An Intentional Love
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
Have you ever created something you came to care about so much that it almost hurts?
As a writer, I fall in love with the characters I create. They become like family. I feel their pain, their joys, their fears and sorrows. It’s the same way with my kids. For those for you who are parents, this might be super obvious, but they feel like an extension of my body and soul. I’d literally walk through fire for them, take on every hurt or illness or agony for them, without question.
I just started reading through the Bible again, and that’s what strikes me about the start of Genesis—the intentionality and love with which God so clearly handcrafted the world and everything in it. Personally, I like to switch up the versions of the Bible I read just to get a different perspective, and the language in the New Living Translation feels like poetry as I reread the beautiful account of our Lord creating something out of simple nothingness.
“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:2-3 NLT).
Can you imagine? Out of darkness suddenly came glorious, magnificent light! The Bible doesn’t tell us what this looked like, only that it was “good,” but I imagine a soft, soothing glow spreading across the dark waters, gradually growing stronger and stronger until it reaches a crescendo of pure and blissful brightness. I wonder how God felt. Did a new song of glee brim in His heart? Did He want to dance like a little kid, exuberant and carefree?
Then, the Bible tells us, God kept on creating. He created the sky the next day, and then the land the next, brimming with lush vegetation. Next came the stars and the sun and the moon, and then God “set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:17-18).
He created birds and livestock, wild animals and fish in the sea, then human beings, and these last ones, us, were extra-special. As the Bible tells us, humans God created “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). Then he blessed it all, tasked us with stewardship over the earth and everything in it, and “rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2).
What strikes me is the intention God had with all he created. He didn’t just create us, but created us in his own image. He didn’t just create and let it be, but He created and looked it over, reflecting on its “goodness.” That’s significant!
We—God’s people, God’s creation—are no happy accident but a magnificently handcrafted and intentional design set into motion by the Lord God Almighty. That’s love quite literally personified.
I think that’s why it is so important to remember what Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-40: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
If God loved us so much that He personally handcrafted the world, and humans in His very image, of course it should follow that the two greatest commandments are to love Him back and to love each other.
This year, we have a new opportunity, a fresh start, when it comes to love. Every one of us who professes to love God needs to take this seriously. This commandment to love Him and love each other is not a suggestion but an order. We are to love even our enemies, Jesus tells us…to love each other as ourselves, caring for our neighbor in the same way we would care for our own children or parents.
For that is how we love him, Jesus says: whatever we do for “one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
In the New Year 2023, can we do this? Can we take a moment every day to step outside of our own naturally selfish inclinations and look around to care for others in our midst, others we don’t even know? Can we smile at strangers, share our money and our food with our neighbors, and lend a hand just because we can?
That is my challenge this year. I hope you will join me. In the spirit of the One who created us all, let’s each of us recognize our shared community in the Lord and love extravagantly, generously, and freely in honor of that perfect love.
Song of Reflection: “The Maker” by Chris August. Listen to it here.
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning journalist, author, blogger, editor, writing coach, and devotional writer with thousands of articles to her name.
Since 2010, she has served as the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 123 journalism awards during her tenure. She is the author of Feed My Sheep: A 40-Day Devotional to Develop a Heart for Hunger Ministry (2019) and More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and the editor of a number of other books from her newspaper’s Advocate Press, which she helped found in 2017.
She has won more than 100 writing awards and is a seasoned speaker and frequent contributor to Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and BibleStudyTools.com, among many others. She has a weekly faith blog at JessicaBrodie.com and is part of the team at Wholly Loved Ministries, with her work included in many of their devotionals and Bible studies.
Brodie holds a Master of Arts in English, and she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in communications/print journalism from Florida International University. Born and raised in Miami, Brodie now lives in Lexington, South Carolina, just outside Columbia. She has also lived in Ohio and in the mountains of western North Carolina. She and her husband, Matt Brodie, have a blended family of four teenage children and stepchildren.
Brodie has written several novels and is actively seeking publication through her agent Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for Contemporary Fiction from American Christian Fiction Writers, and her novel Tangled Roots won a third place Foundation Award in Contemporary Romance at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2019. She is finishing the third in the series, Hidden Seeds, now.
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