I’m more and more convinced that the true litmus test to our love is not how we give to the homeless or reach out to the hurting. It’s not how many people we disciple or how often we travel to the slums of India. The revealing moments come in how we act behind closed doors when we’re really ticked at our spouse. The real measure of how I’m representing Jesus on earth shows up in close relationships, the ones where I feel the safest. I’ve been especially sensitive to this in the last couple of months as I’ve faced a more acute crisis. I’ve found it is harder to be kind and easier to be snippy. In fact, the more I practice unkindness with Brett, the easier it becomes.
I could blame it on crisis or sleep deprivation, financial strain or legitimate fears. But perfect circumstances have never been a prerequisite for obedience. Love is supposed to be our song as disciples—the song that we sing through difficulty and ease, challenges and joys.
I don’t love because I’m supposed to, I don’t love because I vowed to, I love because I belong to God. Everyone who loves is born of God. The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God because God is love. There is no way to live out of the correct identity we have as God’s and reflect the image of God unless we are living lives of love. And a life of love is different from niceties. Love is the fierce way in which the Father gave the Son, and the Son gave the Spirit so that the kingdom of God and the gift of Life could undermine the brokenness of the world.
Choosing to love Brett transcends the issue of marital harmony—it’s an issue of the kingdom. If I choose to act destructively or ungracefully toward Brett, I am refusing to cooperate as God’s representative on the earth. Instead, I’m agreeing with the voices of my culture which fly in the face of reconciliation, loving your enemies and the general way of the cross. In the way I treat Brett I am either reflecting the heart of God which speaks blessing, grace and incarnation, or I’m speaking the voices Brett’s fought his whole life—the voices that say that Brett must perform to be loved and that there is no tolerance for failure. With my words, I’m either agreeing with Brett’s enemy or Brett’s Creator.
What connection could our words at home possibly have to do with our role as ambassadors on earth? The question reveals a misunderstanding of the kingdom. It’s not something outside of me, outside of my current circumstances. The kingdom is not just “over there” where thousands are dying to know the name of Jesus. The kingdom of God is happening in me, right here. I see pockets of light as I watch God break through my self-absorption. I see Jesus heal my own woundedness, freeing me to love. The small decisions matter because that is where I most see the blaring and active work of God. I am becoming a person who loves. I am a Lite-Brite with a colorful message about the transformative work of a peace-giving God. Each choice to love out of the Source pokes another colored peg into the dark sheet of my life, revealing not my own heart, but the heart of the one who is love.
This necessary Love is the language of the kingdom. The reason I have to love Brett, the reason we have to love our “safe places” is because we are participating in more than relationships, more than roommates and family—we are participating in God’s reparation of deeply wounded humanity—dead humanity. And this creation can only be healed through the love that comes from a self-giving Savior who daily extends life to those who can’t stand on their own. Our momentary choices poke holes in countless dark sheets, offering a colorful hope from the true source of Light.