Have you ever dropped a pebble into the water and watched the ripples going out in concentric circles? It occurs to me that there are concentric circles flowing out from each of our lives in a similar fashion.
Looking at this graphic, your heart is the innermost heart. Flowing out from you are all the relationships and people in your life—those that you touch in the course of a day or week. The heart closest to you would include, most likely, the names of family members: your spouse, children, and parents. Friends and extended family would be on the next concentric heart, followed by neighbors, co-workers, church family members, etc. Try to think of at least two or three specific names that you would put on each of the five concentric hearts flowing out from your heart.
Now ask yourself this question: How well am I doing at loving each of these people? Am I settling for a good kind of love, moved on to a better love, or can my love for this person be described as best?
Certainly, the best love for my closest friend will be different than that for my mate and the love demonstrated to my mother-in-law will be different than that for the members of my Bible study group. But the goal for every relationship should be to give the best for that type of love – the greatest love.
Jesus, our model and example for all things, set a high standard in the love department. John 15: 13 explains the highest and best form of love this way: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The apostle John continued this theme in
I John 3: 16:”This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
While most of us, thankfully, may never have to physically die to express our love, we do have to die to self in order to demonstrate that highest level of love.
The nugget of truth in all this can be summed up in one word: sacrifice.
Does loving others require an element of sacrifice on my part? Am I loving only when it’s convenient? Does love ever cost me anything? Am I willing to give up my time, change my schedule, re-work my plans, spend some money, miss an episode of American Idol, get up early, stay up late, or do something I don’t feel like doing? If the answer is no, then I’m failing to demonstrate Christ-like love, the greatest love.