self-less love

In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned that I’m slowly reading through the book The Theology of the Cross by Prof. Daniel Deutschlander.  This following section really struck me.  We all know 1 Corinthians 13, but at the weddings we’ve been to, we’ve probably never heard a pastor say this to the bride and groom:

[from page 100, with the author’s italics] We cannot help but notice in [1 Corinthians 13] that there is not a syllable about when it will be my turn, about getting my rights, about my feelings.  That is what makes these words so much an echo of Jesus’ call to us to deny self and to follow him.  Whether those who receive such benefits from me return them or not does not really matter when I am confident that the Lord will keep his Word and never leave or forsake me.

That is not an easy lesson to learn.  Have you perhaps thought when reading Paul’s exhortations to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5 that it would be a lot easier to be the kind of husband Paul says a husband should be if only the wife were the kind of wife she should be?  Or it would be a lot easier to be the kind of wife Paul says a wife should be if only the husband were the kind of husband that Paul says he should be.  But there is not a word in Ephesians 5 that suggests “You be this way if your spouse is that way.”  He does not even suggest that the spouse will be the way the spouse should be if you are first the way you should be.  Each is to love unconditionally as Christ loves us — not necessarily as the other loves us, as desirable as it would be for the other to love us as he or she should.  Again, showing love like Christ’s love may at times be repaid with like love.  But that is not the reason for showing it.  Nor is it an excuse for withdrawing love when it is not repaid.  If love is returned with love, then that is a beautiful thing indeed, a most delightful gift from God.  But it is not the cause, the reason, or the condition for showing love.

But when is it my turn?  The question keeps popping into our minds and getting in the way of love that acts solely for the benefit of the neighbor.  Don’t I have needs too that need to be addressed?  The question cannot be ignored.  The answer to it however is not to be found in the neighbor.  It is to be found in Christ.  He says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  He remains the one who fills our eyes.  If we were looking elsewhere or at another, we would stumble; we would lose sight of him and end up in the ditch.  But we are looking at him.  And he it is who fills our need as well as our eyes.  To put it another way: When is it my turn?  That’s his problem, not mine.  When we need taking care of, he will find someone to take care of us.  When there is a cry in the heart and an ache in the soul, he will provide a saint of his own choosing to dry the tears and soothe the ache.  Turning away from following Christ to chase after and demand service from those we should serve is to lay down the cross before we get to heaven.  He knows our needs better than we do.  He supplies those needs in ways always better than the ones we would have found on our own and apart from him.

Now that’s real agape love!  May God help us married people as we aspire to that kind of love.