One of the extraordinary wonders of Jesus is that he was the “Suffering Servant.” When I think of this sobriquet, my mind is first drawn to the suffering self-sacrificial love displayed on the cross, but there is much more to the suffering of our Saviour. 1 John gives us brief but accurate description of God “God is love.” This week as I studied 1 Peter, I realized that to love is to suffer. If I truly love, I set aside certain of my: wants, desires, comforts, rights etc. in order to do good for those who I love. There is often real joy in the effort to love. We gladly forego gratifying ourselves in order to do good for our loved ones. Such is the love of a parent for a child or a husband or wife for their spouse. The joy can so outweigh the cost that we hardly notice but there is a cost!
Simple empathy has a cost. We have to ‘feel’ for another. We have to experience in our imaginations the pain of others. To pray effectively is to suffer. When we merely spout words like “God bless Mommy and Daddy.,” we are not being fervent or effectual in our prayers. When we are ‘moved’ by people’s circumstances and pain, when we ‘feel’ for them, when we suffer in prayer, then we are praying effectively!
The most famous Bible verse is John 3:16. It tells us that, God “loved,” and that God “gave.” Divine love is giving. God’s ‘giving’ is costly and self-sacrificial! True love follows this example. 1 Peter tells us “Christ also suffered for us leaving us an example, that we should walk in his way.”
Too often I give without cost. I pray perfunctory prayers without real empathy. I look for personal blessing rather than first “seeking the Kingdom of God.” I am won over to the truth that this must change. My calling is to spend myself, spend my life in loving God and others. I believe that in doing so I will not be poorer, though I suffer, but will be greatly enriched as more and more of the character of Christ is developed in me.
We are created after the image of God. We are designed to give love. Here we are God’s instruments to love. He does not just give but gives his best, “His only begotten Son.” As Francis wrote “It is in giving that we receive.”
This week we have thought about sacrifice as war. God calls us to a higher and holier sacrifice. He calls us to love! He calls us to love at a cost.
If you are like me this kind of sacrificial suffering love is beyond us. I have a selfish rather than a self-sacrificing nature. The Good News is there is help! By his Holy Spirit God provides the resources needed for us to live the Christ-like life. God alone can help us crucify ‘self’ and empower sacrificial suffering love. When I recognize my insufficiency, I imagine a trumpet sounding signalling ‘help is on the way!’ In my weakness God can and will make me strong.
Let us sow love! Help is on the way!