When I was seven years old, my family moved from our home in Kentucky to Michigan for my dad’s job. My family didn’t know anyone there, which made housing an issue. There were no hotels or apartments we could rent for only a month, and the odds of someone offering to house a family with three small boys for that long were pretty slim. But, when my dad went to visit his new employer a few weeks before we made the big move, he met someone that had heard about our situation, and offered to have our family live with him and his wife in their small home for as long as we needed. That’s how I met Don and Sheryll, who will forever be two of the most Christ-like people I know. We ended up staying for six weeks, until we could find a house we could rent, but during those weeks we got to see the love of God in the way Don and Sherryl lived. Since then, they have become a part of our family, and we still call them Aunt and Uncle today. Even now, whenever I go and visit my parents, I always stop by their house to say hello and catch up with them.
Over the course of this series, you’ve read the story of how God’s love has been redeeming the world. From the perfect Trinitarian love at creation, to the corruption of love with sin, to God’s active movements of love to draw us back to Himself—and now to the most beautiful chapter of the story, how we respond to the love of God. This is the thing that heals the world, that brings the mess back into order. The otherworldly, unexplainable, unstoppable bond of love which holds the body of Christ in unity. In John 13, Christ commands His followers to love one another, saying that it will be the defining quality of his disciples on earth. He says that people will know them by the way that they love each other. More than that, He says to “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (v. 34). There is no greater definition of love for Christians other than the example of Christ in His life and death—a self sacrificial, joyful, compassionate, wise love which draws continually from the good will of the Father.
I don’t know if you fully recognize this, but we are at a fundamental crossroads in redemptive history! God has revealed Himself to us through the life and teachings of Jesus, which are powerful for aligning ourselves with the will of God, which is to bring humanity into perfect harmony with Himself. In Ephesians 5 we are called to be, “imitators of God, as beloved children” (v. 1)—how crazy is that! In a kind of heavenly paradox, we are to live with joy as if the Kingdom of God is already on earth, and also be hopeful about it’s coming with Jesus’ return. We’re people of the in-between, living with and growing in Christ-likeness as we enjoy and hope for the good reign of God in our lives. Living in the Kingdom means loving like Christ, as we are loved by Christ, in a cycle that will never end for eternity. It may not feel natural to love this way at first, but when the true love of God lives in us and we abide in it, it will become the most natural thing possible. At the root of nature, glorifying Christ ought to be the most natural thing for us to desire to do.
The love of Christ shined through Don and Sherryl toward me and my family. It was not convenient for them to open their house to us, but they did. They not only coped with us well, but loved us like their own. Loving and selfless service has passed from the exception to the rule for their life, and it can be the same with all of us.
For the last 21 years of my life, I have learned about the love of Christ through watching Don and Sherryl. I hope that when I’m their age, someone will learn the same from watching me. Take some time to reflect on these passages. Read them over again, and pray about how you shine the love of Christ to others? Consider also God’s great love for you, and root out any cynicism you might have about that topic. It’s crucial you accept His love, because it’s out of the overflow of that love that you will automatically act in love to those around you. Abiding is your job, and from that posture the fruit will take care of itself.