Archive for April, 2011
I have been hearing Bruno Mars’s song, “Grenade,” quite often in various public contexts these days; it’s almost difficult to avoid. It has been one of the top songs on the charts, and I think for good reason. Bruno Mars is definitely a talented musician. I would like to focus on some of the things he’s saying in the song and its implications for love. You can listen to one version of the song by clicking play on the above link.
Here’s a sample of some of the lyrics from his song:
Gave you all I had and you tossed it in the trash
You tossed it in the trash, you did
To give me all your love is all I ever asked
‘Cause what you don’t understand is
I’d catch a grenade for ya
Throw my hand on a blade for ya
I’d jump in front of a train for ya
You know I’d do anything for ya
I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby
But you won’t do the same
Bruno is singing about the extent of someone’s love for a girl – so much so that he would “catch a grenade for ya.” That’s quite powerful. He’ll do whatever he can for her. However, the challenge is that this love is not reciprocated. The girl not only refuses to love back, it seems she’s left him for someone else. Quite sad!
This song and theme finds parallels with the theme of love in the Bible. In John 15:12-14, Jesus states, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (NIV). Expanding on the theme of this biblical passage and Bruno Mars’s song, we can find a number of important things to consider when talking about love.
1) The Love of Jesus Christ. The reality is that the One who has truly shown such unconditional, sacrificial love, is Jesus Christ who in love died for our sins. Though He was holy – sinless – He was willing to die for the sins of humanity because of His love for us. While we deserve death and punishment because of our sins, Jesus took this penalty upon Himself for us.
Christ’s love is unconditional. The Bible explains that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; NIV). Even in the midst of our sin, even though our human nature is to go against God’s purposes for our lives, Christ loves us and died for our sins. Like the character in Bruno’s song, so many of us do not reciprocate the love God expresses to us in Jesus Christ. We like to do our own thing. We’ve all been there. But today, may I suggest that you consider reciprocating Christ’s love for you – call out to Him in prayer and tell Him you want to follow Him. He’s worth it. If you have any questions about something like this, feel free to message me in the “Contact Josh” page.
Christ’s love is sacrificial. When Christ expressed his love for us on the cross where he died for our sin, He was willing to undergo pain and ultimately death. Like the character in Bruno’s song, willing to undergo painful experiences in light of his love, Christ’s love is one that is not dependent on good “feelings.” So often we think that love is dependent on such feelings – however, Christ did not feel good. Christ underwent painful moments out of love for us.
Christ’s love is in line with God’s purposes. When Christ expressed his love for us on the cross, it wasn’t merely based on what other people wanted. Christ did the will of God (Matthew 26:42) rather than merely please others. This fact is especially important in the following points.
2) Our Love for Others. Jesus states in the above passage (John 15:12-14) that our love must be in line with the type of love He showed us (especially highlighted for husbands’ expression of love for their wives in Ephesians 5:25!).
First, our love for others must be unconditional – not merely based on what others do for us or what you think they deserve. In fact, Jesus said we must even love our enemies (Luke 6:27).
Second, our love for others must also be sacrificial; willing to put others’ needs ahead of our own at times. So many of us can often limit our expressions (or understanding) of love to pleasant FEELINGS of love, when the reality is, that expressions of love may not always FEEL good – it may involve an element of pain. It may sometimes be difficult and unpleasant. While some people are easy to love, it’s not always easy with everyone.
And finally, our love for others should also be in line with God’s purposes for our lives. When we talk about unconditional, sacrificial love, there are some who can get the wrong ideas. Let me explain. 1) I would definitely not commend self-destructive behaviour primarily to win someone’s affections; people should love you for who you are. 2) This type of behaviour should not merely be for selfish gain (e.g., merely to look good in front of everyone); love should be genuine. 3) I don’t think this type of love is about being a doormat to someone else’s manipulations or selfish desires; even Jesus Christ had a purpose for His love, in line with the will of God, that was unwilling to bend to what other people felt He should do; He was no people-pleaser.
I recognize that expressing this type of love that the Bible commends is not easy. However, the Bible says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he [Jesus] first loved us” (NIV). When we first experience God’s love when we follow Him, He provides us with a supernatural power through the Holy Spirit to live in a way that is loving. The Bible says that one of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is love (Galatians 5:22). I’m thankful that unconditional, sacrificial, purposeful love is not something I am expected to develop in my own strength – God provides such resources for us through the power of His Spirit!
Always a pleasure to hear from you! Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and observations on this topic.
For today’s post, I thought I would follow up on my previous entry for this site. If you haven’t read it, check it out first, “A Stroke of Grace (My Dad’s Story),” and then come back here. In short, my dad was deeply hurt by ministers who falsely accused him, which ultimately caused him to forsake Christianity, and bitterness developed in his heart. This caused much grief in the home – where my mom was following Jesus Christ. After 44 years, my dad finally made a change and made a decision to follow Christ. It was an amazing change. For this entry, I thought I would include 6 insights flowing from our family’s experience with my dad’s situation. I refrained from saying “my top 6,” because I could not reduce this experience to a mere “top six lessons learned,” as if that was all there was to it. So here goes:
1) Being Real about Who You Are. Though my dad was not going to church regularly and was quite opposed to Christianity, he was at least true to who he was. I know this may sound strange – that I’m highlighting him not being a believer at one point. What I mean by this, is that so many people go to church, own a Bible, sing songs at church, and call themselves a Christian, but then go and do their own thing and live by their own rules at work, home, and in the world, giving Christianity a bad name. What they say they are, does not translate into who they really are – their character, their priorities in life, how they treat others – their lifestyle – seem to have nothing to do with the label, “Christian.” I could at least respect my dad because what he said he was, was who he was. Of course, I would have preferred him to be a dedicated Christian, but I could at least respect him for him being real and true to who he was. It helped me to think about the issues of being genuine in life.
2) Never Let the Foolish Actions and Sins of Others Keep You from God’s Best. Growing up, I was always made aware of the fact that my dad was incredibly affected by those who hurt him with their foolish and sinful actions. Don’t get me wrong, I do recognize that some of the pain we experience in life will affects us – however, how we respond to those challenges is critical. I have always been aware that family, friends, strangers – and even Christian ministers – may let me down profoundly. Nevertheless, I have sought to be someone who does not let others keep me from the greatest blessing – Jesus Christ – and all that flows out of that most importation relationship in life.
3) The Importance of Character in the Midst of Storms. In the midst of some of the challenges my family faced at times, I was always deeply affected by my mother’s relationship with Jesus Christ and her dedication to Him. No matter what we were going through, she would always be in prayer, love us, try to encourage and support the family, and stay positive! Anyone who knows my mom knows her laugh. Honestly, I think it’s God that enabled her to stay positive and remain joyful. As the Bible says, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). It is her relationship with God that strengthened her.
4) Respecting Parents Even if you Don’t Agree with Them. Though on one hand my mother was passionately serving Jesus Christ, on the other hand my dad was opposed to serving Jesus Christ. How does one honour one’s parents, as the Bible makes clear in Exodus 20:12, when they come from two different viewpoints? This stark reality came clear when I felt called to ministry. For me, I’ve felt it was always important to get both of my parents’ blessings for things like my vocation. Anyways, when I felt called to ministry, and was looking to attend a Bible College, I first mentioned this to my mom who was very supportive. But I also wanted to get my dad’s blessing – and after a number of days of praying – I did speak to him and he too said he would support my decision – though he reminded me that ministry was not an easy route to choose. I was delighted by his response in light of the situation. However, I recognize that something like this may not be possible with all parents, as I know that some may even want you to disobey God’s Word in the Bible. And some parents may even be abusive. In some cases, it may be necessary to consult someone with spiritual maturity (e.g., a pastor) when considering important decisions in life. Nevertheless, with prayer (maybe even asking God to change the hearts of your parents), I think it is critical to try your best to respect our parents and honour them.
5) The Reality and Power of Salvation that Comes through Jesus Christ. After my dad made his change, deciding to follow Jesus Christ, I was amazed – literally amazed – by the change in his character, personality, and general demeanour. While I have had to learn to pray quietly while growing up because of the situation going on, now I could hear my dad praying out loud! And not only that, he was praying for me and the ministry! While I have seen many people throughout the years make commitments to Jesus Christ in churches, this was one time that I witnessed the change first hand. Of course, though, people following Christ – including my dad, myself, and others – are still a work in progress so we’re definitely not perfect, but we’re seeking to be more like Christ.
6) Timing In Life Can Be a Mystery. I’ve learned this in other areas of my life, but for my mom to wait 44 years for my dad’s change to occur is difficult for many of us to comprehend. She prayed many years for him. And when us kids came along, we prayed too. And there were times we thought “for sure” something would happen after a time of emotional and passionate prayer, however, nothing happened from what we saw. Until 2007 that is. Maybe you’ve been waiting for something to happen in your life. Don’t give up. Keep seeking, keep knocking, keep praying (see Matthew 7:7-8). Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways, so we need to keep praying even if things are not working out the way we think they should.
These lessons learned are not always easy to recognize or follow at times, but I think they are important.
That’s it for now. Always a pleasure to hear from you. And if you would like for me to pray about a situation in your life, feel free to contact me.
Josh P. S. Samuel
[This was written with the support of my family, including my dad].