During this past Holy Week, as I contemplated the enormity and necessity of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, I was struck again with a painful realization: I do not love Him nearly enough. I don’t love others enough either. This sad truth comes as no surprise to me nor to anyone who knows me. In fact, those who apply love as the litmus test for followers of Jesus — “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another” — no doubt could find reason to fear for the state of my soul. All too often, I am a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal.
Even as I admit the sorry state of my pitifully stingy heart, defensiveness rises up in me. But, but, but…! I’m not as bad as some other people! It’s not as if I don’t love Jesus at all! Besides, I used to be much worse — look how much I’ve changed!
It is painful and difficult to admit is that I continually fail at the two greatest commandments we have as Christians: I don’t love God with every fiber of my being, and I don’t love others as much as I love myself. In fact, all too often my life is pretty much all about me, even when I am attempting to be at my most selfless, even when I am attempting to love sacrificially. No one who has met me would ever mistake me for Mother Teresa, and they certainly wouldn’t mistake me for Jesus.
I could trot out excuses. I love to the best of my ability, in my own way. I’m broken. Let me tell you about my past. I’m a trauma survivor. Introverts show love differently. And I do love — after all, I’ve raised six wonderful children and I’ve even been to Thailand twice.
Someday I will stand before Jesus, and all my excuses and “sinsplaining” will become like ash in my mouth. I will be without excuse.
As Protestants, we all too often want to jump quickly past confession and repentance straight to grace and forgiveness. But the Catholic liturgy contains a penitential prayer that says in part: “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault…” I encountered this prayer on Saturday night and felt so overwhelmed by grief and sorrow that I understood why many in the past, when confronted by God’s holiness, felt compelled to repent in sackcloth and ashes.
The gospel does not make sense until we confess our sins and truly repent…and not just via a one time “sinners’ prayer” either. I am becoming increasingly convinced that repentance is an ongoing lifestyle in which we renounce our sinful, selfish ways and acknowledge that, while there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus, we are in desperate need of Him daily… hourly… constantly.
It’s not just that I don’t love as I should, it’s that I can’t — hence my overwhelming need for transformation, for more of Jesus, for the constant indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I want to love what He loves and, in order to do that, I need to get to know Him a lot more than I already do. I need the constant presence of Jesus in my life so that, the more time I spend with Him, the more I become like Him.
The good news is that He rewards those who seek Him…and in His presence is fullness of joy.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV
May I learn, more and more, to love like Jesus. May my hard heart be continually and forever broken until I can truly love like I should.
Updated to add:
The other good news is that He is truly wonderful beyond words and, the more we know Him, the more He captivates our hearts. That in turn makes all the difference in the world.