Friday, July 28, 2017

Love and a future hope... something beyond feelings

The strongest relationships are those that transcend feelings and are based on the value we place on the other. This often involves feelings for the other but not necessarily. We may not be getting anything from a particular relationship at any given moment that would stir feelings in us (though pleasant memories of positive treatment or experiences with them from the past can evoke positive emotions). It may in fact cost us a great deal of time and resources to remain in a relationship, with no indication of immediate benefit or reward. We do it simply because we value them that much. 

A common example would be caring for a parent with Alzheimer's (or some other debilitating condition), who sacrificed for us growing up so we could have the best life possible. We act in love towards them even though it is completely one sided, with no appreciation from them *at the time. We do it simply because we appreciate them for all they did for us.
*Not unlike our love for our kids is often one sided, with little appreciation by them at the time for what we do for them.
When someone has proven by past deeds they value us; past deeds so great we were impacted for the rest of our lives, so much so we would never question their love or their value of us even though we see no evidence of their love at the time, then we are willing to do things for them with no immediate advantage or benefit to us. In fact we are even willing to suffer loss. We see the benefit and it's great enough we feel we could never adequately "return the favor."

Now what if this is a person we have not actually met but have only experienced the benefit of their actions on our behalf from afar. Not unlike getting a large some of money from someone who found out we incurred a debt beyond our ability to pay it (incurred by our own poor choices).  A debt so great in fact, the rest of our lives would be ruined if we didn't get help. When this person from afar found out they took care of our debt. 

Now what if we are told by this same person we are caring for (through letters), that they have more yet to come in store for us that is great beyond anything we could image, even greater than their past kind deed on our behalf. Would we choose to believe this promise of future reward based on their past act/proof alone, no matter how little the evidence we see of their love/value for us at the moment?

What could drive us to believe this promise of future reward when we are not seeing or experiencing any evidence of their love in the moment? Only if what they did for us previously was of such immense value, it is enough to prove their love for us and value of us even if they never did anything else. In fact it was so great, we are convinced (we believe) when promised, that most of what they will do is yet to come. We believe this promise because of what they already did in the past. 

Acting for God's glory (i.e. out of a desire to display his great value) is not acting because we necessarily feel like it or because we see any immediate or significant benefit from it. It can be acting in gratitude for past actions that have infinitely benefitted us. 

It can also be out of anticipation (hope) of experiencing the joy of being with this person who did these past great things knowing they eagerly await being with us. In fact that's why they did them, so we could one day be together. The joy of our anticipation is great because we value them and look forward to being with this person who did so much for us (even though we have never meet them). A future joy we are told, that is enhanced/ deepened by our faithfulness (obedience) to them in this present moment. 

We love God not only for past actions on our behalf but the promise of future reward. A reward that is enhanced by faithfulness to them based on our trust in that love they showed us in the past. The reward of being with this one that values us so infinitely they willingly experienced great loss and harm to themselves so they could be with us in the future and reunite us with their Father, who is the source of their love for us.

This is an anticipated benefit, not a present one. A gain assured to us by the promise of the giver and proven to us by their past acts of giving, not necessarily evidenced by the present experience of present gain/benefit. 

Who has loved us in this way, presently loves us and promises we are yet to see the full expression of that love in the future? Only one person, Jesus. 

When we have nothing else; no other proof of love other than these past actions and future promises, is this is enough? It is if and when we understand how greatly he values (love) us and how much he gave to prove it. Do you believe?

What about others who do not and can not love us in return? How do we treat them? 

We treat them with the same exact love Christ has shown us because he calls us to for his sake and promises us he will honor us for our sacrificial love because we seek to honor him by loving as he loves. His love is sufficient to move us to love others even when their love in return (or lack of it) is not. 

So we love Christ for what he has done and what he will do (i.e. promises to do in eternity). These alone are adequate to move us to faithfulness to him even if and when we see no immediate or present advantage in doing so.

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Grace to you
Jim Deal