There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (NLT)
Love and pain go together. If we are to love some other person, we open ourselves up to much pleasure and more than a little pain. Love involves giving ourselves to that other person, putting their concerns above our own which may cost us dearly. Jesus did that.
Love involves allowing the loved one to be free to both encourage us and discourage us. Love is not control in that it cannot dictate a loving response to the love we give. This is the sort of love God shows us in Jesus. He longs for our love but can’t demand it.
Love involves a degree of vulnerability. We let another person see into our lives and thus run the risk of rejection or at least misunderstanding. We may let down our defences and in doing so may be attacked—even by those close to us. Those we love will likely give us most love and also most pain.
This is a world away from some sentimental notion of love that sees it as all plain sailing. It wasn’t for God or his Son Jesus. And if we are tempted to be cynical and give up on love, we don’t avoid pain. We merely replace the pain of love with the pain of loneliness.
God expressing himself in Jesus is our supreme model of love in action. It goes way beyond mere niceness or warm feelings. It is interwoven with pain. It does not come in the shape of some pink heart, but a splinter ridden cross.