WHO LOVED YOU FIRST?
So I woke up this morning knowing I wanted to write a blog on this topic. I was super siked for it! I was planning it in my head how I'm going to end it, thinking up punchy lines I could go BISH BASH BOSH with. This topic is fundamental Christianity and it's so important you know this as a Christian and so I wanted to get it right because it is something to be excited about! Good Christians are well known for being people who bring people to know Jesus by the way they love others. Heck I became a Christian just by other Christians treating me with a mad love that had never experienced before. And when I became a Christian I wanted to replicate this in my everyday life. That's one of the reasons I became a youth worker. But I found that people can suck a lot of the time. People can be really hard to love and treat with dignity. Because sometimes people treat you bad; and that's one of life's sad facts. However I've realized that this Christian ethic to love people even when they treat you like trash has a HUGE IMPACT. Whether you get to see the fruits of that or not. People often treat others like trash because someone treated them like trash earlier in their life. They hurt others before they can get hurt by the other. Now what if we flipped that round? What if we love people like we know how loved we were? What if we love people like we know how loved we are right now or will be in a week or 2 months or a billion years? What if we loved people without the fear that they will hurt us, because we know the love of the person who loved us first is enough and will always be enough?
Let's kick this off by thinking about what love actually is! A common idea of love would to define love as being a nice fluffy feeling. Or if you're into biology you'd define it as rush of neurotransmitters and hormones. You can love your mum, you can love your spouse, you can love pizza and your dog but how unhelpful is this single English word L.O.V.E.? HOPEFULLY you’d love your spouse in a completely different way to how you’d love your dog! The Greeks are great because they have different words for the different meanings of love. You’ve probably learned some of these already but running over them briefly we have: 'Storge', which is brotherly or family love.
'Eros' which is the wink wink nudge nudge romantic love.
'Philia' which is how you love a friend and
'AGAPE' which is the deepest level of love and the one we will be talking about!
'Agape' love is more of a choice than a feeling. It is seeking the well-being of others above your own. The motivation for this is purely because of the fact the other exists in world. No strings attached. Christians also call this 'grace'. For example, it means your intention isn't to be generous to your friend so that they get you lunch or that you’re well behaved for your parents so you get nice birthday presents. It is completely selfless and self sacrificial. Your authenticity in showing agape love can also be displayed in the way you treat the people you can't stand. A Christian friend of mine had a boss who treated them like TOTAL rubbish! But one day he chose to invite this boss round for dinner because he knew he was lonely and suffering from depression. He also knew it was unlikely that his boss would change or that he would get anything out of it, but he still wanted to bless his boss because he knew inviting him round would help his boss not suffer for a while. I'll give you another example. We all know the Sadducees hated Jesus' guts! So much so that they intended to make him suffer. Jesus knew this when soldiers came to arrest him in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus still knew this after one of his disciples cut off the ear one of the soldiers. But instead of him allowing the armed disciples to defend him so he could escape, he chose to heal the ear of a man who would bring him to his death. He did this because he loved him. When God formed this soldier in his mothers womb, he created him in his image and he loved him, even when he knew he knew what he would do to his only son in the future. When we sin we choose to separate ourselves from God. People assume the fall of man only happened once. On the contrary; every time we sin, we fall to the same caliber as they did in the garden of Eden. When we sin we choose to hurt God in the same way the Sadducees chose to hurt Jesus. Yet Jesus chose not to utilize his Godly power to crush those who would hurt him. Instead he made himself vulnerable and let them kill him so he could pay the blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins of the entire race of humanity so that we will no longer be separated from God.
This agape love is so baffling to non-Christians (and even some Christians) because the world has a totally different perception of love. Firstly the World tells you to forget the others; just to focus on 'ME'. If Someone gets in your way of success, crush them. If someone makes you look small, crush them. If you can make profits at other people's expense, crush them. This is what big businesses and role models of today's world encourage.
Secondly we're told we have to work to get someone to love us. The wold's view of how to get someone to love you could be by agreeing with everything everyone else thinks - wearing a tight dress - going to the gym - being popular - being good at sport - having lots of Instagram likes - doing as someone says - following trends - being good at Christmas time. I mean for goodness sake, even the notion of Santa at has this idea! No wonder there is so many in the world suffering from depression; feeling lonely and that they're unloved. This is the view of love that I grew up with. The world sold me this lie that I had to do something or act a certain way to be lovable. But this is such a flawed perception of love and puts all our worth in a conditional love. And it's such a hard mindset to change. This is why I still struggle understanding grace all the time
I particularly found getting my head around agape love hard when I first became a Christian. Sometimes I still do even now. It was one of my Christian friend's birthday recently, his name is Andy, and instead of expecting gifts this year, he offered to buy our friend group gifts. And these weren't any old gifts these were QUALITY. For example, another of our friends loves board games. Like the proper board games (not monopoly) I'm talking 500 piece games, takes 3 hours to play and costs close to £130. Andy Googled the best board game in the charts and planned to get him that. I can't get my head around it! It benefited him in no way, (in fact he lost money) and we did nothing to deserve this other than be his friend. And then I thought about how we did nothing to deserve the cross, in fact we did everything we could to not deserve it. I'm going to step this up a bit (a lot).
Lets talk about how Crucifixion works! Before I researched this I thought you die from crucifixion from blood loss and pain in a short space of time and I thought to myself,
'Meh I could do it if I had to, there's worst ways to go.'
Turns out, Je suis a nincompoop and it's a billion times worse than I thought! The short version is after immense torture you're suffocated to death. But just to make it more interesting I'm going to talk about the long version you'll be pleased to know!
So shut you eyes for a second (and then open them again because you wont be able to read lol) and imagine the events that lead up to Jesus death.
First he was scourged (which back then meant you were whipped repeatedly with a whip that often had knots in it so it could cut the skin deeper.)
Then he had to carry an extremely heavy block of wood a long way to the place where he would be killed. He then had his hands and feet nailed into the block of wood with a blunt rusty nail. This normally took a few bashes with a mallet to get it through.
He was starving and gasping for water in the boiling temperatures.
When they lifted up the cross his body was at an angle so that it would constrict the chest. This is so the only way he could breath would be to stand on tip toes on a small wooden platform (nailed just far enough out of standing reach) to push himself up so he could support his body to take in a single breath.
Victims of crucifixion die when they’re too exhausted to stand up on their tiptoes to breathe, so they suffocate.
Jesus had to do this all after he has been betrayed by someone he loved. After he had been abandoned by all of his friends. After he has been humiliated and scourged and beaten in front of crowds of people chanting to kill him!
On top of this physical and emotional pain, spiritually he is also battling the excruciating torture of having the whole of humanity's sin on his shoulders. All of your past sins and even all your future sins.
And all hell attacking him.
No one has died a worse death,
and no father has seen a worse way for his child to die.
Believe it or not Jesus died for Hitler too. Sin is sin. It's offence is the same regardless of how bad we score it. He died for you and I've said this before and I'll say it again; even if you were the only human being on this planet, he would still have gone through the same torture for hours on end until he died.
He doesn't need us. This benefits him in no way. But his love for us is so great that he would've done whatever it took so that we may be free from sin and the eternal torture of hell. The difference between Andy and him is that Andy probably wouldn't have wanted to get us things if I'd have punched him in the face or humiliated him or crucified him because that is fair to be frank. The thing is about Jesus' sacrifice is that it was so UNfair. Andy’s gifts were extravagant and ridiculously generous and kind but Jesus’s sacrifice is embarrassing and outrageous and scandalous. And what's more every second of it was all for our benefit because he loves us. That moment he died, he gave us the choice to go back to his home to be with him. News flash: God doesn't send people to hell! We send ourselves when we choose to run towards sin rather than God. Yet he still chooses to be vulnerable like he was on the cross, like he was in the manger, like he is in the Eucharist.
Even today he STILL chooses to be vulnerable. He’s abused and disrespected and has the satanic black mass performed on him and he gets trampled on when people take him out of mass and drop him on the floor but heaven sings when we go to mass and we take Jesus up on his offer to wash us clean from our sins. We could fall and hurt him 1000 times and but he’d still want us to come back 1001 times. When you realize how much he's in love with you, you will have the courage to do anything without fear of the love being lost. You can be completely yourself, you can be a Christian without the fear of being mocked for what you believe because it doesn't matter! You know you are the apple of the creator of the universes eye. It's so incredibly freeing!
His love will not change even if you sin or if you've rejected him your whole life. All he wants is for you to stop, turn around and come back to him. Not because he’s needy or needs to be loved but because you need his love.
This love will change your life. It's yours there for the taking. Its just the matter of whether you if you choose to accept it or not.
Written by Amy O'Sullivan