True love is born from substitutionary sacrifice. Say what? Let me see if I can bring it down to earth and make it hit home. Remember Fred Rogers from the famous childhood show “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood?” I want to tell you a story about when he won the lifetime achievement award in 2003. As he stepped onto the stage to receive his award, he graciously and in a fashion as unique as him, honored those in attendance, but then brought the entire crowd to tears. He asked everyone in the audience to think of those who helped them get to where they were today. He said; “let’s have ten seconds of silence to remember those…I’ll watch the time.” With a few chuckles from the audience, the silence was deafening as the camera spanned the crowd showing their obvious unexpected emotion. None of us stand alone. If we stand, it’s because someone helped us to stand. There was a substitutionary sacrifice made on your behalf by a mom, dad, uncle, aunt, friend, or someone whom you don’t even remember their name. Think of the people in life that you respect and admire the most. Wasn’t that respect and admiration birthed from their losing something so that you could gain something. Substitutionary sacrifice is when someone takes your pain. Substitutionary sacrifice is when someone provides for your pleasure. Jesus knew this love well. Therefore, when Jesus teaches us about love, this is exactly the kind of love-story he told. Many would not see the parable of the good Samaritan as a love story, but that’s exactly the kind of story it is.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wants to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down to Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, heath I’m and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37, NIV)
The Samaritan demonstrated substitutionary sacrifice. Love in it’s purest form. Ask a child and they will tell you that love feels like a band-aid and some Neosporin. Ask a homeless person and they will tell you that it feels like a ride to the next destination when you’re stuck somewhere you never intended to be. Sometimes love feels like a place to lay your head and take a nap when life has exhausted you. Other times it feels like extravagant financial gift that you couldn’t have earned on your own. These are all examples of one “losing” in order that another may “gain.” This is substitutionary sacrifice.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)
Jesus type of love was not a one size fits all. He loved in the moment according to the need or want of the individual. Allow me to offer a systematic way of thinking through how to love people right where they are in every day life.
Here’s an ACRONYM to keep it simple. As you are going through your daily life and encountering people, allow this to be a guide for you.
W – WELCOME interaction by smiling, laughing, being human and accessible.
Don’t live life cold towards others, always on your phone and making yourself too important to connect. It’s vital that as followers of Christ, we learn how to carry ourselves in joy and gladness. This most accurately reflects the disposition of our heavenly Father.
A – ASK QUESTIONS that will place value on their life, family, friends, career.
Don’t talk about yourself too much or ask short, closed questions that make the conversation carry an awkward rhythm. Also, master the phrase: “tell me more” on the back end of their answers. Place value on them by staying engaged and making yourself a student of their story.
R – READ BETWEEN THE LINES and ask yourself, “what is their ‘big question mark’?” Everybody either wants relief or results. Read the need so you can meet the need.
M – MAKE PROVISION for the need. This is where you make a substitutionary sacrifice for the person. If you have something they need, give it. If you know someone they need to know, connect them. If you teach something they need to learn, set a time to meet again.
In this way, by knowing others and meeting their needs through substitutionary sacrifice, we can truly love those that we encounter as Jesus commanded us to do.