Real Love Bleeds
"We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19 (ESV)
Once while attending a conference I found myself browsing through the vendor section.
Most, if not all, of the vendors had products available where the proceeds would be invested directly into a ministry or mission project designed to change the lives of people near and far.
The idea that my purchase could in some way be a small contribution to Kingdom work propelled me to actively seek something that I wanted to wear, use or display in my home.
I paused in front of a table featuring art prints with various inspirational quotes and verses. It was like a sea of words.
I figured that somewhere on that table were words I would want to display in my home. Words that would inspire me and spur me on to be the person God wanted me to be.
I found those words. But they weren’t the warm and fuzzy words I was looking for. The kind that would make me want to smile when I walked by them in my home.
Instead I found words that cut deep and convicted me beyond my expectation. Words that inspired me … but solemnly. Words that did not yield a cozy experience, but certainly lit a fire within my heart and soul. The print said:
"Real love bleeds."
I bought it.
Loving people can be hard work. It can be even harder when the love you give requires the very essence of who you are to flow through wounds inflicted by the ones your heart beats for.
When I read these three small words penned by this artist-turned-missionary, I stopped in my tracks because I knew I had been doing exactly the opposite in my life.
Instead of being willing to "bleed" for the ones I loved the most, I had slipped into full-on apathy.
Why? Because sometimes caring for and loving others doesn’t feel good.
Sometimes, it’s easier not to love.
Over time, and unbeknownst to me, I had become an expert at self-preservation and pain avoidance.
Anything that hurt, I didn’t touch — including the people I loved the most.
I grieved as I realized that the very love Jesus continually offered me — the same love that came at His own great personal discomfort and eventual agony — was unfortunately the kind of love I’d become unwilling to consistently offer.
Why? Because sometimes loving others hurts.
As I stood there and pulled out my wallet to purchase the simple yet beautiful print, I realized that great love comes at a great cost — as evidenced by the example of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for my sins, which we see in today’s key verse.
I remembered His illustration of love for me and recalled His command that I follow in His steps: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34, ESV).
Now, let me concede this. I am completely aware that everyone who causes us pain should not be an automatic recipient of our deepest level of sacrifice. However, I am acutely aware of my own need to assess my willingness to love like Christ loves me and to sacrifice for those to whom I am called.
What I know for certain is this: There are times when the love I have for others is not a matter of feeling, but rather a matter of my decision to be obedient to Him — and it won’t feel good.
The question is, when real love results in my personal discomfort or even a heart-wrenching level of pain, am I willing to love well anyway?
Father, thank You for Your love — a love that never fails and never gives up on me. You are the perfect example of a great love — a love that is offered full-strength even when love is not given in return. Help me to love like You. I want to honor You by doing my best to love others in the way You have loved me — even when it hurts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 John 4:11, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (ESV)
1 Corinthians 13:13, "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (ESV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Would the people closest to you say that you love them well? Why or why not?
Think of one person in your life who is hard to love. What one thing can you do today to love them anyway?
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