Some years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article by Dr. Paul Ruskin on the "Stages of Aging." In the article, Dr. Ruskin described a case study he had presented to his students when teaching a class in medical school. He described the case study patient under his care like this:
"The patient neither speaks nor comprehends the spoken word. Sometimes she babbles incoherently for hours on end. She is disoriented about person, place, and time. She does, however, respond to her name… I have worked with her for the past six months, but she still shows complete disregard for her physical appearance and makes no effort to assist her own care. She must be fed, bathed, and clothed by others.
"Because she has no teeth, her food must be pureed. Her shirt is usually soiled from almost incessant drooling. She does not walk. Her sleep pattern is erratic. Often she wakes in the middle of the night and her screaming awakens others. Most of the time she is friendly and happy, but several times a day she gets quite agitated without apparent cause. Then she wails until someone comes to comfort her."
After presenting the class with this challenging case, Dr. Ruskin then asked his students if any of them would like to volunteer to take care of this person. No one volunteered. Then Dr. Ruskin said, "I'm surprised that none of you offered to help, because actually she is my favorite patient. I get immense pleasure from taking care of her and I am learning so much from her. She has taught me a depth of gratitude I never knew before. She has taught me the spirit of unwavering trust. And she has taught me the power of unconditional love." Then Dr. Ruskin said, "Let me show you her picture." He pulled out the picture and passed it around. It was the photo of his six-month-old baby daughter.
I'm not sure exactly what the doctor's point was intended to be when he presented that lecture, but it reminds me that those of us who are parents do things for our children that we would never dream of doing for anyone else. Allow me to clarify that thought just a bit: We do things for those we love that we would not be willing to do for anyone else.
It's true, isn't it? We make sacrifices for those we love, but we are unwilling to make the same sacrifices for those we don't know well (or that we don't know at all). We gladly give of our time, money and energy to assist those we are close to. But when Jesus told us to do good to those who are our enemies, it goes against our natural instinct.
What seems so obvious to us is used by Paul to demonstrate the amazing love of Jesus Christ.
"Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people. Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God's love for us." (Romans 5:6-8, God's Word)
To have the love we are willing to express toward our children and those we hold dear, and be willing to show that same sacrificial love toward toward who oppose us -- enough that we are willing to die -- is love beyond anything we have ever experienced (or can even imagine). But such is the love that God has for each and every one of us. May that love motivate you to respond to the one who has given up so much just for you.