Posts Tagged ‘Christ-like love’

The New Testament book of Ephesians, in chapter 5, speaks to husbands and wives.  Someone recently told me that she understands God’s Word here to describe a “circle of love and respect.”  The husband is to love his wife and the wife is to respect her husband.  But, she wondered, who first steps into this “circle of love?”  The husband or the wife?

Is it one or the other?  No.  It is both.  Both, in response to God’s invitation, are responsible at all times: he to love, she to respect; he to lead, she to assist his leadership.  Both are to see each other as their neighbor and faithfully serve that neighbor in the way that glorifies God.  One does not wait for the other to serve. To love or respect.  To do something thoughtful or kind.  This might promote negative responses: “Because he doesn’t lead like I want him to, I can’t help him,” or, “Because she doesn’t respect me like I think she should, I can’t love her.”

Does the question, “Who steps first into the circle of love and respect” hint of fairness?  Who defines “fair?”  Who measures “fair?”  Behavior based on fairness also tends to slip negatively.  She could say, “Well, he didn’t do that, so I won’t do this.”  He could say, “Well, she didn’t do that, so I won’t do this.”  That isn’t how it works with God’s agape love.  We aren’t to be patient only if the other one is patient, kind only if the other one is kind, or selfless only if the other one is selfless.  Who should take the first step?  In a working relationship, there is no “first.”  Each is always trying to be patient, kind, and selfless.  He is responsible for his behavior.  She is responsible for hers.

It helps me to remember who created the “circle of love and respect.”  (I’ll return to this in my next post.)

In God’s language, a husband’s love for his wife and a wife’s respect for her husband are unconditional.   Not dependent on what the other does, or does not, do.  A husband’s love for his wife is actually how he serves God.  Should he wait to serve God until his wife respects him?  A wife’s respect for her husband is actually how she serves God.  Should she wait to serve God until her husband loves her?

To be sure, on occasion, one may feel like disengaging from the “circle of love and respect.”  The perfect “circle” is, after all, tainted on this earth.  We too easily think of ourselves first.  How we’re not being served… or how we’re doing all the serving.  But, with a growing faith in God’s Word for husbands and wives, we can practice doing what we do for the glory of God.  We can develop better habits.  God’s love in Jesus Christ was sacrificial.  Faith in the power of that love produces a sacrificial attitude for husbands and wives.  It frees us up to think less about self and more about the other.

With this attitude, one might even forget who started, paused, stopped, or re-started the circle to go ’round.

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A long-time friend and warrior in the battle for life was taken home this week.  Her death was unexpected.  Hit by another car, she died instantly.   This amazing woman will be missed by family, friends, and all those she served throughout a life-time of agape love.

Agape love well describes my friend, Jan Ebert.  It is the name of the ministry to which she dedicated her heart and soul.  Some may ask: Why now?  Why at Christmas?

Knowing my friend as I do, I believe Jan would tell us that she now rejoices in the most unimaginable, yet longed for Christmas gift.  Her prayers have been answered.  She is sitting at the feet of her Heavenly Father singing His praises and basking in His agape love for her.

Jan and I walked into uncharted territory many years ago.  With others, we took a stand for life and co-founded Lutherans For Life of Iowa.  I became president.  She became the Executive Director of the AGAPE Pregnancy Center in Des Moines and served in that position until her departure from this earth.  Jan will be missed because she put  her love into action.  But, knowing Jan as I do, I think she would say, “Do not grieve!”  I believe Jan prayed many times: Come Lord Jesus.  And, for her, He has.

Jesus came down from heaven this Christmas to carry home my friend.

Jan knew she was a vessel in the Lord’s hands for whatever time God allotted.  She was faithful to do what was placed before her, recognizing her human frailties but trusting God for discernment and strength.  Her eyes were always on Jesus.  “The most important thing I am called to do,” she always reminded me, “is to share Christ with those in need.”  That’s exactly what Jan did.  She was an advocate for the women who came to AGAPE.  She prayed for them.  She recognized the deceiver at work in the lives of those women and, for that reason, she wrapped their bodies, hearts, and souls in the warmth of God’s Word.  She took their calls all hours of the day and met with strangers at their convenience.  Through Jan, God welcomed countless babies into the world.

Jan was a light in a dark world.  But, she could only be a light because she clung to her Savior, Jesus Christ.  This Christmas when I sing “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come,” I will think of Jesus — true Agape — coming to earth for Jan.  And I will hear Jan say to me:

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise, you should be glad and rejoice with me (Philippians 2:14-18).

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