Love Counts the Costs

(Photo by Selma Komisky)

Love Counts the Costs

By Jacqueline Napoli

I am a huge fan of sacrificial love. In my childhood, it didn’t quite exist. My mom did have caring, tender moments (which helped me indescribably), but because of her battles with addiction and mental illness, most of her adult life was spent in the throes of scary drama. My dad left when both my brother and I were little and she never recovered. But to my little mind, all I knew was Dad never called, Mom was locked in her room or ranting through the halls, and my older brother took his pain out on me with cold tortures of various sorts. So, by the time Christ got a hold of me in my teens with His life-changing love, my heart was both dying to be loved and black and stony with contempt and cynicism about whether love was even a thing.

There are a lot of people who have been tested by divorce, betrayal, bullying, abandonment, sexual/physical/verbal/emotional abuse, and on and on. We have been harmed by others’ lack of sacrificial love. Or maybe we are harming others because we look at “love” as something that’s supposed to fulfill us, meet our needs, or complete us, and we hurt in our selfishness the very ones we should be building up. We catch ourselves gazing in the mirror of self-absorption and narcissism while our flesh-and-blood relationships wither and our social media presence looks…amazing. We were made for more than this.

Jesus defined love. He said, “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13). Then He went ahead and did it, dying in our place so we could choose to be spared an eternity of pain and enjoy a relationship with Him, our Maker and Friend, forever. This laying-it-down thing is the call on each of our lives. Love isn’t a feeling. Feelings go away. Feelings lie. Feelings are wimpy. Love is the most powerful force in the universe and it’s what makes us most like God. It’s the highest calling of man—and the essence of it is sacrifice.

Love by its nature seeks the best for its beloved, which is often costly. We are duped into thinking the sacrifice is embodied in expensive dinners or Tiffany rings. That’s just fluff. The real cost of love is deep and invisible. Forgiveness. Serving. Actually listening and hearing someone’s heart. Anticipating and meeting a need. Helping. Giving usually costs something—energy, time, thought, money, and effort.

To be effective, there needs to be zero self in the equation. Manipulation or control through giving is not love. Fixing or saving other people from themselves is not love. Selfless and freely given love, in my personal experience, comes only from God. As I personally experience God’s love by reading the Bible and living by it, His love gets such a strong hold on me that my very nature starts changing. I start just doing things His way—love.

Every person is valuable and every person deserves my best at all times. It is easy to love people because His love flows through me, and any little sacrifice I do for someone is not even really a sacrifice. He sees every act of love, kind word, mercy, prayer—everything. Even a cup of water given for love of Him (in His name) will not go unrewarded (Matt. 10:42).

So even though it sounds like bad news at first, that we are supposed to love whoever is next to us with the same intensity with which we love and take care of our very own selves, it’s actually great news. First, God supplies the power if we know Him, obey Him, and ask Him for it. Second, even the smallest sacrifices are logged and will be rewarded exponentially. Third, we are wired to give and, when we love sacrificially with God’s pure love, it feels absolutely exhilarating.

God is so good. In His Kingdom, giving yourself away is the only way to find yourself. Truly, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).