Recently there has been much sobbing and wailing in our household. Juliet, one of our beloved cats, has died. However her life truly showed me the transformative power love has.
Juliet was a stray. When she first came into our lives she was remarkably unattractive; stained with pus and scabs, with a furless tail. She was also desperately thin and in her starvation was lured into our house with food.
With unconditional love and attention she blossomed. She became unrecognisable; and our love was rewarded as she became a fat, cuddly cat with a luxurious long white coat.
My only consolation at her sad demise is that looking back I can see that our love really did transform her.
A person is of more value than a cat
Jesus said in Luke chapter 12, verse 7 that a person is of more value than many sparrows, and while I may be extrapolating a little, I assume likewise a person is also of more worth than a stray cat.
Like Juliet, people need help. However I have never had the courage to give that much unconditional love to a broken, damaged or 'stray' human; probably because I don't want to run the risk of getting hurt.
Cats may not always be grateful but the worst damage they inflict is a few scratches. People can inflict emotional damage.
It is much easier to love an unlovable cat than an unlovable human.
But what would happen if we Christians decided to commit to unconditionally loving a struggling human being? What if we made a concrete decision to invest in one or two needy people, to love them unconditionally the way I loved our cat, regardless of the scratches or ungratefulness?
Love in small measured doses
We are called to be an expression of Jesus' unconditional love but it is a reality I have never truly practised. I have doled out small packages of love to people; a little here, a little there.
Perhaps my small donation of love is useful, perhaps not. I have never given myself wholly to love needy people the way I did to our cat.
I have seen a lot of people give out love in small measured doses to stray cats. They feed them occasionally and feel good about helping a hungry animal, but that doesn't actually change the animal's life.
So often my kindness and love to people is doled out in these small measured doses but as with a stray cat, this is not really enough.
True love is that it is unconditional
While we were still sinners Christ died for us, Romans chapter 5, verse 8 explains this as God demonstrating his love to us while we were undeserving.
Giving love to someone who deserves love and who loves you is easy. It is easy to love my family because they love me.
However, the sacrificial aspect of love is not pretty or easy. It was not always easy to love an ungrateful stray cat who scratched and fought as we tried to administer medicine to her. It will not be easy to minister God's grace to an ungrateful world either, but that is what we are called to do.
Personally I need to learn how to love people, Jesus commanded it.
Giving as well as receiving is transformational
One of the wonderful things about this Christian journey is that as we struggle to do something difficult (in this case love) we find ourselves being transformed.
As we nursed Juliet we grew in patience, we saw the importance of kindness and we were blessed, probably just as much as she was.
As we strive to love others and bring transforming unconditional love into their lives, we may well find our own lives being impacted.
God likes to multiply our gifts. When we give unconditional love in his name we receive a bonus, both our life and the lives of the people we are helping will be changed.
A two for one deal, and that's got to be good.
Kara Greening trained in biology, works in chemistry and wonders about the physics of the TARDIS. She is passionate about exploring her faith. She lives with her husband, a primary school teacher. They have 2 cat; a senior cat named Sampson and a recently acquired kitten who is currently nameless. No-name just jumped feet first into Kara’s mug of coffee and spilt it over the laptop.
Kara Greening’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/kara-greening.html