Did I offer peace today? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come. ~Henri Nouwen
I met Lori when I was sixteen. Sixteen is not often the age of spiritual hunger and sacrificial love. Yet hunger is what I felt, and love is what Lori conveyed as her essence—a tough sell to high school juniors. She defended, and befriended, the girl whose stringy hair betrayed her lack of hygiene, making her an easy target for bullies. Lori flowed easily between jocks and nerds, burnouts and church girls, never seeming to resent a snub or a cut. Most amazing to me, the last of seven children whose idea of sibling bonding was fist fights in the kitchen, was the love between Lori’s family members. They liked each other. They treated one another with respect. They spent time together.
I had no mental reference for this. I only knew I wanted in. I knew the God I’d been seeking for three years was the one she talked about. He had to be. She lived the proof.
Jesus, too, lived the proof. As the end of his ministry neared, he said to his disciples, “Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:33–35 NLT).
Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, and then sat down to eat what he knew would be their last meal together. He’d be leaving them soon, and they’d be on their own to start this thing called the church and persevere through persecution, growth, and change.
Jesus saw the challenges ahead. He knew the only way they’d weather the storm was to stick together.
He gives this command, to the disciples and to us: Live lives of proof. Be so filled with love for one another, so quick to put one another’s needs above your own, that people can’t help but notice. Be so different in the way you hold on to each other that you stand out, like headlights in a bewildering fog.
Be like Lori.
As a pastor, I see the good, bad, and ugly ways Christians treat one another. I see deep sacrifice for near strangers, and I see friends twist the knife over the smallest advantage or offense. I’m often the recipient of both. Christians can be a tough room to play.
I’m both haunted and mesmerized by the reality of Jesus’s claim. Others will know who he is by the love we show when we’re annoyed, frustrated, angry, hurt, or offended. The love we show with Christians of lesser means. The love we show in our own homes, the place where it’s often most difficult to be consistent.
I’m haunted because I know others are watching, and we fall so short. I’m mesmerized because I know love’s power. I know firsthand that Jesus’s words are true, because I was once one of those watchers. Lori’s whole family led me to the cross of Jesus. I had no doubt they were his disciples—the evidence was there before my eyes.
Lord, help me feel the weight of your words and the seriousness of your call to love one another. Give me the courage to be gracious. Strengthen my will to be kind when I want to be hurtful. Change my heart toward those who don’t agree with me or act like me. Give me a heart of gratitude for my family when life gets stressful. Most of all, make mine the kind of life that shines sacrificial love so brightly that others will see it and ask, Is that what’s been missing in my life?
Scripture for Reflection
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 NLT)
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. (Ephesians 4:2–3 NLT)
Reach for More
Are you struggling with a relationship? What would Jesus’s kind of love look like with that person? Can you think of two steps you can take to show love to that person, even if it isn’t returned?
Maybe there’s a group of Christians you can’t agree with. Do your words about them show love or contempt? Can you pray for them? How can you love them while maintaining your individual integrity on issues that divide you?
What three things can you do today to show your family you truly love them?
Photograph © Andrew Dong, used with permission