Points? . . . Really?

Not4Points“That’ll get you points!”

That is what a total stranger said to me Thursday morning as we passed on my way to the checkout with these flowers for my bride of forty-three years. Points? Really? While I’m aware of the commercialism associated with Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but comment on the idea (held by many) which transmutes an act of unconditional love into a manipulative ploy. Points? . . . At the same time, I recognize that not all gifts of love are received as readily as candy and flowers—sometimes the most loving thing (that which is best for the other person and which meets their deep need) is something they don’t like or enjoy. Whether it is speaking truth or allowing the one I love to suffer pain or loss in hopes of achieving needed growth, not all acts of love are enjoyable! Sometimes hardship, difficulty, and even suffering is needed for proper growth.  I want to explore this with you a bit as I continue to encourage you to allow Papa God, Abba, to grow your experience of His love for you, as we consider Jesus the beloved—though He was a  Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Papa, we open our hearts to You today.

 The writer to the Hebrews (at our chapter 5, verse 8) is trying to get his readers to understand something of the greatness of Jesus by these words: Though He was a Son, yet . . .—Jesus’ “core identity” as My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased was central to who Jesus was and how He lived—but that didn’t mean that Abba shielded Him from all pain. He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. I draw your attention to two words in particular: suffering and obedience. We do not use suffering to describe things we enjoy: We don’t suffer through a great meal.  We suffer when things are hard, difficult, or even excruciatingly painful—if you are recovering from knee surgery you may suffer through another physical therapy session—in the therapy there is great pain, but there is a good outcome worth pursuing so you endure the suffering. In a similar way, Jesus’ suffering brought great benefits—for us, absolutely, but for Him too—He learned obedience. We see a similar idea in Paul’s words about Jesus to those in Philippi, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. I suggest that what made such painful obedience possible was Jesus’ absolute certainty (His “core identity”) as My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

These things are not true only of Jesus, they are true for us as well—for Jesus says, in the very same way Abba sent Me, I send you—as My Beloved, in whom I am well pleased. Go. Do all that I ask of you. Even amid suffering and pain—those do not diminish the reality or greatness of My love—they are as necessary for you as they were for Me. Papa, allow us to think right thoughts. You see, allowing Papa to confirm us in the reality of His love is essential for the shaping of our core identity as His new creation, but He didn’t go through death, burial, and resurrection solely so we could experience love. He loves us and makes us new so we can live whole and holy. I hope to talk with you more in the days ahead about some of the truth of who we are as those made new in Christ Jesus, but for now I want you to contemplate just one element—that our nature is now that of obedient children. That is the import of Papa’s words through Peter’s Hebraism (I Pet. 1:14) which describes our character—we are children of obedience—obedience is part of who we are by nature as God’s children. Children have characteristics of their parents—their nature is tied to the nature of their parents—so God’s children are characterized by obedience, although our growth in obedience may require suffering—if Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered, why would we think it would be any different for us? Papa God, Abba, loves us too much to shield us from suffering necessary for our growth. Like Jesus, the anguish of life does not diminish in the least the reality of His great love for you—though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience through the things which He suffered.

Because we are loved, we love. Because we love, we obey. We do not obey in order to earn love! Love can’t be earned. Yet, because we are loved, we love; and because we love, we obey. We don’t love or obey to earn points! Points?

Like plants grow in sunshine, may you grow in Papa’s love.