What's Love Look Like?


How does the love of Christ transform the way we treat others and ourselves? Learn about the idea of "Calvary Love" as understood by Amy Carmichael.

When asked to name the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, "Love God with all your heart, soul and mind...and love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39). He wasn't just talking either. Jesus gave meaning to his words through the way he lived and ultimately through dying for us on the cross at Calvary.

What does it mean for us to show this kind of love? Amy Carmichael, who was a missionary to India in the early 1900s, did her best to answer this question with her little booklet If. She says the only way to live a life of love is to understand Christ's love for us.

If I have not compassion on my fellowservant, even as my Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve around myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not give a friend "the benefit of the doubt," but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily; if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.

If I say, "Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget," as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

Irish-born Amy Carmichael was sure God was calling her to be a missionary. But when she applied to China Inland Mission, she was rejected. She was told she was too frail for the stressful demands of missionary life. But Amy wouldn't take no for an answer. She found another organization that was willing to send her and soon set sail for Japan. She was there for only a year when poor health forced her to return. But even then she refused to give up. The following year she traveled to South India, where she would serve as a missionary for the rest of her life.

In India, Amy encountered practices that both shocked and grieved her. Children were being forced into prostitution as a part of religious rituals. Amy made it her goal to rescue as many as she could from this fate. In order to give the children a place to go, she helped establish the Dohnavur Fellowship, where over 900 children found refuge during her ministry.

When Amy was in her 60s, she fell and broke a leg. She also injured her spine, which left her bedridden for the rest of her life. But that didn't end her work. She seized the opportunity to write. It was during this time that Amy wrote If. The booklet came in response to a young member of the Fellowship who wasn't grasping the gospel. This troubled Amy. She wondered if it was because she had failed to demonstrate Christ's love through her actions. Those thoughts kept her awake all night. By morning, she had written what would become a tool for many wanting to understand the meaning of "Calvary love."

Written by Amber Penney

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