“Choose perfect love over perfect performance.
Our goal isn’t to show others how good we are.
Our goal is to show others how good God is.”
– Craig Groeschel
I am a performer. Not a get-on-the-stage-and-tap-dance performer. But a 3-on-the-enneagram performer. My tendency is to figure out what is expected of me in any setting and then be that person. This can be a good thing. For example, I feel weirdly comfortable making hospital visits because I know what my role is: an empathetic listener who listens, and then prays before she leaves the patient. This is a loving action. I can perform this well. But I’ve wrestled much of my adult life with questions like, “Am I doing this out of duty or out of love? Are my actions genuine? How do I act in love without being fake?”
Thankfully, the Bible speaks to these questions and helps my performance-driven heart maneuver both Christian duty and Christ-like love.
Merriam-Webster defines duty as “obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions that arise from one’s position (as in life or in a group).” To me, these words are dry and stoic; robotic movements of doing the right thing.
Christian living can begin to look and feel like that. I bring dinner to a new momma because I know I should. I pray for my sick neighbor because it’s the right thing to do. This is my Christian duty. But my heart isn’t always in it. Are those actions deceitful just because I don’t necessarily want to do them? If my actions aren’t fully genuine, is it even right to do them?
Of course! As Jesus says in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Period. He doesn’t say if you feel like it, or if that person is your favorite person in the world. He says love as I have loved.
Being commanded to do something doesn’t typically conjure up ideas of care and affection. When I command my kids to empty the dishwasher, they don’t look at me with starry eyes and thank me for giving them that duty. (I wish they did.) Often we shirk under commandments. We don’t like being told what to do. What can help us obey Jesus’ command when it just feels too hard?
Stop looking at the command. Start looking at the Savior.
Earlier in the book of John, we watch a humbling scene with Jesus and the disciples. They are in the upper room, partaking of the Passover Feast—the Last Supper. John tells us in 13:1, “…when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” He goes on to wash his disciples’ feet—a job that was relegated only to the lowliest of servants. It was a nasty job (open sandals + donkey doo = stanky). But he was demonstrating to them that true love gives and serves and acts.
When we look up to Jesus—when we see his tender, humble love towards this group of men who would very soon desert him—we ourselves are humbled. Our jaws unclench. Our foreheads relax. He was loving people out of a deep reservoir of fullness. A fullness he experienced in relation with his Father. Jesus loved out of the love he and the Father shared. Jesus knew why he was in that room. He knew why he was headed to the cross, and that propelled him to keep pouring out his love. Jesus looked up to the Father and out to his disciples, and he kept on giving.
When we look at Jesus and see his tender love, the commands begin to feel less like duty and more like privilege. We get to love one another. We get to bring a meal. We get to pray for our sisters and brothers. The focus shifts away from our intentions to the person in front of us, whatever their need may be. When we look to Jesus, we see others, too, because he saw others. His purpose was to see the unseen and offer them love and a place. When we look to Jesus, he tenderly turns our heads to look out and see others.
We allow the duty to become the practice and as we truly see others, that practice will grow into love. Christ’s love will become the motivation for us to love. To act.
We perform our duties to show off God’s goodness. We say “My love is not perfect. It never will be. But let me show you perfect love. There, in Jesus, do you see it? Let us go and enjoy his love together.”
Reflect + Respond
How has looking to Jesus helped you turn love from a duty into a privilege? What is a duty you could do today, with your eyes focused on Jesus?
Father, You give perfect love to all who come to you. But you don’t demand that we perform perfectly. You simply ask us to come to you with our need. We need your help to love others. We need your help to be genuine. Fill us up with your love, so that it overflows on those around us.
- Ephesians 4:25-5:2
- Philippians 2:1-11
- I Corinthians 13:1-13
Jesus, Thank You by Sovereign Grace
by Becky Stevenson
Becky gets really excited talking to women about the Bible. She has been married for almost 15 years to her best friend, and they have four delightfully active kiddos. She’s been doing women’s ministry for over a decade and deeply loves studying and teaching God’s Word.