LOVE ONE ANOTHER
As life would have it, I haven’t done much writing lately. April busyness kept me moving from one thing to the next. For me, no mental down time simply stifles inspiration. But at 4:00 this morning, I was awake, alert & writing in my mind. Prayerfully, I’ve asked God to make sense of it.
Emotionally, this week has felt long & intense. Early Monday morning we said goodbye to our daughter & 4 of our grands, after a whirlwind, sleep-deprived weekend visit. Steve & I left at 7am for his heart testing in Wichita. Afterwards, we shopped at Sam’s & were back home by early afternoon. I put the groceries away & started the laundry, with the HOPE that I might catch a nap at some point. That didn’t happen. Around 5:30 I received a call from my sister. Had I heard? There was a shooting & we were being told to stay in & lock our doors. My initial thought was, “Is this for real??? Things like that don’t happen here.” That was quickly followed by, “We’ve just had a wake-up call!”
Over next 2 days, the story slowly unfolded & was pieced together. As with most situations in life, some details will never be known. 2 law enforcement officers shot, a car chase, a stand-off, & a father and son gone from this earth. Even though we weren’t directly connected to the situation, an unspoken sense of community emerges when you imagine what people might be feeling. We notified our trusted prayer warriors of the situation. There is great comfort in knowing others care & are standing with you.
As you already know, Thursday, May 2, was the 2019 National Day of Prayer. In the morning, I forwarded the message I’d received to church folks & friends. The focused theme this year was “Love One Another,” taken from John 13:34. More importantly to me, was not only the remainder of the verse, but its context. Jesus has had His last supper with His disciples. He has washed their feet. After predicting His betrayal & explaining that He won’t be physically with them much longer, He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (vs 34 & 35, emphasis mine) I pondered this verse throughout the day, reviewing the challenge in context of evolving relationships. Betrayal has many faces. But the resulting separation is the same, & the enemy’s victory.
At 5 pm we noticed a large gathering at the funeral home. Only a block away, we have a birds-eye view from our front porch. We are always sobered, having experienced loss ourselves, & are reminded frequently that life is short…no matter the time given here on earth. We often read the posted obituaries & pray for the family involved. Thursday was no different. We were particularly saddened to realize that this was the father who was taken, unexpectedly, earlier in the week. We read about his life & I teared up watching his children’s pictorial tribute, set to the music of 3 specific songs. He was a loved man. I wrestled with how they must be feeling…how the grandchildren would process this loss…& how his elderly surviving parents would come to peace with this tragedy. It was almost too painful to even comprehend. I shook my head, at a loss for words.
Later that evening, we watched the National Day of Prayer service from the Capitol Statuary. I was both blessed & challenged. It was amazing to see the attendees unashamedly on their knees in prayer. The overall message was to love those who “persecute” unjustly…period. My soul was in turmoil as I counted the cost of loving those who hate Christ… loving those who profess Christ but still hate Truth…loving those who are cruel in word & deed…loving those who take life without provocation. These attitudes are increasingly the norm, rather than the exception.
I believe the answer for ALL our relational grief is admitting we cannot love. We don’t have what it takes. Without Jesus Christ living in us, our attempts at loving are a fake performance at best. And fake fails in a crisis. Fake fails the test of time. “Even as I have loved you.” We need to admit our lack first, then repent, & receive His life-- before we are able to give His true love away as overflow. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us & sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins.” (I John 4:10) When we are born again spiritually, we have a clean slate, a fresh start, a heart flushed out & free of sin’s debris. We are healed from soul wounds. We are new. (pg.105, SET APART; JK Dean) That is why John goes on to declare, in vs 20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ & hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Brother, in this context, can mean physical family, a neighbor, members of the same Christian community, or in general—a fellowship of life based on identity of origin…same tribe, countryman etc. In a nutshell, we who profess the Lord Jesus Christ have no excuses.
I’m going to be honest. Loving people who have hurt me, lied to me, or betrayed me isn’t easy. In fact, it’s impossible. When the Holy Spirit makes me aware of a discrepancy in loving, my “habit” is to confess my sin/crummy attitude & then I pray. I ask God to change my heart & my thinking, to love that person through the life of Christ in me. I don’t pretend to feel something I don’t. I wait & and I pray. Sometimes it’s a process, a gained understanding over time. But He alone does the changing, from the inside, setting us free. I can’t get past the heart-piercing words in I John 3: 14b-15. “He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; & you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; & we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”