Friday, March 9, 2012

Love That Demands a Response - A Lenten Meditation

The Lord appeared to me in a faraway place and said, “I love you with an everlasting love.  So I will continue to show you my kindness..." (Jeremiah 31:3, GW)

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13, NIV)

Imagine you are zipping along in your car one day, running from doctor's appointments, hurrying to grab groceries, then hop on the cell phone to connect with your spouse.  In all the rush and demands of your busy life, you carelessly veer out of your lane, colliding head-on with another driver.  You wake in a hospital bed realizing that not only are you and your child-passenger injured, but you have also killed the other driver.  Subsequently, the district attorney seeks to remove your children from your home because you are a negligent parent, and you face jail time for reckless homicide in the killing of the other driver.  Life seems hopelessly grim as your life turns upside down in one car ride.  At trial, you are found guilty of all charges and are sentenced to the maximum punishment.

At your sentencing, this gentle friend, who has never done a thing wrong in his life, shocks everyone when he stands up and demands to take your place.  The judge, finding your friend to be rather annoying, agrees to the exchange.  You are set free and watch your kind friend hauled off on your behalf.  As you are allowed to resume your life, you see your friend suffer all the horrors of the punishment that should have been yours -- rape, beating, isolation, deprivation, abandonment by others, and complete humiliation.  

Given what your friend has done for you, what is your response?  Do you just walk away, acting like he doesn't exist and enjoy your life to its fullest?  Or do you instead, give that friend your full attention, realizing no debt of gratitude could ever make up for the generous love this friend has poured out on you?  Your friend has every opportunity to have your case opened back up, declaring a mistrial, making you take that punishment, but he never opens his mouth to do so, despite his immense suffering.  You look at him in complete puzzlement, but realize fully that you have something serious to learn from a friend like this.

While this little story may seem a bit far fetched, it is not unlike the story of what Jesus did for you when He came to earth over 2,000 years ago.  We may use the excuse of being busy or absent-minded, but we are still too sinful to be anywhere near a Holy God.  Frankly, our best is not even remotely good enough.  We each deserve hell.  And while there are days where we may feel like we are living hell on earth, those times don't even hold a candle to the eternal doom reserved for those who rely on their own "goodness".  Each "white lie" we tell, each cranky snapping at those we love, each gossiping word we share or each gluttonous morsel we devour makes us fit for nothing but separation from God's radiant glory.

But the very Son of God left that resplendent, glory to come down here and make that journey into hell for you.  Take a minute to watch Him be punished on your behalf.  That disgusting mucus spit upon Him was meant for you.  Those smacks across the face had your name on them.  Every excruciating stripe of open skin on his back is yours.  The blood and life poured out as others laughed in heartless humiliation should have been yours.

Yet, you live with an eternal hope today, not only from that substitute of suffering, but from the death-busting and heaven-uniting His eventual resurrection power provided.   How will you respond to that today?  Can you just go on without the fact that this was done on your behalf eating at you?  I doubt it.  This sort of insane love demands a response.  How can you not love back?

Pray:  Jesus, when I meditate upon what you have done for me, it takes my breath away.  My sadness is real.  Help me to respond in a life-changing way to your love poured out for me.

~ Barb Dittrich

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