“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
As believers, most of us can faithfully recite what Jesus says are the most important things: 1. That we love God 2. That we love people. By saying that “the second command is like the first”, Jesus shows that these 2 distinct commands are also, in some mystical way, connected to each other. We see this concept in other teachings of Jesus, like when He says when we go to worship God we need to first get in right relationship with a grumpy brother or that when we give someone a cool glass of water it is like quenching Jesus’ thirst. This is mysterious!
We are fine with expressing a certain amount of passion towards the Lord in the lyrics of worship songs. But sometimes even those words make us feel uncomfortable. “…Make me a lover, I want to be a lover, God.” I want to be a lover! I am made in the image of THE Lover. The Lover of my soul! I am so thoroughly known, enjoyed, explored, and pursued by God.
At the same time, I want to be sensitive about this topic and acknowledge that we have a lot of lies and wrong ideas to shake off. Like the idea of passionate love being only sexual. Like the idea of physical affection being only acceptable in the marriage bed or in the snuggling of babies and little children. The fear of physical affection crossing boundaries is, to me, less of a physical problem and more of a mental problem. It is a problem in our heads, in the way that we think. I would like to share a story…
One night at a worship gathering, “Nicole”, a married woman, felt that the Lord was instructing her to take some anointing oil and massage and anoint the feet of “Joseph”, a friend of hers who is also a single man. Nicole was quite shocked that the Lord would invite her to do this! “Won’t it be perceived as sensuous? Will people think that I am trying to seduce Joseph?” Nicole decided that the “wise” thing to do would be tell “Nick”, another male friend of hers about how the Lord wanted to minister to Joseph and have Nick anoint Joseph’s feet. Nicole watched as Nick began to anoint one of Joseph’s feet. Nicole was watching and trying to coach Nick while thinking, “He’s doing it all wrong! It’s supposed to be this other way!” Nicole finally said, “I’ll anoint his other foot.” And she did. And the Lord ministered to Joseph in his heart and he said that the foot Nicole had anointed (and ONLY the foot Nicole anointed) felt like it was on fire! After this experience, Nicole says, “Joseph was supposed to walk out of that worship time with both feet on fire.”
The point of this story isn’t to say that believers need to be ministering to one another in physically intimate ways each time we gather. The point is that we need to be following the Holy Spirit, even when He invites us outside of our comfort zones. We hear from the Holy Spirit and we check ourselves- what is my motivation in doing this? Is it for attention, or is it to minister humbly to another person? Of course, we always ask permission to minister to a person before we do.
I like the above story because it is an expression of passionate love. In the culture, “passion” often refers to exhilarating emotions and intense expression. These characteristics may be part of a passionate experience, but the heart of passion is sacrifice. That is why the cross is called “The Passion.” Jesus poured out His life, and we were reborn as the blood and water flowed from His body. When the Lord invited Nicole to minister to Joseph in that way, she, too, was invited to sacrifice… her reputation, her comfortability, her natural understanding. You see, Jesus wanted to massage Joseph’s feet, and He needed someone in the earthly realm to do it! Jesus could have given Joseph a dream or vision of having his feet anointed and massaged, but Jesus wanted to minister to Joseph’s whole person- soul, spirit, and body.
There are a couple of instances recorded in the Gospels of Jesus’ body being anointed publicly (Matt 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, John 12:1-8)- once where expensive perfume was poured over His head and another time when a weeping woman poured perfume over His feet, could not stop kissing them, and wiped them with her hair. How intimate! What sacrifice for the women who ministered to Him in this way. They were misunderstood and spoken to harshly as they offended onlookers left and right. In one of these instances, Jesus says, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? What she has done to me is a beautiful thing.” Mark 14:6 We need to be very careful to not condemn things that Jesus calls beautiful. I need to be very careful to not condemn things that Jesus calls beautiful.
Let’s shake of the Greek stoicism that has infiltrated the church, masking itself as “wisdom” or “propriety”. It is not more holy to withhold emotional expression or affection. In fact, we rob one another of experiencing the love of God when we think this way. It doesn’t matter what culture or generation or family we were raised in. We are the Church! We are to live according to the culture of His Kingdom! When we do this, it will be undeniable that our true citizenship is from a different realm- a holy, loving, peaceable place with a Good, True, and Faithful King.
My God is Extravagant. MY GOD IS EXTRAVAGANT! He does not withhold affection from His children. He is not shy about pouring out His life unto death, naked on a cross, unjustly condemned as a common criminal, for the sake of demonstrating how passionate He is about restoring His family.
God, have mercy on us, and teach us how to co-labor with You as You bring us forth to maturity in Your perfect love! Forgive us for trusting the voice of fear more than we trust You. Forgive us for trusting the voice of fear, ever! Spirit, lead us where our trust is without borders.