the SIGN of true love / a series

SIGNheader Love is sacrificial.

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Defining love has been an eternal battle fought needlessly, because the definition is no simpler or more complex than Christ crucified. Only as we mirror elements of that sacrifice do we have any grasp at all on what love really is. Let’s talk, then, about sacrifice. You haven’t given up your earthly life as an expression of love for someone, but I bet you’ve given up something. I want you to look at a story of sacrifice in the Old Testament.

Genesis 4: 2-7

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

The topic of love probably did not send your mind reeling back to brothers Cain and Abel, but bear with me.

In this story each of the brothers made a sacrifice to God. One found favor with God, but one did not. One gave their “first fruits”, their everything- as we are called to do, but the other gave just what he felt should be enough.

We are called to be perfect, to pick up our crosses and follow Christ. We are called to love God, and scripture goes over and over again how we should do this. We are also called to love one another. As we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, we also learn how to love each other. We love God first and with our everything, but amazingly, when we give all our love to God, we find ourselves with an abundance more to give to each other.

Think about someone that you love. How do you go about making that person “find favor” with you? Following Abel’s example will set you up for success infinitely more so than Cain’s. Give your first fruits, and give gladly. This doesn’t mean give something good one time and then you’re safe. This means give your all and your best with a right heart! Cain still sacrificed, but it was his heart that was wrong.

Can you imagine a love poem where the writer promises day in and day out to always do his/her half in the relationship? It’s ridiculous. That is the same attitude as Cain. Relationships take work and sacrifice.  Until we get to heaven we need to be prepared to get our hands dirty because maintaining love takes blood, sweat, and tears. It’s not turn taking game, either. It is constant and it is a battle.

I can’t tell you how many times, especially early in my marriage, that I would get frustrated with my husband and call up a girlfriend lamenting that I had come 95% of the way and refused to take a single step further until he came that last 5% in my direction. How is that for an attitude like Cain’s? I saw that I had sacrificed for my husband, and as far as I was concerned it was more than enough. When it wasn’t, I grew angry and my face was downcast just like Cain’s. Listen to what God said to Cain and says to me.

Genesis 4:7-8

 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

It is that sin telling us that we have given enough and shouldn’t have to sacrifice anymore. That attitude not only failed to bring God’s favor, but sent that crouching sin bounding through the doorway. Cain ends up killing Abel and being cursed by God, roaming as a restless wanderer.

Sacrifice

Real love is real sacrifice. Listen to 1 John 4:10-12, 18-19

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us.

Love is not a stomach filled with butterflies, chemistry, fireworks, passion or any of those tragically temporary impulses. Love is doing all that we can to work our fumbling sinful flesh toward mirroring that sacrifice made for us back to God and to one another. We are not here to give our 50% in each relationship or whatever it is we feel is enough. We are called to give our all and give it constantly. This may sound difficult, impossible even, but the promise of heaven and the hope we have in Christ give us every reason to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try all over again with everything we’ve got.

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I wrote this series on love last year and for those of you have not read it in its entirety please feel free to click the letters of 'SIGN' above to read the remaining posts in the series. S - Love is Sacrificial I - Love is Impossible G - Love is Graceful N - Love is Necessary

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