What does asparagus have to do with Jesus’s command to love?
Our three kids have always varied pretty widely on what foods they enjoy the most. We have gone through seasons of cheeseburgers, specialty salads, BBQ chicken pizza, and even cucumbers with them. It has been wildly inconsistent, changing from month to month about what is their absolute favorite. Further complicating the situation is the fact that there hasn’t been a single season in which all three kids have had the same favorite food.
Although the foods they enjoy are different, they are pretty well united in what they don’t like. Near the top of that list for all of them is asparagus. That’s a problem for our family, because both my wife and I really like asparagus, and so it makes a frequent appearance at the dinner table.
A Command to Love
On asparagus night, everything else on the plate would be eaten, until only the lonely green stalks were left on three plates, and there it would sit. And sit. And sit. Until it started to get cold and mushy, and the act of eating the asparagus would move from being distasteful to downright disgusting.
At some point, inevitably, I would have to put my hands on the table, look them all in the eyes, and say clearly: “You will eat that asparagus.” The only question at that point is who can play the waiting game longer.
In the end, though, our kids have always been generally compliant. They would eat it. Sure, it would be with plenty of drama as they force fed it to themselves one bite at a time, washed down with gallons of whatever drink they had, but after a couple of hours they would get it down. Because they were compliant, they would obey my command and go through the mechanics of eating what I tell them to eat.
But let’s say that one night – one asparagus night – I decided to change the game. The table is set. The food is dispersed. And there again sits the asparagus on each of their plates. That’s when it gets interesting, because this time, I do not say, “Eat the asparagus.” Instead, I say, “Tonight, kids, I give you a new command. Love your asparagus.”
This is indeed a game-changer. And if the kids were self-aware enough to do so, the most honest way they could respond to me would be something like this:
“Daddy, you have given us an impossible command. If you told us to eat the asparagus, we can force ourselves into obedience. But you’re asking us for something much different than that – something we cannot do. So if you are going to give us this command, then you must also be able to give us new taste buds to go along with it.”
Jesus’s Command to Love
Now, let’s turn to Jesus. In Matthew 22, when He sums up the entire Law in just two, simple statements:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ - Matthew 22:37-39
If we are honest, we look to the Son of God with those same eyes of desperation I can see in my mind’s eye from my own children, and we say, “Jesus, you have given us a crushing command. We can go through the mechanics of so many things, but not this. We cannot will ourselves here. So if you give us this command, then we need a new heart to go along with it.”
This is the essence of the gospel.
Related Post: 5 Simple Ways to Show God's Love to Others
How to Follow Jesus’s Command to Love
We can do many things in obedience to God, at least in terms of the mechanical action. For example, we can give and serve and share. We can say no to greed and lust and gossip. But, we can perform the actions and yet our hearts never truly be engaged.
This is what we cannot do - we cannot will ourselves to love.
Our hearts are cold with sin. So cold, in fact, that they cannot be warmed. But Jesus, in His grace, not only gives us the command to love Him and others; He gives us a new heart.
When we believe in Christ, the very core of who we are is changed. For Jesus charges us with His command, and then provides the only means by which it can be accomplished.
Trust Jesus with your heart, and seek His wisdom and strength to love others as He has commanded. He is the source of all love.
Related Post: 5 Truths About Loving Difficult People