I worked on ferry boats for a while this past summer, and in the beginning stages, you have to learn 3 basic knots. The only way I can learn something like that is by repeating it over and over again. So, I spent a chunk of the downtime on the boat practicing those basic knots. One of the reasons is because all it takes is one small move, and you either create a useless loop that does nothing, or you create one of the most widely useful knots in existence, one that is known on boats throughout the whole world. One small change makes all the difference.
It’s like that with our commitments. We can be sloppy in our commitments, like a bad knot, or we can make some of the most effective commitments in the world, with a good knot. The difference between the two isn’t a whole revamping of life.
It’s in one small change.
The other day here in Ecuador, I saw a man walking along guiding a horse. One end of the rope was tied to the horse. The other end was in his hand. What’s the difference between the two? Well, the horse can’t separate from the man. But the man can separate from the horse. All he has to do is let go of the rope. It is a master-slave relationship, it’s a one-up-one-down relationship. That’s what happens when there are one-sided commitments: someone is getting treated like animal. One side is free to end the relationship, while the other is bound. It’s not love.
See, one of the ways we can think about God is how free and powerful He is. God can do whatever He wants. Us, on the other hand, well we have to obey His laws and rules. We are obliged to Him. It’s the one-up-one-down relationship. God is the master and we are the peons. We need Him, but He doesn’t need us.
That means that we do things from obligation, like the horse. If we don’t, then we’ve offended our master who might beat us, or might not even feed or house us. He might abandon us – he might just let go of the rope he’s holding onto. And then what?
Well, then that mentality trickles into all our relationships. We make commitments out of obligation. It’s a life of one-up-one-down. Masters and slaves. One needs the other.
And then, God makes one small change.
That is Christmas.
Because in Christmas, God becomes one of us. In Jesus, God becomes just as bound to us as we are to Him. He doesn’t have any more freedoms or powers than we do. There is no more master-slave relationship. There is no more one-up-one-down. God is not going to dominate us or abandon us. We are equals.
In Christmas, God takes the rope in His hand – the rope that’s tied to you, to me – and ties it around Himself.
It is Love.
We have the celebration of Christmas so that that reality can really sink in. It’s so important, because it is our salvation from lovelessness. Once you know that, once you really experience that Jesus is bound to you and let that really reach into your heart and soul, then loving in this life become easy. You can have a love that lasts and survives like nothing else in this world, no matter what your experiences and failures in love have been like before.
It’s like the knot.
Just one small change.
Insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. (Gal 2:20)