It has been a long day at the office, and the drive home drags on as the weight of unfinished tasks rest on your shoulders. As soon as you walk through the door the couch is calling your name, but your spouse asks if you could do a few things around the house before you relax.
You just sat down to read a book on the back porch, and the phone rings. You sigh as you see that it’s your friend who lives life under the dark clouds of negativity. Every time life’s storms wreak havoc on his emotional stability you are the first person he reaches out to and every conversation drains the life out of you.
Once again, you find yourself at an elderly family member’s house doing odd jobs and random chores. For some reason, every time something breaks, goes missing, lets out an odd sound or smell, you are the one she calls. As one task multiplies into several, you see your Saturday plans pass by.
Requests like these often cut in to your plans and desires, don’t they? Why do people burden you with wishes that you do not want to carry? If we are honest, more often than not, serving others can feel more like a drudged duty than a delight. And your desire to push everyone away and find solitude easily turns to guilt. After all, it seems like those who request the most of our attention are usually our nearest and dearest neighbors. To make matters more difficult, as a Christian you are called to love your neighbor in the same way that you love yourself. These are the moments when theology meets life.
What, if anything, will compel you and I to sacrificially love those around us? There is only one answer for the Christian. The gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that the sacrificial life and death of Jesus not only provides salvation, impels us towards sanctification, but also inspires us to reflect God’s sacrificial love to others (2 Cor. 5:14, Rom. 8:35-39). However, there are moments when sacrificial love for others is the farthest thing from our hearts.
Let us be reminded of the words of Jesus, the greatest display of love is found in laying down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13). Specifically, it’s not “losing” one’s life; it’s “laying it down.” That’s a proactive statement. There is a sense in which Jesus is saying, “Choose sacrifice”. What motivates our loving sacrifice? His sacrificial life and death of love on our behalf motivates our loving sacrifice for others (Eph. 5:1-2; Phil. 2:3-8).
The apostle Peter exhorted the church: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).” In other words, the compelling beauty of Christ’s sacrificial example dissolves our indifference to the need of others. So, when you see how Christ has loved you, it will melt your heart and transform how you love others (2 Cor. 5:14).
The application of the gospel to our indifference to the need of others is simple. It is in those moments when we do not feel like loving others that our commitment to, and thankfulness for, Christ’s sacrificial love shines. Don’t kid yourself, the very nature of loving sacrificially makes it abundantly clear that we will not always be happy about it, even in those moments when it’s needed most. As followers of Christ we are called to forfeit our self-centered desires in favor of serving others.
When we repent of our indifference towards others and refocus on the gospel, our hearts will be softened toward others as we serve and Christ will turn our duty into delight. Very simply, the gospel will change our heart toward others so that we desire to love them sacrificially as an opportunity to reflect the love of God. There is great joy in serving others! Not only does it honor and reflect Christ, it is also a tangible way of loving our neighbors.
For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised. – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (HCSB)