In Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen writes about the four words that helped him identify the movements of the Spirit in his life. Those words are, taken, blessed, broken, and given. In previous posts I have looked at the first three. Today, I want to look at the fourth word.
As followers of Jesus, we are to be bread for the world. As such, we are taken (chosen) to be blessed. We are blessed so that we may be broken. We are broken so that we may then be given. The chosenness, blessedness, and brokenness are not just for our benefit, although we do gain from it. Theses things happen to us so that we might be a blessing to others. The communion bread is given for the benefit of others. It is to be the same with us. We do not live for ourselves, we live for others.
Jesus commanded us to love others as he loved us. That means we are to lay down our lives for others. We are to live lives of sacrificial love. Ephesians 5:1 & 2 calls us to imitate our Father by living a life that is characterized by the same love that he showed to us. The Father's love for us is a giving love. Abba loves us simply because he loves us. He gives us his grace regardless of what we do. We are his beloved children and he is pleased with us. Therefore, he loves us.
We are called to the same love that gives. If I do something for someone with an expectation of something in return, I am not showing love. That is a lesson that can be very difficult to learn, but it is necessary. Nouwen states that we find our greatest fulfillment in giving our self to others. I think he is right. After the fulfillment we find only in God, our greatest sense of worth comes when we are able to show God's love to another individual. We can see this sense of fulfillment in those who don't know Christ yet give to others.
This giving must be a conscious, deliberate thing. It is not going to happen automatically. We must determine day by day to give ourselves away. We can do this as we embrace being chosen by the Father, being blessed by him, experiencing brokenness, and realizing that all of this is so that God can give us to others. Paul writes that it is Christ who lives in us. It is Jesus who empowers us to give ourselves.
The giving can take many forms. It can be helping someone move, or repairing something around their house. It can be having them over for a meal. It can be something as simple as just spending time with someone and really listening to them without judging or trying to "fix" things (That's hard for some of us). It doesn't matter what form the giving takes as long as it is done for the good of another without expecting anything in return, simply because we love the other person. Being in community with other believers and sharing our lives with them will teach us to give, and to receive, as we interact as brothers and sisters.
As we live a life of sacrificial love, we can even give to others in our death. Our legacy can inspire others to give themselves as they remember the love that God showed them through us. A few years ago, a commercial for a pizza brand asked, "What do you want on your Tombstone?" A good thing for a Christian to be able to have on their tombstone when they die would be, "He showed us Jesus." That would sum up a life lived as one taken, blessed, broken, and given.
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