When I was a child, I remember hearing the story of Joni Erickson Tada. She had a terrible swimming accident that left her a quadriplegic. In spite of her physical limitations, Joni became an accomplished author and artist. Her story of faith is inspiring.
On her wedding day, Joni had planned to come down the center aisle in her motorized wheelchair. But just before her grand entrance, she noticed two distressing problems.
First, she had rolled over her beautiful gown. The result was a big grease spot and tear. Second, the flowers in her lap slipped off and landed between her leg and the chair. Already anxious, Joni was filled with disappointment.
Suddenly the doors to the auditorium opened. Her husband-to-be, Ken, was beaming, waiting for her to come down the aisle and commit his life and love to her.
Joni later said, “Once I saw Ken’s face, all I could think of was him. Everything else—the people in the church, the flowers that were sitting a little askew on my lap, the fact that my dress didn’t fall right because I was sitting in a wheelchair, the grease marks, the rip in my gown — all of it paled in comparison.”
The Fathomless Love of God
Sometimes I have thought about what it would have been like to gaze into the face of Jesus on the cross.
When I was in Jerusalem several years ago, I had an experience at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the most likely place of the cross and tomb of Jesus). I felt like I was transported back 2000 years and could see Jesus staring down at me from the cross.
His look was a look of love.
In the cross, we see the depths of God’s love. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us…this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:1, 16, NIV).
Jesus voluntarily gave His life so that we could experience true life. He died so that we could live. He suffered so that we could be comforted in our suffering. When faced with His immeasurable love, all other loves pale in comparison.
Loving One Another
What is the response to God’s great love? Naturally, it is to love in return. We can’t repay the love. We can’t earn God’s love. All that we can do is to respond with love. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God, but the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16, NIV, emphasis added).
To lay down one’s life doesn’t mean that you have to physically die for them, although God could call you to do that. Instead, there is a way of laying down your life — or dying — that is measured out little by little. You deny your wants so that others can have more. You deny your right to your own schedule so that others may benefit from the time God has given you.
You and I can only love God as much as we love our neighbors.
How can you serve someone this week? How can you show love in a practical way?
An Opportunity for Valentine’s Day
During this week, people will be giving gifts and cards and candies to people they love. It’s a holiday that can be hard on some people, but expressions of love are generally a good thing.
The holiday springs from the actions of a man from early Christendom named Valentinus or Valentino. Two or three such persons are mentioned in the list of martyrs that the early church kept. One of them, an Italian priest, was jailed for performing weddings at a time when the emperor outlawed weddings for young men so they could serve in the army. Before the priest was executed for refusing to renounce his faith and practices, he wrote a kind note to the jailer’s daughter. Supposedly, that note led to the tradition of sending cards for Valentine’s Day.
This week you could send a card to someone as a romantic gesture, or it could be a note of love to a friend or to someone who is lonely. You could give a gift to someone in need. You could spend time in intentional prayer for someone who is hurting.
Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” *(Matthew 25:40, NIV). To serve someone from a heart of faith and love is to serve Christ. To look with love into the eye of someone dear to you or a stranger is to see the face of God.
One day, when we see Christ face to face, He will be all that matters to us.
Why not look for Him now? Why not make it your priority this week to fix your eyes on Jesus, “the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).
I love you and hope you have an incredible week, filled with God’s love.