"Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that." (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Growing up, everyone around me spent time choosing the "perfect life verse." I struggled with the concept. How does one choose just one verse that speaks for their life? There are so many amazing verses, how could I possibly choose only one? And so I didn't. Not for a long time.
But a few years ago, I came across these verses. Now it wasn't the first time I'd read them. I had read them many times before as I've read my way through the Bible a few times in my life. It was this particular translation- The Message translation- that spoke so loudly to me.
In these verses, Paul is calling us to live as much like Jesus as we possibly can. He is urging us to witness God's amazing love for his people and do our best to love people that way too. Think about it. The same God who saved his people time and time again throughout the old testament, the one who rescued them from slavery in Egypt, who moved the Red Sea so his people could cross, who gave them the Promised Land despite the giants, who knocked down the walls of Jericho, who rescued his people from complete annihilation in the book of Esther, and who sent his only SON to die on the cross for us- for an imperfect, often unappreciative, sin-filled people.
We were out on a hike yesterday walking and talking as a family when the subject of organ donation came up. I honestly admitted that there is no way I could donate an organ to anyone unless they were a family member- and a close one at that. Organ donation is tough. Recovery time is a LONG process. Sometimes it takes as much as six months to return to full function with just one or just part of any particular organ. As I walked through the woods yesterday with my family, I couldn't picture making a sacrifice like that for anyone unless they were someone I couldn't imagine living my life without. Was I wrong to feel that way? Probably.
God is calling me to love others better than that. And that is precisely WHY I've chosen this as my life verse. I know loving others extravagantly and without caution is something that I need to work on in my life. Claiming this as my life verse is my way of reminding myself of what God is calling me to do with my life- love others with abandon and without thought of how I will benefit from doing so. He wants me to love people without expectation. He wants me to demonstrate that love with some actual action, not just words.
But how do I figure out how to do this? Obviously I've lived the last 35 years and have yet to learn it in my own opinion. What can I do to change that? These verse give us the KEY to the answer:
"Keep company with him and learn a life of love."
Those words are tucked right in there in the very center, at the very heart. They are the key to making this happen in our lives. If we want to learn how to live a life of love, then we have to spend as much time with the teacher of this love as possible. We can't learn it on our own- believe me, I've tried. And I've failed.
But how do we spend time with him? There are lots of ways and it isn't all centered around church. If you ask me, church is the place we go to fellowship with others and to practice the love that God is trying to teach us through service to others.
Spending time with God happens wherever you happen to be. Pray often. You may not hear his answer, but he is listening. And he answers in so many ways. Sometimes he speaks to you through others. Other times he will put an actual sign in front of you or direct you to a verse or a passage in a book. He'll work something out in your life that only he could do (like a friend bringing you that coffee you desperately needed or a card coming in the mail encouraging you just when you needed it most).
But the best way to hear from God is right in his word. If you are not reading your Bible every day, you are missing out on hearing from God in one of the most amazing ways. Don't know where to start? Turn to John and start reading. Ask God to guide your time together. Ask him to reveal what he wants you to learn and to see. Don't read it with the thought of "how does this apply to me?" Rather, read it with the prayer of "What do you want me to know God?" They are similar thoughts with very different directions. The first question makes Bible Study all about you. The second makes it about knowing God better.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Imagine a conversation with your best friend. She calls you crying, telling you about her awful day. You'd never follow up her story with the question, "And how does this apply to me?" You'd have a fight on your hands and a broken-hearted friend. Instead, you'd follow it up with words of encouragement. You'd know that this story of her life is revealing something deeper about HER and her heart and her life that you wouldn't know if you hadn't taken the time to listen. It's one of those things that you can't learn on Facebook or a passing conversation in the hallway at church. You can only know the deepest things about your best friend through a constant, effort-filled relationship with her.
That's what God wants with us too. The Bible is FULL, stuffed to the brim, with stories that will show us who he is, what he wants for us, what he longs to teach us, and evidence of just how much he loves us. We can get to know the character of God through the characters in HIS STORY.
My challenge to you today is this: Spend some time with God today and read his words. What is he longing to tell you? If you haven't yet, start looking for a life verse. Choose one that challenges you to be the person that God is calling you to be. Ask God to guide you to those verses, and he will. It might not be today, but he will do it.
Be blessed today and don't forget to be a blessing!