When Jesus began his ministry here on earth, he didn’t take the route you might expect. He didn’t take advantage of his power as the almighty Alpha and Omega. He had nothing but the clothes on his back and words of anthem-like proportion, and he did what everyone was least expecting from the Messiah. He didn’t try to rub shoulders with powerful influencers or rich politicians to gain popularity and status. He didn’t set out to build his Kingdom from the top down or go out of his way to try to sell the fact that he was the Son of God. He didn’t brag about who he was, try to trick individuals into joining him, or use Jedi mind control to gain a following. His approach was gutsy and raw and grassroots. He started from the bottom.
Jesus went to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40)—the people who were the absolute last on anybody’s list of Most Influential People. Take his followers, for example: the twelve disciples. These guys weren’t philanthropists, social influencers, or scholars; they were blue-collar boys, fishermen and tradesmen. It’s not that the disciples weren’t smart; they just didn’t have the societal ranking that people would expect. And Jesus didn’t stop there. He chose to do life with the hurting and brokenhearted, the oddballs, the black sheep, and the misfits—people who continually needed his attention, help, encouragement, and forgiveness. Prostitutes, drunks, swindlers, thieves, adulterers, tax collectors—these are just a few of society’s castoffs whom Jesus truly and deeply and wholeheartedly loved. God’s Son came to spend time and die for sinners, the messed up, and those who are sick. How incredibly humbling and beautiful.
The perfect Savior wanted to spend time with imperfect people, and he did this knowing he’d be there to witness firsthand their struggles and misfortunes. But he loved them—despite the hardships, despite the messiness. Love may be like oxygen, but that doesn’t mean the air around us is always clean and abundant. It doesn’t mean that love is always going to be easy. If you’ve ever climbed a mountain or stood at high elevation, then you know that gasping feeling—that raspy, winded, stretching-your-lungs-out feeling of trying to get in a good breath. It hurts. It’s not the kind of oxygen we wish we had. It’s not the easy kind of breath we need. But without those much-needed breaths, no matter how hard they are, our lungs would deflate and our hearts would cease. Don’t believe me? Try to hold your breath for ten minutes and see what happens. (I’m just kidding. Don’t do that.)
That’s how it is with love. It’s not always going to be simple to love others. It’s not always going to be convenient or without hardship and deprivation. But it’s still how we breathe. It’s still the very thing that keeps us alive in the spirit of God. Because when we breathe out love to others for the sake of glorifying God, we in turn breathe in the love that God has for us. We’ve been assigned the arduous and humbling task of showing love to all people, and this includes those we consider our worst enemies, those who live differently, those whom we don’t believe deserve love, those whom we think are too far gone. Thieves, cheats, and liars are just a few of the people we are called to show love and grace to. Why? Because these people are no better or worse than you or me. That may be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the truth. We’re supposed to show love to everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done—because Jesus died for all of us. This may sound extreme, but that’s love.
This is an excerpt from Jarrid’s new book, Love is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World.