Someone out there, somewhere, must need these words today. Do you want to know how I know? It has been my hardest morning so far. My head is pounding, my body is exhausted and it is a fight. There is someone today, though, someone who has been needing this reminder. So I will press on toward my goal. I will not be defeated. If it is you...I'd love to know the name(s) of the one(s) I fought for. It gives purpose to pain. :-)
For some, the trade scale is tipped heavily to one side. One friend always expects and the other friend never asks. If they aren't careful...resentment could creep its way in. Instead of being willing...that friend will feel used. Instead of being able to bless with acts of service...the friend who never gets asked feels distrusted and left out.
How about Jesus' trade scale. What does it look like? What did He give up in exchange for our heart? He gave up Heaven for a period of time. He gave up His throne for a season. He gave up His life on a cross. He gave up His body as one final sacrifice for a world of sinners. He gave up comfy, cozy, perfection...for rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion.
I would say that Jesus' trade scale was severely tipped one way wouldn't you? He appeared to get the raw end of THAT deal. But why? Why didn't He feel used? Why didn't He call off the deal when He was betrayed by one of His own? Why did He continue when even His own earthly family thought He was crazy? Love without condition is who. He. is. How could He ask you to strive for it...if He couldn't even live it? So He traded.
As often as His Father asked...Jesus gave of Himself and traded. He took our sorrow, disease, and ultimately eternal death/suffering upon Himself. And He gave us back joy, no matter the circumstance. He gave us healing and health, no matter the diagnosis. And life. He gave us life with His Father for all eternity. He could've kept it (selfishly but rightfully) to Himself. He could've let us know that we didn't deserve this trade of eternal life. And we would've had absolutely no legitimate comeback. He could leave us speechless in shame. But that is no the example we needed. That mentality comes naturally to us. Unconditional love sooooo does not.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me because He has annoited me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of The Lord for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:1-3 Go ahead trade up. Trade in your sorrows and let this truly be...the year of the Lord's favor!
Lets think about a time when we've asked for a trade that God intended to be totally lopsided. He desired a blessing for that person that you held your hand out to, for a trade. You thought this person should at least try to earn what you had to offer. They take the trade...but they feel a bit ashamed to. Your heart towards them has taken away from what God desired. It was you that He was trying to teach unconditional love to...and you couldn't get past the fact that they were undeserving.
How can we dare make others earn what God freely gives? Why do we do that? It's a heart thing. Giving of yourself. Your time. Your finances. Your wisdom. It has nothing to do with the what...and everything to do with the why. Why do you give? Because you love God. Why do you withhold? Because you love yourself more than your neighbor. That's what the Bible says to do doesn't it?! (Vanesa presses oversized sarcasm button.)
"Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39
What does self love look like? Do you love your neighbor, those around you, the same way as you do yourself? Or do they have to earn the grace that you, yourself don't even deserve? Do they have to prove themselves trustworthy before you will love? Do they have to trade...always a trade...never just a blessing. Does your list of requirements always have to be met?
"27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27-36
Let's trade up today. Let's not give others what they deserve...but instead what God would give. Grace. Grace comes in many forms. Let's trade our binoculars of inspection around. Let's examine ourselves first with those binoculars. Let's get rid of any unrighteousness that is within ourselves before we go throwing our flaming arrows of accusation. Let's trade our sorrows for joy. Let's trade our defeat for victory. Let's trade our celery for chocolate. ;-)
Let's look for ways to share our blessings with others. It may be making a meal for a grieving mother...and sharing in her sorrow. It may be helping a friend realize who they are in Christ with many countless texts, Facebook messages and live conversations. Can you do whatever it takes? Let's do what.ever.it.takes to help others trade up. Help them to see that giving God the weight they carry...is not giving up. It is not giving in. It is deciding to WIN!