Love & Grace
A couple of Sundays ago, my pastor talked about radical, crazy love given when someone least deserves or expects it. What a challenge! Recently in the news, we heard a story of this type of radical love and forgiveness when a killer was forgiven by a victim’s brother. Why do you think this made the news? It is because this kind of radical forgiveness and love is highly unusual. In John 13, Jesus demonstrates radical love to His disciples by washing their feet. Jesus, who revealed Himself as I AM, one with God Himself showed radical servant leadership, love, and grace through this simple act.
Jesus provides a living example of what it means to be great in the kingdom, an upside-down kingdom. In Jesus’ kingdom, to be great is to serve selflessly and with great love. In John chapters 13-17, Jesus speaks to His disciples in the upper room. It is an intimate and crucial discourse to prepare the disciples for living in the way of the Spirit after His death. The Bible says He loved them until the end, or to the fullest extent. The footwashing foreshadowed the cross where Jesus would show His greatest act of love by dying for them. In these chapters the word love is mentioned 31 times, compared to the 12 times in the previous chapters. These chapters are about living and loving in the fullness of Jesus. When I realized that, I knew I had better pay attention because God has given me many opportunities to love imperfect people and to be loved by Jesus through the imperfect people in my life. I need Jesus’ love because I still have my sin nature and I blow it all the time. Jesus is in the business of redeeming and restoring when a person repents instead of in the business of condemning and punishing, so I must have that same attitude of love and grace.
Two interesting people were in the footwashing group when Jesus humbly washed their feet. Peter, who would later deny Him that night, had his feet washed, although he first rejected the idea. It seems Peter was so caught up in himself and wasn’t able to just be present and accept Jesus’ gracious gift. Are you ever like that? Instead of looking for clear signs of Jesus’ love, do you get in your head and try to solve a problem when Jesus is providing a solution at that moment? Look to Jesus to provide the daily cleansing you need. Hopefully, you are going to the Word every day to hear from Jesus. I know I am too messed up to not be in the Word most every day so Jesus can change me. Do you ever reject what Jesus is trying to do in your life like Peter initially rejected the footwashing? It is far easier to let Jesus wash your weary feet and cleanse you from immature motives than it is to reject His love. Jesus reminds the disciples that they are to wash each other’s feet and to love each other just as vulnerably as He has loved them.
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15)
Have any hard to love people in your life? How about the easy to love people you are too distracted to pay attention to? It is time for some extravagant love to be splashed around in our families, in our communities, and to the ends of the earth. Get ready for some radical ideas to be put in your head by Jesus. Maybe you’re going to be the foster mom to a needy child. Maybe you are older, and you don’t feel like your words matter but Jesus is calling you to be a great encourager to younger women who are struggling to find meaning. There is never an excess of love in God’s kingdom. You are presented with opportunities every day. I was shopping in Costco this week and I stopped to have lunch by the entrance. Since the tables were so crowded on a Saturday, an elderly gentleman asked if he could sit beside me while we ate. He shared that he usually came to Costco to meet his friend for lunch, but now his friend had cancer and the effects of the treatments kept his friend from coming to Costco. I acknowledged that it was very sad, and he went on to ask why I was at Costco that day. I told him I was hosting a 12-year-old’s birthday party on Sunday because the girl and her mom lived in a recovery home and had no place to have a party. He was very intrigued with why I would do such a thing. I was able to tell him just a bit about how Jesus’ love compels me to share His love with others. It was a seed planted and I pray God sends other people to water it and he comes to Christ. Love extravagantly even at Costco.
Remember when I said there were two unlikely people sitting in the foot washing group? Judas the Betrayer had his feet washed by Jesus. Did Jesus grudgingly wash Judas’ feet? I don’t think so. Jesus loved Judas with the same extravagant love He had for all the disciples. Jesus bent down before His betrayer, touched him, washed him, and loved him, even though Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. Here Jesus shows us how He gives extravagant grace to us even, even if we’re planning to depart from His ways. He gives Judas every last chance to change his mind, to accept His love, to finally have full faith and believe in Him. Jesus gives everyone every last chance to love Him and to believe in Him.
Is there someone in your life you have completely given up on? Is there someone who has betrayed you, hurt you, and even seeks to destroy you? I’m not saying you shouldn’t set appropriate boundaries with scary people, but I am saying God is calling you to love someone who is your enemy. God is calling you to show grace to your enemies, to pray, and love like Jesus did here. I saw a post on Facebook by the singer Toby Mac that really got me thinking. It said, “You will understand better the love of Jesus when you sit at the table with your Judas.” Sometimes it isn’t possible to sit at a table with your enemy, but you could send an anonymous card or find a way to serve them.
Where is God calling you to love extravagantly, hope relentlessly, and relate authentically? I will bet you money that you won’t get to the end of your day without encountering an opportunity somewhere.