Here's one of those "sermon stories".... don't know if it's true but it makes a point!
In the 12th century the German Emperor Fredrick conducted an experiment. He had a number of babies taken from their mother's and cared for by others. They were fed, changed and kept warm. The only thing that they were not given was physical affection. Within 6 weeks they had all died.
We need to be loved. It's a basic requirement for life that doesn't make it onto the GCSE Biology syllabus. The question is how do we best experience love?
Naturally we think that we will feel most loved when others love us. By which we mean, when others make us feel good about ourselves. When they make us laugh and buy us gifts and take us to our favourite restaurants. When they makes us the centre of their world. And when they stop making us feel happy, then we know that we are no longer "in love" with them.
The problem is that this isn't love. It is self-love. It assumes that I feel happiest when I receive. It is the love at the heart of what the Bible calls sin.
Jesus says the opposite. He tells us that we feel greatest joy when we give in love as he has given to us.
John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Jesus loves us by laying down his life for us. He loves us even when we don't love him in return. He loves us with a personally costly love. In fact God Father, Son and Spirit have been giving in love to one another for all eternity. That is why we can say God is love. That is why God has always been perfectly content.
Our self-obsessed, introspective society desperately needs to hear both that God loves us in Christ despite the way we treat him. And that we will experience joy in love, when we love as he loves. When we seek the best for others rather than expecting them to make us feel better about ourselves.
Come to think of it, I desperately need to hear that every day as well!