Fierce love ? Are you sure ?
Dr. Valson Abraham
Most times, we don’t put those two words together. We think of “fierce” as aggressive, destructive and fearful, and love as soft, tender and peaceful. But “fierce” has another side to it—heartfelt and passionate intensity. This definitely describes the character of Jesus’ love.
The fierce love of Jesus lies beyond our comprehension and normal practice. We get a tiny glimpse of this fierce love in the foot washing episode of John 13.
Think about the context of this event…
In a few hours, Jesus will face a mock trial by wicked men who are supposed to be the moral and religious examples of the people but hate the truth Jesus consistently lives and speaks about God. He will be flayed without mercy by sadistic Roman soldiers. He will face a great mob who cry for His death though He has likely healed many of them or members of their families. He will die by crucifixion, a death so cruel and obscene that no respectable person dared to mention it.
All of this loomed over Him. He knew exactly what was coming His way that very night. He would die the worst of deaths and bear the sin of humanity on top of everything. He would experience a period of separation from His Father from whom He had never been separated for even a second of eternity. None of us can fully comprehend it all, and we stagger under its weight when we try.
Our tame pictures of the crucifixion convey only the tiniest fraction of what Jesus endured and suffered. Smooth and varnished church crosses numb us to the demonic ugliness, hate and evil He actually would face on that cross.
Yet just a few hours before His death, He thinks of His disciples and their comfort in one of the most humbling details—their tired and dirty and smelly feet. He, their Master of masters, even takes the role of a lowly servant and washes each disciple’s feet.
He does not leave out Judas Iscariot who will soon betray Him with a kiss and submit Him to His agony. Nor does He leave out Peter who will deny Him with curses. The others are no better--they will all abandon him to the merciless rage of His executioners.
He knows all of this will take place that very night, yet He performs this humble and menial servant task anyway. There is something else we should keep in mind about the context of this incident…
All the gospels repeatedly portray Jesus’ disciples as dull learners who, over the past three years, forget what He says and does almost as soon as they hear and see it. If we had met the disciples during this time, we would not have been impressed with them. We would have seen no hint of greatness in any of them. Instead, we would have seen them fight and bicker over the most inane and childish things, and we would have puzzled over why Jesus associated with such a miserable bunch.
Yet He says to these twelve pitiful and childish men, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.” His love for them never wavers for a second, even in spite of their habitual stupidity and soon-to-be-revealed cowardice.
The love of Jesus is stronger than death. It is a fierce love that stops at nothing, is discouraged by nothing, not by even the worst and most petty parts of human nature. His love accepts the full reality of sin but completely overrules and overcomes it by even greater good. It crushes every lesser thing in its path.
Charles Spurgeon once said: “Earthworms are miserable company for angels…yet love made our great Master endure the society of His ignorant and carnal followers.” His great love is conditioned by nothing. That’s what Jesus demonstrated that night as He washed His disciples’ feet.
In contrast, our own weak and sentimental love is conditioned by a thousand different things. We are always getting offended by something or someone. We allow the most trivial things to divide us for months, years, and even a lifetime or many lifetimes. Political correctness is a symptom of how unloving we have become as a society and within the church itself.
Many of today’s young people leave the church when they reach adulthood. The church remains unattractive to them because they are not impressed by the unloving characters of most church people, including their own parents. They are aware of their sins and feel deep guilt over them. They fear coming to church to hear more rebuke than encouragement. They hunger for redemption and release, but they hear only judgment and bickering over lesser issues.
Before we become completely discouraged with ourselves, let us remember the good news: the fierce love of Jesus always wins in the end! His fierce love includes you and me!
The disciples (except for Judas Iscariot) did not remain dullards and cowards. As imperfect and unheroic as they were during those dark days, they still had tiny mustard seeds of faith that enabled them to humble themselves before Him after their abject failure. That fact allowed Jesus’ fierce love to fill them with the Holy Spirit and turn them into bold and eloquent witnesses and workers of signs and wonders that began winning thousands of men, women and children to Christ.
They moved mountains, laying foundations that would eventually change people and societies far beyond Jerusalem and Galilee. The foundations they laid have continued to our present day. For the fierce love of Jesus, these former cowards eventually sacrificed their own lives.
The fierce love of Jesus has not changed over the past 2,000 years. The fierce love of Jesus covers you and me just as it covered His disciples. Today, He is washing our feet even as He washed the disciples’ feet. What He did to transform His original weak disciples into bold witnesses He is still able to accomplish through you and me as we trust Him with our own mustard seeds of faith. Then we, too, will move mountains.
Let us as Jesus’ 21st century disciples remember, trust and experience again and again the fierce love of Jesus that stops at nothing and will not let us go. This is the greatest weapon by which we fight the works of the devil. This is how we defeat fear, doubt and hopelessness. This is how we stop medicating ourselves with materialism and worldliness. The fierce love of Christ restores relationship with God’s everlasting love and ends mere religion and legalism.
When the fierce love of Jesus possesses our hearts and minds, we have the one thing for which the rest of the world truly hungers. May that day come sooner rather than later!
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Father God, thank you for your fierce and passionate love for me that does not let me go no matter what. I thank you that none of my weaknesses stop you from completing your purposes in me as I trust in you. This day, I commit myself into your loving hands to do great and mighty things in and through me. Embolden me with the power of your love to make a difference among those I love and in the world around me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.