Love. Friendship. Sacrifice. These are words that bring warmth to our hearts and a song to our lips. Somewhere deep, deep down, these words resonate with us like an ancient melody. We know they go together. We know that the one who really loves sacrifices. We know that the one who puts his life on the line for his friend is a true lover. This is the type of love that will propel us through the darkest of nights and brighten the clearest of days. The problem is not so much that we do not understand the words, rather, that we have long ago abandoned seeing them.
It is kind of like the Cubs game that I watched this afternoon. Did you know that after every home win, the Wrigley Field public address system plays this silly song about the Chicago Cubs being the “best team in the National League?” Now, that sounds really cute and all, but the cubs are currently 29½ games behind the Philadelphia Phillies, who are indisputably the “best team in the National League.” Nobody in their right mind thinks the Cubs will win the pennant for the first time since 1945, but the song continues to play after each rare home victory.
So why do 35-some thousand fans sing those words thirty-five or forty times a year? My guess is that, in lieu of the truth behind them, Cubs fans will take the words themselves.
Does that sound familiar to your experience with Love, Friendship and Sacrifice? The words are beautiful and deep, beckoning us to a life that we have never seen. Our love is self-serving. We know the type of love that allows us to leave loved ones when they become a burden to us. We know the type of friendship that is limited to convenience- who is available to go out for some beers tonight? Who will tell us what we want to hear? And sacrifice? We know that word goes along with the others but who among us have given up enough to get a glimpse of the meaning? Our “sacrificing” has the exclusive expectation that our act of giving will result in the other person rewarding us with a pat on the back or a public endorsement.
Love. Friendship. Sacrifice. The words are here like a beacon in the night, calling us back home.
The problem with beacons, though, is that they also indicate danger. Lighthouses warn weary sailors that there are rocks lying before the shore. There are hazards to coming home. There is difficulty in the journey. It will not be easy but home is near.
For those of us consumed with safety, then, is it any wonder that our love only leads to loneliness? Or that our friendship is shallow and, in the end, useless? Our sacrifices nonexistent? As much as we love the words, at the end of the day, we are working in the dark. We want these words to be true but we have never seen them in action.
Into this void steps the God-Man. At many times and in many ways, God spoke to us through the prophets but in these later times he has spoken to us by his son.
Or, as Jesus himself said it, I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…no one takes my life from me but I lay it down of my own accord…this charge I have received from my Father.
Can you see the embodiment of love in God’s revelation of himself? Or his friendship that is so strong that he willingly lays down his life for his friends? Can you imagine a sacrifice done willingly, intentionally and exclusively for the sake of love?
The gospel’s message is simply that we need no longer imagine. We can taste and see.