Recently, one reader wrote to Gentle Reformation giving thanks for the teachings, exhortations, and analyses. The reader went on to suggest that more stories from the battlefield – accounts of what Jesus is doing – might encourage to our readers further.
The difficulty is that Jesus always ministers personally, and many if not most accounts of what he is doing should not be told on the internet. But the Lord has been pleased to provide a testimony in our local congregation that may encourage you.
The Lord has sent a slow but steady trickle of international people into our midst. They come for ESL classes, English Bible classes, church social events, or to worship and join the church. Some are Christians and others are not yet. Most of what is happening is quite small – a ride here or there, a meal in a home, babysitting, help completing documents, discussions of cultural events and the like. More often than not, the context involves multiple people from the church.
In the last few months, their independent testimony has captivated me with one common theme. It is something like, “We have never seen people love each other like this in our culture.” These comments have come from people from Hindu backgrounds, atheistic Communist backgrounds, and Muslim backgrounds. If I had not heard this so many times, I would write it off as an isolated opinion. Several have observed that their own cultures breed a strong sense of family loyalty, honor, respect, and obligation that creates a certain kind of stability. In their homelands, many people from one family may live in a single community or even under one roof. But, they note that people do not really love each other, and they do not even really enjoy being with each other. They endure one another often with bitterness, jealousy, envy, and gossip.
So, they love to visit church here or be in our homes because they love to watch people love each other. What they find extraordinary seems very ordinary to me – just regular life. Their testimony makes me aware that I have taken for granted so much of the love of my family, of the saints, and even the kindness of the wider Christian-influenced culture throughout my life.
Those who know our congregation may shake their heads. Our love is unspectacular compared to what might be experienced in other churches. We fail to love each other the way we ought. Even now, some in the congregation feel and are overlooked. People have left over the years precisely because they sensed that no one cared. The sins of bitterness, jealousy, envy, gossip, and a host of others rear their ugly heads in our homes too. We need to repent as a congregation where we are failing and have failed to love. We must keep working harder to cherish one another. But the testimony of our guests from other lands is so consistent that we cannot also help but recognize that what Jesus promised, he is performing. He said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). You see, it is all Jesus’ doing. We love only because he first loved us. Praise God!
Loving people is not easy, but it is beautiful. How is it possible? The fruit of love will only continue be seen on the branches as they draw nourishment from the vine. As we draw our nourishment from Jesus through his word and Spirit, we will love more and more like he loves. The watching world will notice.
Pray for us. Ask that the God would convert those in our midst who are yet apart from Christ as we labor in the trenches so that they might enter into this love themselves.
Beloved, let us love one another.