I looked around the room at the people gathered for our five-year high school reunion (yes, it was a number of years ago) and recognized a familiar face.
“Cindy” had been in my philosophy class as a senior. I had prayed for her, and several other classmates, off and on since graduating, particularly because she did not profess faith in Christ.
She’d remained on my heart. I was glad to see her.
“Hi, Cindy,” I greeted her, smiling. She looked at me blankly. Slowly, recognition dawned on her face.
“Oh, I remember you!” she finally said.
I had carried a burden for Cindy for five years, yet she barely remembered me. The moment offered a shocking revelation:
People who don’t know Christ lack the ability to love others the way Christians can.
I’m not saying Christians are more loving or better than others—not at all. We simply have a supernatural resource which allows us to extend a compassion which is beyond our natural ability.
Here’s how it works: Jesus loves people through us as we yield to him.
During the last evening before Jesus was betrayed and crucified, after he had washed his disciples’ feet, Jesus commanded them:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” –John 13:34-35
In this context, it’s clear there’s a command to obey. We must consciously decide to love one another the same way Jesus loves us (see I Corinthians 13).
But something else is true for us as Christians, too. Romans 5:4 puts it this way, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
The love of God is already in us. If we walk in step with the Spirit and not according to the flesh, our default will be love.
It’s not even about trying hard. How cool is that?
This came home to me in a powerful way over the summer. I’d spent two and a half months looking for a job, struggling with feelings of uselessness, inadequacy and rejection.
I knew I was making the common mistake of conflating worth with work, but I couldn’t seem to fix that.
Then came our church’s annual family camp, something our family has enjoyed most summers for twenty-plus years.
I got to camp feeling empty and dry. The first night, I pleaded with God, “Please let me feel your love this week. I so need to experience your presence.”
I guess I was hoping for a magical moment at the altar—you know, a Disney swirl with Jesus. That didn’t happen this time, but something else wonderful did.
My brothers and sisters in Christ asked me the right questions. They prayed for me. They comforted and encouraged me.
They simply acted as Christians do. They obeyed Jesus’ command to love, without striving.
Paul said it this way in I Thessalonians 4:9,
“About brotherly love: You don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”
As I worshiped with God’s people and received their love, my perspective shifted.
In a matter of four days, I came out of the darkness of depression to a sense of hope, joy and purpose—without my circumstances changing at all.
Abba answered my plea to feel his love that week, but the answer didn’t come through a Disney swirl with Jesus.
It came through the love of God’s people—and that was more than enough.