O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
(Matthew 23. 37)
As human beings, the bible tells us that we are made in the image of God, the Three in One, whose existence is a perpetual delight in relationship and loving. We are made to connect with others – ultimately and most wonderfully with God himself! But while we strive all our lives to make and enjoy these relationships, we know that our flawed humanity conspires against us, undermining our ability to love, to receive love, and to delight in one another without a thought of self.
It is an unhappy position, to be made for something, and yet unable to ever truly find it, no wonder our world is filled with dissatisfied people. As Christians, we have the wonderful knowledge that our relationship with God is restored, and nothing can ever come between us again. But even there, the remnants of pride, selfishness and the baggage of broken lives can rob us of the full measure of peace and delight which are ours as children of God. He is always willing and glad to receive our love, but we often fail to give or to recognise as love what he gives.
In human relations both parties are flawed, and we are further compromised both in our giving and receiving of love. While it is true that we need to receive love, we also need to give it, to express affection and care for others in the ways that come naturally to us. Sometimes when my children were younger I recall being overwhelmed by the desire to express my love for them, and hardly knowing where to begin! In those days, they didn’t really mind if their mother hugged and cried over them, or played silly games and read and talked to them – how times change! The same applies to our parents, spouses and close friends. We want to show our love, and yet the gesture or word is firmly rejected – sent back like an unwanted gift.
How do we cope when those whom we love so dearly reject our loving? When our desire to be good for them can barely be expressed, because they have made it clear that our ways of giving love are unwelcome to them? It is this struggle which led me to Jesus’ yearning over the city of Jerusalem – and symbolically over all the nation of Israel, in its long history of rebellion against and rejection of the faithful love of God.
I know that when I do not express the love I want to give, I become sad, and somehow imprisoned – since I cannot express my loving, I cannot be myself. What is my right and proper response, the Christ-like loving response? How do I love people who do not want my love in the way I long to give it?
It seems that I have a choice, either to focus on my own rights – to express myself and be ‘fulfilled’ – or focus on them, their characters and needs, and to love them as far as they will allow me, in the ways that they can receive. Am I willing to trust God to look after my needs in this situation, to believe that I can experience this frustration and yet still go on living and giving joyfully because I am perfectly loved by Him?
What did Jesus do? He loved the world so much, and we would not receive or honour that love in the way he desired to give it. But he loved us well enough to give himself to save us – from all our broken bitterness – and trusted God to ensure that all would be well, that his utterly sacrificial loving would finally be received by his people. He gave what we desperately needed, and did not insist on his rights as Messiah, the Anointed one, the Judge and Ruler of the world. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul encourages the believers to ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ – Ephesians 5.21. The word submit can also be read as ‘do not insist on your rights’…
Is this my answer? To acknowledge before God what I desire to do, to offer what I can do to him in love, and do what I may for those whom I love. In the name of Jesus, and only by the power of his spirit within me, I will tailor my loving, and bring the frustration of unexpressed affection and pain of rejected love to God for relief, healing and comfort. He is faithful, will I not trust him?