Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus).
Last Saturday we posted Chapter 4: Jim Bakker, Billy Graham, and a Sinking Man.
Love Like Jesus is due to be published in January of 2020. If you’re interested in serving on the launch team, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 5 — Love Like Jesus: Love God First
After reading the title of this chapter, you might be saying to yourself, “Hey, this is supposed to be a book about loving people.”
Well — God is a person.
How Jesus Loved God
Jesus loved God so much, he didn’t assign value to what other people thought of him. We see it when he healed on the Sabbath even though he knew the religious leaders would be offended. We see it when he spoke about eating his body and drinking his blood when he knew it would mean losing most of his followers. We see it when he overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple even though he knew the Pharisees would disapprove. Jesus expressed his love for God in these ways, without regard for the opinions of the people around him. (John 12:9-14, John 6:56-66, John 2:14-15)
Jesus loved God so much that he desired to obey him even when it meant torture, and death on the cross.
The Supreme Weapon
Josef Tson was a pastor in Romania during a time of Christian persecution. He lived in hiding until one day the Romanian government captured and tortured him. The following is an exchange he had with one of his interrogators.
Josef Tson to his Romanian interrogator:
“Sir, let me explain how I see this issue. Your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Here is how it works. You know that my sermons on tape have spread all over the country. If you kill me, those sermons will be sprinkled with my blood. Everyone will know I died for my preaching. And everyone who has a tape will pick it up and say, ‘I’d better listen again to what this man preached, because he really meant it: he sealed it with his life.’ So, sir, my sermons will speak ten times louder than before. I will actually rejoice in this supreme victory if you kill me.”
After this encounter, Tson found out another officer said, “We know that Mr. Tson would love to be a martyr, but we are not that foolish to fulfill his wish.”
Tson said: “I stopped to consider the meaning of that statement. I remembered how for many years, I had been afraid of dying. I had kept a low profile. Because I wanted badly to live, I had wasted my life in inactivity. But now that I had placed my life on the altar and decided I was ready to die for the gospel, they were telling me they would not kill me! I could go wherever I wanted in the country and preach whatever I wanted, knowing I was safe.”
“As long as I tried to save my life, I was losing it. Now that I was willing to lose it, I found it.”1
How To Love Like Jesus
Jesus knew what others would think of his words and his actions. He knew what they would do to him. But He expressed his passion for his God anyway.
In John 2:23-25 we learn how “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people . . . for he himself knew what was in man.”
Jesus loved God first, and he loved Him with abandon. He gave no value to what others thought of him with regard to his love for his God. Even when it meant the Pharisees would become so offended they would torture him, and kill him.
One of the most important keys to loving like Jesus is to love God first in this way. To love Him far above anyone else. This is the idea behind Jesus’ teaching: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Obviously Jesus taught over and over again that we are to love God and love people, and of course that includes the people in your family. What he’s saying in Luke 14, and what we see Jesus demonstrating when he heals on the Sabbath, and speaks inspired words that offend, and when he cleanses the temple, is to love God first, far above anyone else. Jesus cares deeply about what God thinks, and what pleases Him. And He puts that above, far above, what other people think.
When I put God first, I’m blessed because I become focused on what’s truly important in life. When God slips out of first place, I quickly become mired down in the temporal. My heart and my soul and my mind are taken up with what friends and family think. Or what my coworkers think. Or what I feel is expected of me by the culture I live in. And a kind of inertia sets in. The more I move in the direction of the temporal expectations of the people around me, the further away I drift from God and the eternal. In my experience, when I find myself in this state of being, I’m usually brought back to intimacy with God through some sort of crisis. You can learn from experience, but it doesn’t have to be your own experience. Let me encourage you to learn from mine. Put God first and draw close to God before the crisis comes.
Shame and Embarrassment
There have been times in my life when I was skulking around, embarrassed about my love for Christ. I lived in fear of what others might think of me. I’m on dangerous ground when I live like that. Jesus said very plainly, “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8-9)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be disowned by Christ before the angels of God.
What it comes down to concerning this issue of shame is that each one of us is presented with the same choice as Josef Tson. We’re facing death — and we’re afraid of dying. Not a physical death, but a social one. We’re afraid if we sell out for Jesus Christ we’ll lose friends, or at the very least, suffer embarrassment. But in the end, we have the same choice as Tson. We can keep a low profile, and waste our lives with inactivity for Christ, or we can place our lives on the altar, and decide we’re ready to die for Him.
Like Josef Tson, once you decide you’re ready to die for Christ, socially speaking in your case and mine, you’re free. I’ve experienced this myself and observed it in others. There will be awkwardness during the transition, but tell me what transition is without awkwardness. And tell me of anything in life worthwhile that doesn’t require transition.
Like Josef Tson, you’ll be amazed at the freedom you enjoy, once you decide to place your life on the altar. Once you give yourself over to Christ.
So don’t be afraid of dying. Josef Tson said, “As long as I tried to save my life, I was losing it. Now that I was willing to lose it, I found it.”
That’s how it will be for you, when you decide to love God with abandon. That’s how it will be for you when you give your life over to Jesus completely.
When you love God the same way Jesus did: far more than anyone else, with abandon, giving no value to what others think of you with regard to your love for God,
That’s when you’ll find you’re truly free.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
-Jesus Christ, Matthew 16:25
- Original source for Josef Tson story: ToEveryTribe.com, Fall 2009 Newsletter (This story is no longer available on the To Every Tribe website. You can read another version on Baptist Press: Romanian Josef Tson recounts God’s grace amid suffering, 7/19/2004)