Seeing the images out of the United Kingdom in recent days has been troubling. The world is an increasingly more violent place. People seem to be less tolerant and gracious. Still, we are those who are called to love.
In the cartoon Peanuts, Lucy stands with her arms folded and a resolute expression on her face, while Charlie Brown pleads with her, “Lucy, you must be more loving. The world needs love. Make this world a better place Lucy by loving someone else.” And Lucy whirls around and in anger strikes Charlie Brown and he flips over backwards. Lucy screams, “Look, you blockhead, the world I love; it is people I can’t stand.”
It is easy to love in the abstract, the world and people in general. Evidently, it is the people around us that we can’t stand. And yet, it is precisely those people around us, the people we work with, go to school with, live next door to, or even sit next to in worship, that Jesus calls us to love.
Love is the mark that Jesus gave Christians to wear before the world, and through the years I have known so many here at Montgomery Hills who have worn that mark well. Jesus called his disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Jesus lived a life that embodied such love. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the hurting, and blessed the children. That which they had received, they were called to share with others.
And so are we. When we love like that it makes a difference, and it makes the world a little different. Earnest Fitzgerald once told a story about a missionary to Kenya many years ago. A resident of the village where the missionary served for 25 years said of him: “When he came to us, there was no light. When he left, there was no darkness.” Love shatters the darkness that surrounds us with the light of Christ. When we take time to listen to someone, or to encourage, lift up, build up, or extend a helping hand to another, we make a difference.
Howard Thurman closes his book, “Disciplines of the Spirit,” by saying: “The experience of love is either a necessity or a luxury. If it be a luxury, it is expendable; if it is a necessity, then to deny it is to perish. So simple is the reality, and so terrifying. Ultimately there’s only one place of refuge on this planet for any person, and that is in another person’s heart. To love is to make of one’s heart a swinging door.”
If we can’t do anything else in our ministry, we can minister to others with love. All we have to do is pass on the same love that has been passed along to us. I encourage us all to look for ways to do that. “Faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of them all is love.”
With love, Pastor Joel
Rev. Dr. Doris Barron-Shell