I am not a good man. I know myself. Those who know me know where I’ve come from and the things I’ve done. If there’s any measure of good in me, it is because Christ has hollowed out my toxic spirit and made it the home of His Holy one, so read these next words through that lens.I saw a friend of mine the other night during the Gathering. I had something to say to him, and I asked to speak with him outside. Though a mutual friend of ours was speaking, I knew what I had to say was important. My interactions with this friend are unique: when we get together we tend to talk about his own difficulties, failings and fears regarding his moral and spiritual walk with Christ and seldom focus on anything else. I remember he reached a moment of emotional crisis, when pain filled his cheeks and he aged in front of my eyes, his own eyes suddenly choked with grief which gathered to him like composting leaves. In this apex of emotion, he said this:
“Have I ever loved you?”
I had to think about it. After a full minute, I looked at him again and felt the weight when I told him that I think he needed to be loved. He wasn’t happy about it. He was straight disgusted about it. He said he felt like a puppy, pathetic and helpless. While I initially tried to refuse this position of his, I gave up that battle, in part because I agreed with him. It was pathetic and helpless—but that’s not a bad thing.
We come to Christ pathetic and helpless. We did nothing to deserve His sacrifice and everything to scorn Him. What we have is limited, and what He gives is infinite. You, with your smartphone, and me with my video games—us with our riches, greed and consumption will fall to time’s wheel. Ask yourself why you’re here on this earth. What do you live for? Is it your degree? Your money? Is it to be happy? I think that’s how it is for most of us, which, ironically, lends us misery. What are we when we arrive at the footstool of the Lord? What can we trade for our salvation?
When you love someone, who do you love them for? Why do you love them? Because love isn’t a provisional agreement. Loving someone means loving them, in all their sin and fear. Loving someone means sacrifice, even to the point where you must be willing to lose them if you must. I’m not calling for codependency. I’m not saying expect them to depend on you, but be willing to serve them, and die, ceaselessly, to yourself.
“You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” That’s from Isaiah 64, which was written after Jerusalem had been destroyed and all its riches plundered. Israel had nothing to bring before God, and had been brought low before Him. There was nothing left to offer. No riches, no cattle, nothing and not only did the Israelites not have anything to give to God, they had nothing with which to please themselves—which is, of course, what God wants in the end.
When my friend asked me that question, I was thinking of these things. I thought that it’s exhausting being friends with him, but I love him, and he knows I do. I thought of the three years I’ve known him, and all that we’d done, and when I answered him, I asked myself if I needed him to love me. The answer, of course, is that I didn’t. Christ didn’t come to earth to be served, but to serve, and when He died, He did so knowing that He was going to be cursed. His love was so great that He prayed even for those who took part in his crucifixion. True love does not demand reciprocation or call attention to itself. To the contrary: true love demands that you give yourself up every day. True love demands that you die to yourself, giving even your life for His love.