11:15 p.m., the clock said. Even so, I kept on reading Beneath a Southern Sky by Deborah Raney. I had to find out what the main characters decided to do about the dilemma in which they inadvertently found themselves. No matter what they chose to do, everyone would lose something; but one of them would suffer the major (heartbreaking!) loss. But which one?
As I’d read about the earlier difficulties each of them (and their families) had faced, I’d often wondered, What would I do if I were in their place? I was glad I didn’t have to decide, especially when the BIG question arose, demanding an immediate answer.
Because I agonized for the characters and with them as they tried to figure out what to do, I continued reading their story—long past the midnight hour. I had to find out what they decided to do. Was I surprised!
One of the three volunteered to take the greatest loss. Yes, volunteered! Why? He loved the others so much that he took the harder, lonelier path in order to give the easier one to them.
What a powerful (and memorable!) picture of real love—God’s kind of love! The story, even though it was a fictional one, helped me to see that true love—genuine love—voluntarily gives up what is best for one’s self in order to give the best to the beloved.
That set me to thinking. “How often do I love that way?” With remorse, I had to admit, “Not often.”
I want to love others with God’s kind of love, but, the truth is, I fail to love sacrificially. Oh, when loving is easy (less costly), I do fairly well. But when the price of loving gets high, I begin to argue, “But what about what I need? What about what I deserve? Don’t I count, too?”
Obviously, I have a lot to learn about loving. (Do you?) Real love not only wants what is best for another, it does everything possible to provide it, no matter how much it costs the giver. Sometimes what is best may not cost much—a little quality time, a bit of encouragement, a chance to succeed, and so forth. But sometimes, loving requires more of us than we can comfortably give, more than we want to give. It is then that we find out whether or not we truly love others.
According to the Bible, real love does whatever is necessary in order to give the best to others. For example, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (New Living Translation). And we know (don’t we?) what misunderstanding, mistreatment—even death—Christ endured in order to provide life—abundant and eternal—for sinners like you and me. That’s why John, who was an eyewitness to how Christ suffered on behalf of others, wrote, “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (1 John 4:11, NLT).
Since each situation you and I face is real, not fictional, it’s vitally important for us to love as Christ would if He were in our place and dealing with the same people and problems we face. You see, others are “reading” our lives. What we do has a powerful (and memorable!) effect on them.
© 2005 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, who welcomes comments sent to firstname.lastname@example.org .