Last weekend, I was able to spend some time in Washington, DC with my family. We had a ton of fun going on a trolley tour around the city. We saw monuments, embassies, and statues. The tour guides were fun and knowledgeable. We heard numerous jokes about the IRS, anecdotes about former presidents and were told often about the philanthropy of Oprah. However, out of all the whole experience one thing struck me most clearly – great impact is made by those who selflessly love even at great cost.
I was amazed by the words inscribed on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial (I now know they come from this president’s second inaugural address). President Lincoln did not use this opportunity to talk about politics, but to call the nation to follow the Lord whatever the cost. He closed by saying:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
The cost of war was great, but the cost of love was great as well. Love means forgiveness of even the worst evil. Love means charity for all people… even those who haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it. Love means doing what God has shown us is right… even if everyone else thinks it’s wrong. And love means pressing on until the end… even when tired, frustrated and hurt. These presidential words were spoken to a nation devastated by war and torn apart by discord. People had died. Thousands more had been harmed, lost loved ones, and would never be the same. The Civil War spanned half of a decade, but the fight for love continues today.
In “The Measure of a Man,” Martin Luther King, Jr. shared about love for others by expounding on actions of the religious leaders in the Good Samaritan parable. King said:
You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road, and the same thing that happened to the man who was robbed and beaten could have happened to them. So I imagine the first question that the priest and the Levite asked was this: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” Then the good Samaritan came by, and by the very nature of his concern reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” (Kindle Loc. 225-229)
Here is where the battle for love is really fought – inside of ourselves. We are so self-interested. We are invested in getting what we want. We want what is best for us. And real love for others will not live within a selfish heart. Haven’t we seen this truth in Jesus? He let go of Heaven and glory for me. Hasn’t He told me that love means laying down my life for another? Why is it so hard to believe when God says that what is best for me is to live for the best for others?
The “what about me?” must be replaced with the “what about them?” That is a Christ-like question. Thinking about others first is important for us because Christianity is not just an add-on, it is a complete rebuild. Our thinking must be reframed. We must let go of the thinking that we can follow and serve God wholeheartedly without cost. It will not happen. Think about those who I have quoted in this post. Lincoln and King paid the ultimate price for what they believed. But, they didn’t only die when they were assassinated. They had chosen to willingly lay down their lives daily long before triggers were pulled and that is why they were able to change the world.
If you want to make a difference, ask yourself, “Am I willing to love like Christ even at great cost?” Jesus said, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39) Following Christ means following Him into sacrifice. This sacrifice is love and love is strong enough to change the world. But self-love dilutes it, distorts it, and paralyzes it because it divorces love from Christ.
So are you following Jesus or are you clinging to your life? Have you really given it up to follow Him? How do you know? Where is the evidence? Make some now. How will you give up your life for Christ? In what ways will you do that today?