When something bad happens to other people, I’ve noticed an internal knee-jerk reaction: I try to assure myself that what’s happening to them can’t happen to me.
He’s older and eats worse than I do.
My marriage is stronger than that.
My kids know not to talk to strangers.
There aren’t volcanoes/sharks/warlords/super villains in my neighborhood.
Whatever the thought (and notice, some may in fact be true), at core, it’s an attempt to barricade myself from the reality that I am vulnerable to being hurt. It’s a defense mechanism.
And it works contrary to love.
You can’t love another human being from behind a barricade. Selfless love and self-protection aren’t compatible.
Sometimes this is obvious, like when I pretend I don’t see the man with the vacant stare and the piece of cardboard that reads, “Homeless. Please help. God bless you.” The rationalizations flow, but in most cases, it’s just self-protection that keeps my window rolled up.
Other times it’s more subtle, like when I want to rush someone through their grief and offer words and prayers where what they need is something more costly: a friend who trusts enough to simply be present with them.
As I read through the gospels, Jesus seems to live and love differently. If the incarnation weren’t enough of a manifestation of this, His crucifixion surely is. Instead of trying to protect himself from others’ pain—from our pain, from my pain—He entered into it.
It might be a hard reality, but if I want to walk with Jesus, if I want to love truly, I have to be willing to experience pain.
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Today, are we willing to lay down our defenses for love, to walk with the One who lovingly entered into our pain?
If we do, we might begin to find something unexpected: His life at work to bring about resurrection.
I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
- Where are you avoiding the pain of another human being whom God is calling you to love?
- Who have you been trying to “rescue” because their pain is painful for you? How might you love them better?
- And finally, are you willing to ask Jesus if there’s a painful place in your life where you need Him to enter?