Valentine's Day. There's no better time for this to serve as a reminder.
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Let's be honest, friends, we all love, expecting something in return.
You know, we do things for people for their approval or admiration or attention.
We talk over a cup of coffee - because it will help us feel better about ourselves and our ability to disciple and counsel.
Or we wash someone else's dishes or fix a jam in the printer because we want them to know, to recognize, that we are servant leaders.
Or we bake cookies because we want someone to see us.
Often we're left wounded because that person or people group doesn't give us what we think we deserve in return. So we build walls and motes and forts around our hearts so we don't get hurt again.
But that's not the gospel.
The gospel is loving without the expectation of getting anything ever in return from that human to whom you espouse your affection.
It's loving - laying down your life for the eternal good of another - knowing that you may get hurt in the process.
That's what Jesus did. He taught and admonished and cared for the very people he knew would spit and mock and crucify him on a bloody, Roman cross.
Look at His love for Peter.
Jesus poured his heart and soul and life into Peter's.
He ate and drank and walked from town to town with him. He fashioned him to be a pillar of the Church.
And yet, He knew. He knew that Peter would deny Him - pretend he didn't know Him.
Jesus didn't love with walls or motes or forts around His heart.
Nope, His love just flowed freely, abundantly.
Romans 12:9 says,
"Let love be genuine" (ESV)
"Let love be without hypocrisy" (NASB)
"Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it" (MSG)
That's who Jesus was. Is.
And who we should be too.
This love that has no expectations is self-sacrificing.
It's humble. It's the manifestation of 1 Corinthians 13.
And it's actually love.
In contrast, love with expectation is not real love.
Love with expectation is prideful. It's defensive.
It's self-seeking, selfish.
The world says don't get hurt.
And if there aren't rewards in the loving:
Run away. Put up guards.
Be mean. Don't be friends.
But the reason we can love, and love genuinely without any expectation is because of the reality of the freedom we have in Christ. (See Galatians.)
We are free because of the great love with which He loved us, sending His Son to die on a cross and to rise again.
We are free because there is absolutely nothing in this world that man can do to us (Psalm 118:6), that will separate (Romans 8:38-39) or condemn (Romans 8:1) us from Christ and a forever life with Him.
It's not at all about us and what we think we should get, but life is everything, all about Him.
We are free because this world is not our home. There is something more.
We are free because love for God and people has eternal reward.
Our loving (without expectation) proves our faith in Him. (Galatians 5:6.)
Faith that Jesus will do the guarding of our hearts. (Proverbs 4:23.)
And our faith in Christ is demonstrated when we love - uninhibited and unashamed - because we trust that even if we are spit upon and mocked or we merely don't get what we want or think we deserve in return (affection, approval, admiration, attention), we still have Him and he, HE is ALL we need. Forever.
So love, and love well, without walls or motes or forts around your heart.
It's evidence of your faith and trust in Him.
LOVE without Expectation.
The proof (of faith) is in the pudding, or the loving, as this case may be.