What would it be like to be loved to maximum capacity? To have the full magnitude and measure of love poured over you until you were bursting?
This morning my husband and I were doing a devotional at breakfast on John 13:1-17. It is the story of Jesus washing the Disciples’ feet.
Here is the first verse from the NIV translation that we were reading out of: “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
It was the “full extent of his love” that captivated my attention and my imagination.
There are some times when I feel like I have been barely accepted. Like there is a strict cut off line for admittance, but somehow I just made it over the line to be allowed in. After being allowed access I can find my space in the back of the crowd, standing room only, obstructed view. Accepted but not loved.
Have you ever felt that way? Accepted but not loved? Like an outsider? Perhaps its at the workplace, or in a community organization, or in a group of locals, or at school, or maybe it is even within your family. You feel as if you are in, but not really a part of things.
Sometimes these feelings are temporary, things start out feeling awkward and uncomfortable, but soon we warm up, get to know some people better and start to feel connected. Other times these feelings do not seem to go away, no matter how hard we try to be a part. I have found those times to be downright discouraging and disheartening.
When I have experienced these times of being barely accepted, it feels as if people put up with me, rather than love me.
Squeals of Joy & Bear Hugs
The best image I can conjure up in my mind to picture the full extent of love is squeals of joy and bear hugs. When two people who share the full extent of love for each other meet there are squeals of great joy and bear hugs. Once they see each other they may start running towards each other, colliding into one big hug.
I think of my picking up my kids in their younger years when they were in daycare, or at camp or at a Grandparent’s house. They would scream “Mama” and just come running at full speed into my arms. I would scoop them up and kiss them, showering them with words of how much I missed them and love them.
I also think of my dearest friends, when we have the opportunity to meet (which is never often enough for me). We generally both squeal with delight and embrace in tight hugs capturing the fullness of the moment. What a great greeting to give someone!
It made me think of the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). This is the parable of the son who asked for his portion of the inheritance from his father, took it, traveled abroad, squandered it all and finally got to the broken point to return home. Luke 15:20 (NIV) says, “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
I imagine that this father squealed with delight and gave his son one big bear hug; the full extent of the father’s love poured out to the young man.
The love of the father covered the prodigal son. The love of Jesus covered the Disciples whose feet he washed.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
The full extent of love will cover over a multitude of sins.
Think about the word multitude. It means a great number, a massive amount, a whole host, hordes, swarms, and throngs. A multitude is a lot, a lot, a lot.
Just Keep Sinning
I think one of the hardest things about being a Christ follower is that I just keep sinning. Every day a multitude of sins. Sinful thoughts, selfish actions. Repeated day in and day out. I disappoint myself and others. I try but fail more often than succeed. I miss something that seems obvious to others. I speak without thinking fueled by emotion. I am just a mess.
Every day of life here on earth I will need cleansing, forgiveness, mercy and grace. It is a struggle; knowing the things I should do and doing the things I do not want to do. Oh yes, I am a mess.
It feels like every sin that I commit puts me deeper and deeper in debt. The weight of that sin is crushing. Crushing me, my relationships, and my future.
Power of Perfect Love
Love covers a multitude of sins. The debt of sin, is completed covered by the full extent of Jesus’ love. The weight, Jesus bore it so that it would not crush us or our relationships or our future. The sacrificial love of Jesus had the power to overcome it all.
The full extent of Jesus’ love is to squeal and bear hug each of us. No matter how messy we are. Jesus is not surprised by our mess or by our need for mercy and grace. There is no debt so great that He can not cover it, no weight so heavy that He can not lift it and no sin that will cause Him to just put up with us.
Trouble on the Receiving End
Washing feet was a dirty job, usually reserved for the lowest servant of the group. Here’s Jesus, the teacher and Lord, towel in hand doing the washing. When Jesus gets to Peter, Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet. Jesus then explains to Peter that if he wants to be a part of Jesus he must have his feet washed.
Peter’s follow-up request is that Jesus would then wash his hands and head too. I wonder if the full extent of the love for Peter made Jesus chuckled at this moment.
It is Peter’s initial reaction that caused me to pause. How many times have I put my hands up and said no? How often do I turn things down or prevent others from taking care of me? How often do I think, “I wish someone would just take care of me”, but then I prevent them from doing so?
I can confuse owing and receiving in my mind. So often when someone does something for me I create a debt in my mind. I owe them. To which my mind goes into overdrive thinking about how and when I can make repayment.
Here is where I really confuse myself, when I give to someone else, my mind does not create an account for that person. There is no return expectation. When I do give I feel overwhelmingly blessed by the response and the opportunity to give. It’s so much fun. I want to do it more.
So why do I have such a problem receiving? Receiving is humbling. It acknowledges that we can not do it all or be everything. It means that we have let someone else into our struggles and our weaknesses. We have been made vulnerable.
One of the most amazing receivers that I know is my children. My daughter so filled with delight and gratitude. My son’s enjoyment of what he receives makes me want to give more. I really want to be like the two of them. Receiving with gratitude and delight.
It’s like Jesus says to me and to Peter, “to be a part of me you have to learn to receive”. When the full extent of love is poured out, we can’t be covering the top of our cups with our hands. We need to hold on to both sides to steady our cups because the full extent of love will make our cups runneth over.
Today please help us all to experience the full extent of Your love. Help us to be good receivers holding our cups out with both hands eager to delight in what You pour out to us. Lord, lift the weight of the burden that our daily sins place upon us. Thank You for so generously covering the debt of our sins with Your sacrifice of love.
Lord, when we feel that we are barely accepted, standing on the fringes, may we hear Your squeals of delight and feel Your arms wrapped around us in a bear hug. Help us to receive the full extent of Your love today.
In the complete measure of the name of Jesus, amen.