They get to the core of us, evoking tears of admiration, shouts of praise, or swelling pride that grips the heart and takes us to the very center of being human. Few among us have not been moved to tears when hearing Tom Hank’s character, Captain John Miller, say to Private James Ryan with his last breath…“earn this,” or hearing Rocky Balboa cry out from the boxing ring, “Adrian, yo, Adrian, I did it!”; or hearing Samwise Gamgee say to Frodo Baggins “I can’t carry it (the ring) for you, but I can carry you,” then lifts Frodo onto his shoulders and proceeds to carry him up Mount Doom. These, and a thousand other heroic acts of love (fictional or real), greatly inspire us.
Why do they? What about them affects us so? Jesus gives some insight. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Sacrificial love is what stirs our hearts so powerfully. It does so because it is so stunning. Who sacrifices themselves for the good of another? Why would they? How could they? When seeing such love, our very souls resonate with the love being expressed between two people. Sacrificial love transcends our understanding and certainly our normal experience of love.
I think another reason heroic love affects us so deeply is that it emulates God’s love. Whether we consider God’s love or not, our souls know of it in some way. God has wired love into the human being such that we can only be truly fulfilled by God’s love. Picture the scene: Jesus, the God-man, good, sinless, kind Jesus is tied to a stump while Roman Centurions flay the skin from His torso with whips as they laugh at Him. Then Jesus carries a torturous cross through the streets of Jerusalem and up Golgotha to the place of execution. There, He is impaled on that cross, stripped of clothing, and lifted up for all to see and to make sport of. It is a stunning scene! Then, with some of His last words, He prays: “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” Such love! Heroic love is on display by none other than our Creator. God Himself sacrificing Himself for rebel, ruined human beings made in His very image. This is love! This is God’s love, the epitome of all love.
Our souls should leap at this, our cheers erupt, and our joy and admiration be heard around the world. But sadly, the world (and many Christians) is unmoved by God’s love. One of the characteristics of the days in which we live was foretold by Jesus: “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). In our day of lovelessness, God’s heroic love is what people need to know and experience. That can only happen when we who love God demonstrate His love through our loving sacrifice.
On Sunday nights at the Downtown Campus, we are in a Bible Study series entitled Reclaiming Love: People of Compassion in a World Full of Hate. You can listen to my sermon in the series from 1 John 4 concerning the Character of God and how His love can impact people.
How is love the central and perhaps most compelling fruit God has given his children, and why? I hope you will join us to consider the wonders of God’s love and how it can impact a hateful world.
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