powerful today.
I love how Peterson paraphrases Paul’s words because they give us action items: “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly” (The Message, 1 Cor 13:13).
What a great gift—to “love extravagantly.”