It is said that “to have a healthy relationship, both parties need to contribute 50/50. Relationships should be reciprocal; one gives, the other takes, and vice versa.”
No one wants to get taken advantage of or burn themselves out. We like “fair trades” where our contributions are proportionate to theirs. We’d rather protect ourselves from disappointments and unmet expectations instead of pouring ourselves out. **But is this really how God intended relationships to be? **
If we’re honest, it doesn’t sound much different from buying something at a store: transactional. Imagine if Jesus waited for your contribution before going to the cross. Imagine if he worried about giving you too much before coming down to earth. The cross would be a symbol of condemnation instead of what it really is for everyone who trusts him: reconciliation. Before you even had the chance to give him anything, Jesus humbled himself and died on the cross for you, and there’s nothing you can do to pay him back. The world wouldn’t call this a fair trade. But this is “brotherly affection” demonstrated to the fullest extent.
Other translations say “love must be sincere” and “genuine”. When we reframe our definition of “love” according to how the Bible describes God’s love toward us, we understand that true love goes beyond emotions. It is putting the other’s needs before our own with their best interest at heart — without expecting anything in return.
The second part of the passage says to outdo, which means to excel, one-up, outshine, or do better than. We often use these words to put ourselves above others, but with God’s love working within us, we can work to outdo ourselves for God’s glory and not our own.
If we’re honest with ourselves, this is difficult and maybe even feels impossible to do. But because God continues to outdo us in love, by the power of his Spirit we can be free to excel in showing love toward others. We can be free to love and outdo one another this way, assured that God is pleased with us as we depend on him. Our reward then is no longer found in the other’s approval or happiness, but in honoring God.
God, thank you for initiating your love toward me before I had the chance to give you anything in return. All I can offer you now is this life that you’ve given me as a gift. Help me to love sincerely the people around me, not just my friends but even the people who are difficult to love, and to honor them above myself so you get the glory. Humble me, Lord, so I see myself as a vessel of your love and care for others.
Throughout This Day: Give without counting, trusting that the Spirit is giving you all the love and strength to do so, all through this day.
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