I am sure you have heard many people say the phrase “I love so and so to death.” It’s something that we say often, but perhaps don’t always think about what it means. Would I really die for this person if it came to that? What would I be willing to do or to say to this person to show them I truly love them? What kind of love is this really? Is it a love that is completely disinterested, meaning that I do not love them with the condition that I get something back? Is it love like the love of Christ? He ultimately is the one who gives us the most powerful example of what is means to love someone to death. He would even take upon Himself the weight of guilt that should be ours and place it on His own shoulders. He would take upon Himself the punishment that should be ours, the captivity that should be ours in order to set us free. This all leading up to the death that He died in place of the eternal death of our souls in sin.
Right now in our culture there are still not too many instances where we have to place our life on the line for the sake of another persons physical life. As tensions escalate around the country, and violence grows, we may begin to see heroes and heroines step in and take such action, but we pray that does not have to happen. As a side note, we all should continue to pray for peace and blessing from God upon our country during this difficult time. As a way of showing true love for others we should do what we can to deescalate tension, to find peaceful resolutions and encourage dialogue and understanding between people of different ideologies and races.
In the Scriptures this weekend Jesus talks about reconciliation. He gives us a pattern of action of how we should go about trying to repair broken relationships with our brothers and sisters. He states “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.” First of all, I think that this process is the most loving way to approach someone who has harmed you. Second of all, often times I think we break the line of charity by skipping the first part of the process by telling everyone else what someone did to us, and then never end up healing or reconciling. If there is truly a wrong done, Jesus encourages us to start with a dialogue between ourselves and those who hurt us. This often times takes a death to ourselves and to our pride, because it means that at first we really have to come to a desire for reconciliation. Which does not always come easily. We want to hold on to our pain and validate it by getting other people in our corner of the grievance. It’s so important that we follow the process that Jesus gives us in order that we truly follow the pathway of the one who is love itself. The question that I have, and what isn’t really specified in the scriptures is, ‘how do we communicate our grievance in a way that it will be received?’ It is really hard for people in our culture to accept any blame. No one likes to feel judged, or to have fingers pointed at them, etc. No one wants to accept responsibility for the ways that their life choices effect others, or to embrace the reality that they could actually make mistakes. This is all due to human pride.
Loving to death means that I have be willing to die to my fears, die to my pride, die to my resentment, die to one-ups-manship, and die to the lies that paint myself always as the victim and others as always to blame. We can see that there are many ways that God gives us opportunities to die to ourselves and to take up our crosses and follow him. This is true for both sides of any grievance. The one who is hurt has to die to the hurt and anger that would cause grudges, lack of communication, unforgiveness, and deepening rifts. The person who has offended the other needs to be able to die to a spirit of pride. Both must die to a self-love that elevates the ego over the other, and loses sight of human equality. We are all broken, we all make mistakes, and we all hurt other people. These are facts of life in our world. A huge dose of humility would really do us some good.
If we want to be truly loving we have to get over our fears of facing people who have hurt us. We also have to get over our fears of asking for forgiveness and telling others we are sorry. It is so important that we begin with the dialogue. Counselors will say that instead of pointing the finger in these dialogues, it is important to express how something that happened made us feel, which is less about placing the blame on the other person, and more about how we experienced something. This gives the other person the opportunity to say, ‘that was not my intention.’ If it was their intention, hopefully they are won over by our vulnerability and ability communicate how we experienced the event. Jesus’ process allows us to bring in help if things cannot be worked out between the two parties involved. When we love people do death, we willingly die to ourselves in order to bring about the flourishing of everyone involved. The process that Jesus gives us leads to greater peace and freedom through the path of reconciliation. So who do you need to approach and apologize to? Who do you need to approach to reconcile with? May the Holy Spirit bless you all as you discover how to love even when it means death to self.