How much does love cost? Sounds like a silly question doesn't it? (Duh! Everybody knows that love is free, you dufuss!.) Well, before you jump to any conclusions about how love is free and doesn't cost anything, let's think this through a little bit more.
God is love, and He is the ultimate model of love for the world. So we must beg the question, what kind of love did God show us? Well, we could write a book on all the various aspects of God's amazing love displayed for all to see and know at the cross. But to simplify here a bit, one thing that you clearly see with God's love is that it is costly. In fact, it is very costly. For God so loved the world that He gave of Himself, took on fully human form, and paid the highest price that could ever be paid-the giving of His life for someone else. So God's love was very costly.
God's love is not cheap. He could have chosen another route to tell us about His love. He could have chosen a different method. It would have been a lot cheaper (and who doesn't love something cheap, right?). I mean God could've just spoken in audible voice for everyone to hear so that there would be no denying He says. He could've painted us a picture in the sky so that we all could see it. He could've put something mysterious and powerful into the waters of the earth so that we could taste it with our every sip. Yes, God could have done it that way if He wanted to. But would we have appreciated? Wouldn't we have seen it as cheap, common, and ordinary? Wouldn't we have treated it just as cheaply as we do our everyday drinking water, the everyday sounds we hear, and the everyday sights that we see?
That's one of the many things that's so amazing to me about God. He isn't cheap. No! He took what was most valuable and precious to Him and gave it to us, the sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross. And though we see the cross all the time in church, on Bibles, tattooed on peoples bodies, on candy wrappers, and sometimes around our necks, let's not forget that the cross symbolized horrible, agonizing, exchurasitingly painful death of the worst kind. The cross is not cheap, and neither is God's love. His love is costly, and the scary thing is we are called to love in this same way, with a costly love just like His.
Astonishingly enough, God calls us to costly love. He does not call us to love cheaply, with mere words or good intentions. No, he has called us to love with truth and action (1 John 3:18). Nothing about the love that God calls us to is cheap. It is costly, which means if we're going to love like God wants us to, then our love should ultimately cost us something too. If our love does not cost us, then it is merely "cheap" love.
Cheap love is convenient. Cheap loves demands nothing. Cheap love comes at a small price and is not very valuable to those who have it. Looking around the world and even into our own hearts, it's so easy to see cheap love in non-committal relationships, club scene hook-ups, uncaring marriages, parents who try to control their children's lives and whom would impose their wills on them, in loyalties to money and sports, in judgmental attitudes that hide behind daily smiles, etc. This kind of love is cheap, and God has called us to a way of life that goes beyond what is cheap. He calls us to a costly love.
Costly love is inconvenient to the world around it. Costly love calls for everything that you have. Costly love demands that you be willing to risk it all, even your own life, if necessary. It requires giving at some personal cost to ourselves. And that's hard isn't it? A costly love would require us to change, to commit to another person before engaging in any "romance" or physical activity with him or her, to give of ourselves in our marriages (and sometimes the most loving thing might be ending it), to learn that our kids actually have desires and wants above our own attempts to control them and to think in terms of what they want (that's got to be tough. I'm glad I don't have kids yet), and to let our faces reflect a genuine warmth toward another with no hidden malice in our hearts. Bottom line: to love like that would cost us a great price. In fact, costly love demands the highest price of all, our very lives.
To realize whether our love is cheap or if it's costly, we only have to ask ourselves this question: what does love require me to give? In other words, how much does love cost me? If the answer is anything less than self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-giving, then our love is cheap. If our answer implies that we are willing to lose our very selves for another, then our love is costly, but more than that, our love is like God's. And isn't that what we all want anyway, to be the kind of person who loves like Him?
The amazing thing about us as people made in the image of God is that there is a part of us that probably already shows costly love. For a hobby, an interest, or a sport we might be willing to give our all and show ultimate discipline to achieve some goal. A man would fight off any attack against his wife or family. Ministers or church workers might be willing to sacrifice time and energy to love the church. Workers might be willing to sacrifice anything for the almighty American dollar. Parents might be willing to work hard and long to make sure that their families are provided for and taken care of (or drive around the world just to take their kids were they want to go). The great thing about all this is when we love at a cost like this, our love is like God's.
However, that's only part of it. It is very easy for us to rest in a manner of loving that comes very easy to us and to think that we're loving people. The challenge for us is to find those areas in our lives where it is hard for us to love at our own personal cost. It's a hard task to find that area where our "costly" love is weak, to admit that we come short, and to take the step of faith and trust toward being a more loving person. With hobbies, interests, and sports, it would mean that we share those to the benefit of others and not to satisfy our own glorious pride and achievement. For a spouse, it means putting yourself aside and thinking of how you can best meet the other person's needs. Workers would think not so much of the glorious income they are earning or the career they are building but would think of all the lives and people that they touch and impact in their world every day. Parents, who would do anything for their children, would put their own wishes, dreams, and attempts to control their kids aside and begin to think in terms of what they could give their children that would increase their joy.
When we all come to love one another like this, what a difference it would make in our world. When we start to live costly love, we might actually experience more of the hand of the Almighty in our lives and feel like we are truly citizens of His kingdom. We would know an inner power in our lives that is Divine and see changes that we thought were not possible. But let's not forget: this type of love that can change a life, change a family, change a community, and even change the world comes at a cost. And the biggest question of all is this: is it a price that you are willing to pay?