In one of three illustrations on sacrificial love, the love which lies at the heart of God and which led to Christ’s death for sinners, Tim Keller shows what it means to be crucified by loving those who are in need.
Jesus didn’t have to die despite God’s love; he had to die because of God’s love. And it had to be this way because all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice.
Think about it. If you love a person whose life is all put together and has no major needs, it costs you nothing. It is delightful. There are probably four or five people like that where you live. You ought to find them and become their friend. But if you ever try to love somebody who has needs, someone who is in trouble or who is persecuted or emotionally wounded, it is going to cost you. You can’t love them without taking a hit yourself. A transfer of some kind is required, so that somehow their troubles, their problems, transfer to you.
There are a lot of wounded people out there. They are emotionally sinking, they’re hurting, and they desperately need to be loved.
If the pastor spends too much time loving broken people then the frequent, deep and painful hits he receives will lead to emotional ministry burnout. The only remedy is more time with God and less time with those who wound. But once replenished by the love of God in Christ it is time to get back up and love the wounded.