Tough Love Week 2: Loving Without Reward
Dear brothers and sisters,
Love in action is much more demanding of us than love in our thoughts and dreams. We can always be growing more to love others. Like exercising, love in action only grows when it finds resistance and pushes forward. In our culture, we don’t have many (if any) models of “love in action.” Generally speaking, when we do a job we expect payment or restitution, and oftentimes when we serve we are not recognized for our service, or we are even dismissed and criticized. Before Jesus entered Jerusalem the week before the Passion, he stayed in Bethany at the house of Simon, where a woman anointed him on his head with expensive oil (Mark 14:3-9). This woman put love into action by spending a large amount of money to purchase this oil, and in response she is criticized by those who are present. The Gospel of John tells us that Judas is the chief person who is complaining, but not because he loved the poor, but because he was a thief. Jesus responds that she has done a good act – she has done what she could do, and then he says to the critics: Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her (Mark 19:9). Two thousand years later, we still recount her action of love for Jesus in the days before his death. The message for us today is that we don’t always know or see the impact that “love in action” has going forward. During the course of this series, perhaps you are challenged and called to do something extreme and extraordinary as an act of love, like travelling to visit an estranged relative, or doing the hard work to reconcile a failing marriage – or maybe are called to something simple and small, like spending a little more time with your children, or showing kindness to your neighbor or coworker. May we push back against the resistance coming our way in order to grow in love, and realize that love in action always makes a positive impact in other people’s lives. Questions for Small Groups:
When was the last time you were rewarded in any way? What did you do to earn that reward?
Do you ever feel a pull towards work or putting your energy into activities so that you miss opportunities to love others? How do we live out the tension between having tasks to get done and our responsibility to love others?
Have you ever been criticized for doing the loving thing? What was your reaction? Has it kept you from acting out of love since then?
Love in our heart doesn’t get criticized, but love in action does. How do we live with the boldness of the woman who anointed Jesus?
Read aloud Mark 14:9. How does that verse inspire us to give our best energy to loving others?
Has God placed a radical action on your heart or do you feel you are called to make smaller deposits? How can you put love in action this week for the tough love in your life?