“Ok,” agreed her dark-haired friend, eyeing the perfectly round sticker staring up at her.
Vigorously, the girls exchanged stickers, removing the clear film from each of their albums and placing the newest addition into their collections.
I still have my sticker album from third grade. Care Bears smile up at me when I open that old book. Puffy stickers snuggle in between the pages. And some of the scratch-and-sniff stickers still have their scent!
Although I don’t trade stickers anymore, Jesus taught me something about trading things a few weeks ago: there's something I’d been hanging on to far too long. Something older than that sticker album in my attic. I was clinging to a worthless sticker in the album of life. It’s name? Hurt.
Hurt was part of my collection of feelings that I allowed into my life. After all, it’s natural to hurt when people around you make poor choices, isn’t it? When words are said that cut to the bone like a knife? When people you love are misunderstood and misjudged?
Lately I’ve decided to trade it out. Exchange it for something far better—in fact, the best sticker in the album of human emotions. The one everybody wants (and everybody can have!) But its availability does not diminish its value. This sticker is priceless, for the Owner paid for it immeasurably; yet it comes as a free gift to me.
The thing is, even if I tried exchanging that emotion with another person, I couldn’t; because nobody wants the hurts I carry—and I personally don’t want to discuss them, either. Because that hurts even more.
So I have this Friend. He’s got every imaginable heart emoji sticker (if you will) in His album. And none of them has been used! They are all brand new. And they’re all really good!
One note about sticker trading: the value of a sticker includes not only how cool the sticker is but how unused it is.
Sometimes trading stickers was a tricky business. You’d see this puffy Smurf sticker you wanted and, after you made the deal, realized it had no “stickiness” left on it. Jill’s grandma had found it on the sidewalk, stuck it on the fridge, then given it to Jenny, who let her little brother Jimmy tape it to his shirt. When Jimmy and Jill got in a fight, Jimmy had to give his sticker to Jill—and that’s how this sticker had made its way into her album. Then, after trading it, you found out the miserable truth that, even though it was called a “sticker,” there was nothing (except a piece of tape) that would stick to it!
I confess: I made my share of those deals—and got hornswaggled into a couple, too.
The “hurt” sticker is like that. Totally worthless as far as a sticker in your album is concerned. What it needs is replacement with the best sticker imaginable. That's why I made the trade: my hurt for God’s love.
You see, sometime today probably, I’ll be misunderstood. Misjudged. My motives questioned. I might even be gossiped or lied about.
But, instead of letting that hurt in, I can trade out that worthless sticker for His incredible love.
After all, that’s what He did for me.
Jesus was mocked. Scorned. Stripped down to nothing as He hung on the cross. People He loved beat Him till He was unrecognizable.
I’ve never experienced that kind of rejection, humiliation, torture, or anything close. The amazing part is this: instead of allowing Himself to be hurt, Christ had compassion enough to cry, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He asked God to forgive those who wanted to hurt Him.
Now forgiveness is a powerful antidote to hurt, as is blessing my enemies. But Jesus didn’t stop with a prayer.
Hanging in agony on that cross, He died for the very people who would curse Him and take His name in vain dozens of times each day. He bled for the same individuals who would despise Him, mock Him, write books defying Him, and commit horrible atrocities in His name.
He died for me.
And with every bit of precious blood that dripped from His wounds, He offered complete forgiveness, cancelation, and payment for sin. Every sin—cancelled in His blood! I only needed, in repentant faith, to come to Him for His deliverance.
And this same Jesus tells me something incredible:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
As I have loved you?
In that same way? That same life-giving, compassionate, not-going-to-be-hurt, willing to give and give some more, even though mistreated, misjudged, misunderstood? In that same way?
I am to love others in the same way that Christ loved me. This is the most powerful commandment. It’s so radical, so unstoppable, so immensely grand that Jesus calls it “new.”
It’s a brand new style from the dispensation of Law--the new style that God uses in the day of grace.
And the command comes with an astounding, earth-shattering promise: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”(John 13:35).
Love, you see, is the exact message Jesus uses to change the world. The way of love splinters through devastation and saliently displays in neon flashing lights: “Here walks a true disciple of Jesus.” Of all the fashionable changes in dress, philosophy, and culture, this is the most incredibly amazing new style of the last two millenia: the love of Jesus.
And so few of us have caught it.
We are to love. In the same way He loved us…
That’s profound. Incredible.
Try wrapping your mind around that for a minute.
We are to follow His example in loving every man, woman, and child with the same kind of self-sacrificing, agape love described in I Corinthians 13 and portrayed in the life of Jesus Christ.
We know it.
We say we believe it.
But do we live it?
This love not only forgives every offense done to me (Mark 11:25) and blesses all those who hurt me (Matthew 5:44), but also it reaches back into that situation where people have hurt me and offers to them unquenchable doses of love, kindness, and goodness.
And none of it’s from me.
It’s all Jesus.
Because, in my own strength, I can’t love that way.
But Jesus can.
Dear believer in Christ, it's not too late to start practicing this new command. It’s always in style. Whatever hurts have been your portion in life, trade them out for His love. Let Jesus fill you with the brand of love that comes from Him alone.
Such a trade off will be tested. Regularly. Daily. Maybe even hourly.
But as we decide to trade out our pain for His love, something redemptive takes place. Something intensely beautiful. The same aching deserts of your heart begin to be filled with rivers of overflowing love, where wellsprings of joy flow from God's Spirit in you into the hearts and lives of hurting people the world over, to whom you can offer God's love.
True love empathizes with hurting souls, but it always finds freedom and filling in looking to Jesus. Be part of His cycle of love today. Cast off your own hurts at the foot of His cross and, in the midst of being misunderstood, misjudged, or criticized in your endeavors, seek to be filled with the God of all grace, Who can fill you to overflowing with His amazing love!