Monday, April 2, 2012

What Wondrous Love

trad. American folk-hymn

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

Love is a term thrown about perhaps too glibly. It's certainly been commercialized to an unhealthy extent, and through this process of commercialization, "love" often carries connotations no more broad than feelings of admiration at best, feelings of lust at worst.

The true impact of what love means is cushioned by a pile of so many cut-out hearts and rose petals. I was listening to a sermon online yesterday, and the pastor was discussing the significance of Jesus Christ as being the Great high priest; one who brings us into the presence of God safely because He bore the weight of our sins.

It's easy to say we are loved by God. As the familiar song goes, "Jesus loves me, this I know..." But do we live like we know? It occurred to me, listening to this sermon, that I don't live as though this were fact.

When we know beyond a doubt that we are loved, it changes how we act. It changes how we speak. It changes how we think. Love, in its most selfless form, is a powerful force.

We might see glimmers of this in our relationships with friends, family and significant others but it will always be imperfect and incomplete because somewhere along the line we will do something selfish or hurtful. We may even try to justify our inconsiderate behavior by blaming it on the faults of the other person... "I'd be a better brother if so-and-so weren't so annoying!" "I wouldn't cheat if my husband actually paid attention to me!" "If only my students would listen, I wouldn't have to lose my temper with them."

Such rationalizations explain our flaws as being the fault of those around us. Such behavior takes place in even relatively healthy and functional relationships, to varying degrees. It is, most unfortunately, typical of us as humans.

So, we understand then, just how difficult it is to look beyond the blemishes, beyond the mistakes and to love another with total and selfless abandon.

That's precisely what Christ did for us on the cross. God is wholly good--something we can scarcely envision. In such a presence of total goodness, things that are broken, dirty and evil simply cannot exist. Obviously, we do not seem like likely candidates to dwell in the presence of God. Yet, Christ bore our sins on the cross and because of His sacrifice, we can enter the presence of God and live!

We did not earn this privilege, we do not deserve it, we cannot repay it. We can only accept and follow. This is the wondrous love to which the song refers and when you really stop to think about it, it's a love so powerful that it will transform us from the inside out. My challenge to myself (and to any who read this) is to believe and accept this love... to not simply say I'm loved but to live as though I'm loved.

And through eternity, I'll sing on, I'll sing on...

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