We deal with people. People are demanding. If we are trying in any kind of legitimate way to behave Christianly, then we know what it is to feel drained by the demands of the many people to whom we minister. We feel as if we only have so much love to give, and when it's gone, it's gone. At the very least, we feel as though we must take a rest in order to replenish our supply of love.
What I am about to say could be easily misunderstood, so I must state firmly that I am neither advocating over-work nor decrying periods of rest. I do worry though, that we have all, in large part, misapprehended the nature of the very thing which seems in such short supply to us in our ministries. I fear we have misunderstood the very nature of love itself.
If we are attempting to love those in our charge in our own strength, then we will inevitably run short of that commodity on a daily basis, for our supply of love is at best a temperamental, seasonal spring. But in God's economy, what is our purest love but self-aggrandizing, prideful, shameful egocentrism? What is our best love but pure wickedness cleverly twisted? If we are "loving" others in our own strength, we are not truly loving them at all - not with the endless, constant, pure and plentiful supply that is God's love in Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, if we are loving those in our charge with the love of Christ; if we are day by day and moment by moment drawing from the endless depths of the well of His love, then a strange and counterintuitive thing happens - something that can only happen in God's Economy - the more of Christ's love we give, the more of Christ's love we have to give! In God's Economy, love is not a zero-sum commodity. We do not possess a fixed amount that must be carefully rationed out. Rather, the more we give out, the more God pours in to us, and the more we can give, and the more He can pour, and the capacity of giving grows into the infinity that is God Himself! We will never approach it (infinity by definition cannot be approached), but we can pursue it. God, by sending Jesus Christ, who has sent us His Spirit, has made it possible for us to move toward him.
This sounds so nice and fluffy, doesn't it? Love is so nice and snuggly and we Christians can never run out of it! Yay! Let's get real. We have all been around long enough to know that loving people is really, really hard. Why do so few of us ever really grasp hold of this reality that rings so true when we hear it? I believe it is because the only way to experience the truth of the bottomlessness of God's love in Jesus Christ - the only way to truly internalize the reality that the more of Christ's love we give, the more we will have, is to take the seemingly insane, totally counterintuitive step of actually giving Christ's love with total lavishness; with total disregard for our perceived need to hold any back for ourselves. Jesus will refill every empty glass, but no glass becomes empty unless it is first poured out. I fear that we all, to a one, habitually dispense God's love by the sip rather than the gulp; that our glasses of love have never been renewed because we have never taken the risk of emptying them.
Do you want to know what it is like to have an endless supply of Christ's love to show others? The next time you have the opportunity to love, don't stop at your comfort zone. Go all out. Be ridiculous. Tip the glass upside-down, and discover the miracle of the loaves and fishes played out directly in your own heart and life. If the loaves and fishes had never been brought to Jesus, if they had never been distributed according to his command, if those counterintuitive steps of faith had never been taken, then the miracle of abundance would never have been witnessed. Turn your glass over, pour it lavishly, fully, openly, unreservedly, and discover the endless stream of God's love in Jesus Christ. Only in God's Economy do we gain by giving away the very thing we seek to gain. It takes infinity to turn finite economics on its head.