Summary: What does it really mean to love? Jesus’ own incarnation gives us the answer.
BEING IN LOVE
I had been dating Tara (now my wife) for some time before I finally got the nerve to say it – you know – those big three words that mark the point of no return in a relationship. We had been out on a date, and I had pulled up to her dorm and was about to let her out when I said to her, “Tara, I have something to say, and I don’t know how you’ll react, but I think I love you!” Let me tell you, there is nothing in the world that will make you feel more vulnerable than having those words hanging in the air while you wait for some kind of response. Finally, Tara blushed a little and said, “Oh, David, I love you too!” It was such a tender moment.
And it would have remained a tender moment if I had left it at that. But no, I had to press the issue. I asked her to explain to me exactly she meant by, “I love you.” That’s when she says to me, “David I know I love you, but now that I think about it, I’m not really sure if I’m in love with you!” What do you mean, I love you but I’m not in love with you! Have you been watching too much Oprah. For the next few hours, I made her explain to me exactly what she meant I love you, but I’m not sure I’m in love with you. I never did figure out the difference. I did learn enough to know that from now on, when she tells me she loves me, I don’t ask her to explain it to me!
But I look back on that time, and as much as I anguished through it, it was a good exercise for Tara and me. We had to define what we meant by the words “I love you.” Because I have learned since then that there are many definitions of love. For some it’s about feeling emotions, for others, it comes with certain conditions. For some, it is a mindset void of action.
This morning, with just two days until Christmas, I want us to get a good handle on what love is all about. And on the fourth week of Advent, we find the answer in the coming Christ. Through the incarnation of Christ, we see God’s great act of love. I want us to examine God’s definition of love, and in doing so, see if our definition of love measures up to his. We find that definition of love in our text today. Turn with me to Philippians 2:5-11 [read scripture]
PURSUING A PRINCESS
The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard illustrates the passage we just read with a story about a prince in search for a future queen. One day while the prince was running an errand in the local village for his father he passed through a poor section of the city. As he was passing through, he happened to see a beautiful young maiden. She was poor and lower class, but she was absolutely beautiful. After passing through the village several times, he found he was falling in love with her.
But he had a problem. How would he go about winning her hand in marriage? He could simply order her to marry him, but he wasn’t just seeking a queen. He was seeking a soul mate. If he coerced her to love him, he would never know if she really loved him for who he was or just because of the splendor of his wealth.
So the prince came up with another solution. He took off his kingly robe and put on the garb of a peasant. He moved into the village and began to live among the people. He shared their interests and their concerns, and he talked their language. This was no mere disguise; it was a new identity. Over time, he was able to see the young girl. It wasn’t instant, but in time the young woman grew to love the prince. She loved him because he first loved her.
And so, Jesus Christ, who being in very nature God, made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant and being found in appearance as a man, humbled himself. Why? So that you – YOU – might know him. So that you might have a relationship with him and he might have a relationship with you. He did it so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Philippians 2 shows us that God’s love is an entirely self-less love. And we see that in verse six. Paul says that Jesus Christ, “Who, being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Now this verse has come under a lot of discussion about what it means. Some of the terms are hard to translate, but here’s what it means.