Thursday, March 29, 2012

40 Days of Virtue:The Lunacy of Love

Joan of Arc's Death, by Herman Stilke
"If I gave everything I have to the poor
and even sacrificed my body,
I could boast about it;
but if I didn’t love others,
I would have gained nothing."
I Corinthians 13:3NLT

Giving. Sacrificing. Dying. For the sake of love. Or not.
At face value, it may seem absurd to think that you would do these three things for any other reason. But, think again!
This "sacrifice of the body" is translated in other versions as being burned at the stake. It brings to mind the early martyrs of the church. It also paints a picture, like the one shown here, of the young heroine of the Hundred Years' War in France in the early 1400's.
Joan of Arc had divine visions at the age of twelve, calling her to lead her homeland to freedom. By sixteen, this peasant girl moved in her perceived call of God. Weaving her way through hostile territory, she gained entrance to the French Royal Court and landed a private conference with Charles VII. Charles was inspired by her testimony and determination to carry it forth. Yet, it was Joan's motivation that became frontline in this battle.

Was she a saint or a sorceress? The future of their country was at stake. The Royal Court was smart enough to know they needed God's favor to win this war. So, they did a background check! Joan was found to be irreproachable. They joined forces with this teenager who they deemed a "good Christian", who demonstrated "the virtues of humility, honesty and simplicity." Joan's reward for her military success? At the age of 19, she was burned at the stake. Her executioner said he "feared his own damnation" for having carried out this death sentence.

Motivated by God. To the point of death. Sound familiar?
Two thousand years after the life and death of Jesus Christ, people still question the mission and the motives of the Messiah.  If we think about it, it is a bit absurd, isn't it?
  • Why would God send His son to earth? Expect him to live in human conditions?
  • Why would God allow His son to die a martyr's death, even a criminal death?
  • Why would Jesus succomb to this, without trial or defense?
  • Why would his accusers not see that this was the Son of God? Not recognize him as their Messiah?
The answer is repetitive throughout scripture. The reason is love.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)."
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (I John 3:16)."
God. Loves. Us. Enough to watch His Son suffer and die a criminal death.
Yet, He did not die without judge or jury or justice. He is seated at the right hand of God in the heavens. He has become  the eternal and righteous Judge, who will determine the final resting place of all mankind.

The determination will be based on our motivations. Our love.

Is it possible to do good things for the wrong reasons? Absolutely.
  • I can give generously to others to elevate myself, to make myself look good in the eyes of others, to feel good about myself.  not love!
  • I can take my own life for the sake of love, but it's really an act of revenge, or of self-pity, of self-loathing, or of self-edification.  not love!
  • I can risk my life for the sake of saving lives, but it's usually for political gain.  not love!
  • I can love someone for the sake of my own need to be loved, which is really just an act of self-love.  not love!
Today is as good a day as any to question our motives. To begin to truly love!

"Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had..." READ MORE of Philippians chapter 2

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