What do love, labor, and a little liver have in common? Keep reading! In early December, 1989, doctors at the University of Chicago Medical Center performed, the first liver transplant ever done in the United States using a living donor. Teresa Smith, a 29 year old Texas school teacher, underwent surgery to donate approximately one-third of her liver to her 22 month old daughter Alyssa, who was dying of a liver disease. When asked why she was willing to do this,
Ms. Smith was quoted as saying, “Once you’ve given someone a big piece of your heart, it is easy to throw in a little liver.” What Smith was describing, of course, was genuine, 100% pure, unadulterated mother’s love!
That’s an amazing story. Now switch scenes to another incident that illustrates just how far love will go. From a squeaky clean operating room in Chicago in the late 20th century back to about A. D. 33, to a hill the Bible calls Golgotha outside Jerusalem. There God performed a one of a kind, never-to-be-repeated operation to save us from the deadly, damning disease of sin, a pandemic that goes on and on and on around the globe in every generation. In a spectacle that still stuns millions, God’s Son suffered shame, condemnation, judgment, and death for out sins on the cross. What force moved Jesus to give and give, not just a piece of His liver, but His life, His blood, His all? Ephesians 5:2 gives a simple yet immeasurably profound explanation – “Ad walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Like Teresa Smith’s baby girl, we faced an acute need for help. Jesus stepped in and gave His life for us because He had already given us His heart – all of it.
Love is a powerful thing. I’m talking now about God-like love, not ungodly lust that’s only out for what it can get. God demonstrated His give-it-all love for us at the cross (see Romans 5:8). School was in session the day Jesus died on the cross, and the apostle John wrote about what he learned there in 1 John 3:16, some 60 years after he witnessed the event – “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.” But John didn’t stop there. He immediately moves on to declare, “And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” In verse 17 John lays it out straight as a gun barrel that if any Christian “sees his brother in need, and shuts up His heart from him, how does the love of God abide in Him?” The unwritten but inescapable answer is, it doesn’t. Finally, in verse 18 he pounds the point home – “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” The apostle expresses the connection between love and doing practical deeds in 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Along with their “work of faith … and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul also remembers their “labor of love.” There is an unbreakable umbilical cord between love and labor! In Teresa Smith’s case, between love, labor, and a little liver! Love is the force that compels our labor and service to the Lord and to other people. At Galatians 5:13 Paul reminds us those called to liberty in Christ are saved to serve – “but through love serve one another.” Paul is not the only one who does not forget labors of love. Hebrews 6:10 makes clear, “For God is not unjust to forget your labor of love which you have shown toward HIs name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” We live in a world of need – at home on the job, at the hospital, in the nursing home at school, next door; the sick, the lonely, the aged, the young, the bereaved – someone you know, someone close by, needs not a piece of your liver, but a big enough piece of your heart to move to a labor love. You are walking in Jesus’ steps when you give your heart. Think about it.