“So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now!” (2 Corinthians 5:16 NLT)
“Send picture first, then I’ll reply” – It’s a pretty common message in the personal ads, and in this age of alienation and e-community, it makes a lot of sense to exercise care and caution in any relationship with a new person.
But let me ask this question: When it comes to real love – real as opposed to some fantasy-romantic love – do you find yourself saying, “Send picture first?”
We may say it in different ways. For instance, we may say, think, or judge: “I have to see if you’re good enough.” “I’m not sure you’re worthy of my love.” “You need to act the way I expect before I’ll love you.”
And we don’t do that just with strangers who cross our path. We often make these judgments about the people closest to us, our loved ones.
In our walk with Christ, the apostle Paul instructs us to stop judging people according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5), which is a King Jamesion way of saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover or people by appearances.” To paraphrase Paul: “We don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at Him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new ….” (2 Corinthians 5:16b-17a MSG)
Now, let me ask you a pointed question, one I’m also asking myself today: When it comes to loving God, do you find yourself saying, “Send picture first?”
My own answer to that is “Ouch!”
Yet, God in His grace did send a picture first – the picture of Jesus, his body broken and stretched out on the cross, dying for your sins. Even as we had yet to send our picture, God sent His picture first. That’s my paraphrase of Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)
The thing is, while we’re actively engaged in a passive love – saying, “You send your picture first” – God already is setting a place for you at the banquet table. We’re sticking a toe in the water to see if it is warm enough to risk rejection. Yet God in His grace invites us to the wedding feast, where we are guaranteed to be accepted among His beloved.
What does this mean?
· God takes the initiative – God is reaching out to you, and He’s already provided the means for you to come into a close, lasting relationship with Him. The king invites us to a wedding feast in honor of His Son! (Matthew 22)
· What pictures are you sending? – When you are timid or uncertain in seeking or responding to God, you are passively saying, “You go first, God. Send me a picture of what this looks like before I decide if I’m going to do it.” Are you sending God pictures of disobedience, faithlessness, lukewarm attitudes, a refusal to accept His grace? “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)
What does God look like? – Here’s one likeness of Him: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us ….” (1 John 3:16a NIV)