Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and 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. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. -1 John 4:7-21, NASB
Love one another. I have this one down no problem. And then God brings someone into my life whom I am finding it difficult to love and I am convicted. My world was just fine: peaceful, supportive, loving and kind. A place where one could be open and honest and know that everyone else loved them no matter what. And then in walks this person and I am called out by God.
As I was contemplating all of this, the Lord brought to mind my days as a preschool teacher. There was a student who had actually been asked to leave for his many disciplinary problems. Months went by and he was eventually allowed to return, but no one wanted this problem child in their class. I drew the short straw. My class up to that point was a peaceful, loving and kind group of delightful 3 year olds. I loved going to work each morning, and then came Paul. He was like a tornado in the midst of my happy place. And God called me to love this little boy, to welcome him into my life with the same love and care that I welcomed all of my other charges. So I prayed. At first I prayed that God would remove Paul from my midst, but over time my prayer changed to one of wanting to learn to love this child he had placed in my life. It was a slow process of change, and oh, there were days, but I came to see Paul through different eyes. He was a boy full of problems, but had a heart as big as could be. He loved life, and he loved people, but his “enthusiasm” often left a line of crumpled children in his wake. Sometimes quite literally. I remember one incident in particular: we were on our way back from the lunchroom to brush teeth and get ready for naptime. I was like the mother duck with all of her precious ducklings following after her in a nice orderly row. I still do not know exactly how it came about, but something caught the imagination of Paul and in one great burst of energy he wiped out the whole sweet line of “ducklings.” I turned around at the commotion to see every one of my ten pupils on the floor in varying degrees of surprise and anger. That in a nutshell, is the perfect portrait of life with Paul. He stayed in my care for two years and we both did a lot of growing during that time and I am not sure that I did not learn the most. The importance of loving the one that does not fit into the mold of how we want people to behave. I grew to really love that dear boy, and he is at the top of my favorite memories of that time in my life.
Now here I am again, another Paul has come into my life. How I am to respond is quite clear. I cannot claim to love God and not love this fellow believer. And that love is not the kind of “love” that merely tries to figure out how to put up with that person, but to welcome them with open arms, to share in their life, to encourage and support, to build up-to love in the same way that I love those I find so much easier to love. To love just like I love the ones who have made my world a happy, peaceful place. So just like I did with Paul all of those years ago, I will be praying-not that God makes it so I do not have to deal with this person, but that He would give me a heart of love for her that is like the love He has for me. He loved me when I was not the person I am today, when I was the one running around being the tornado in other peoples lives, and I can do no less. I already know it will not be easy-but with God all things are possible- right? Right!!
Grace, Peace, and Mercy,