Among the highlights at Forest Lawn are two of the world’s largest paintings, The Crucifixion and The Resurrection. By gazing at the immense masterpiece of God’s love — The Crucifixion — we can learn something about our two greatest duties in life — loving God and loving one another.
Amateur artists set up their easels before masterpieces in order to imitate the masters. In the same way, when we set up the easel of the soul before Calvary, we learn to imitate the perfect love of the Master. There, on the old rugged cross, we learn something about the purposeful, selfless, unconditional, and sacrificial nature of God’s love.
Love is not some vaporous feeling that ebbs and flows. It is a divine attribute as strong as steel, as solid as marble, and as deliberate as a marching army. Its laser light locates needs and devises ways to meet them. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
God’s love reaches out and grabs us at Calvary. There is enough grace at Calvary to cover every single person who has ever lived, is living now, or will ever live. Jesus died for everyone.
Now, if He loved us with a deliberate, purposeful love, should we not love the same way? As it relates to others, that means finding and meeting their needs. As it relates to Him, it means obedience. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments…. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…. He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (John 14:15, 23, 24).
Are you harboring sin, an unconfessed habit, bitterness toward someone for whom Christ died? Learn to paint with the brush of Calvary. Obey Him fully and serve others purposefully.
Christ’s love is also selfless. As we look around today, we see human love failing, marriages coming unglued. The love of Christ is replaced by cheap lust, which is nothing but selfish greed. But when God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts, we begin loving with divine dimensions of love. We become more and more concerned about others, and less and less worried about our own needs.
Christians indwelt by God’s Spirit should act and react as Christ did when on earth. How can we be kind to those who are unkind to us? Humanly, we can’t. But when we have God’s love in us, He loves people through us. If we love a person in spite of his wrong spirit, we’ve begun to enter into His love. When we love our spouse, even if he or she has been unkind…when we love our children, even when they have been rebellious…when we love our friends, even when they criticize us, we have learned something of the brushstrokes of God’s love.
Furthermore, God loves us without strings. While Jesus was hanging on the cross for the sin of the whole world, He turned to one somebody hanging on the adjacent cross, and He forgave his sins, saying, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” It was as if God was saying to all of us, I love the whole world, but I love each one as if he or she were the only one to love.
Finally, as we imitate the brushstrokes of His love, we see the sacrificial color of them. We can never probe the costliness of His love toward us, so how are we supposed to love?
We can receive the love of the Master Artist into our hearts. We can let His Spirit develop His artistry in our hearts. We can learn to paint our world with the rich colors of His compassion. His Spirit can shape the scenes of life with the etchings of His purposeful, selfless, unconditional, and sacrificial love.
If you want to make a mark on this world with His brush, set your easel on the slopes of Calvary. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” (Isaac Watts).