A little girl was invited for dinner at the home of her first-grade friend. The vegetable was buttered broccoli and the mother asked if she liked it. “Oh, yes,” the child replied politely, “I love it!”
But when the bowl of broccoli was passed, she declined to take any. The hostess said, “I thought you said you loved broccoli.” The girl replied sweetly, “Oh, yes ma’am, I do, but not enough to eat it!”
Do you love others? “Of course I do!” We all would say that! It’s the only right answer. But what do you mean by love? So often we love like that little girl loved broccoli: We love in the abstract, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t want to get too close.
The Apostle Paul’s famous chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, tells us what biblical love looks like. Paul makes the point that the use of their God-given gifts would amount to nothing if the Corinthians did not make selfless love their priority.
In addition to cultivating our relationship with Jesus Christ and serving the people He has placed in our life (husband, children, family members, friends), we have also been commissioned to sacrificial love for people we’ve never met in places we’ve never been. This is not a special call for certain Christians. It’s the result of being like Jesus. This is what Jesus does. This is what love looks like.
Listen to how He described the ministry He was sent to do: “…He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; (Luke 4:18 NKJV). And then He tells us, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21 NKJV).
The only way to achieve this kind of love is to serve. Because the truth is, we will serve somebody. Either we serve others with grace, or we serve others with a grudge – or we can serve ourselves and love will wither. The greatest love is rooted in service to others. Love is a verb that does!
Hudson Taylor once made a statement that stirs my heart:
“It will not do to say that you have no special call to go [to the mission field]. With the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home.”
While God may not ask you to live in a foreign country, all of us are called to adopt a missionary heart no matter where God has placed us. Ask Him to show you where and how to start being His hands and feet. Though the need around the world is staggering, He often wants to cultivate sacrificial love within us by starting with one person. Right here. Right now.
Allow God to stretch you beyond what is comfortable and easy. We lead full lives and may feel we don’t have much time or energy available to serve others. But we must remember that what God calls us to do, He equips us to do.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP
Do you find it difficult to find the time and opportunity to obey the command to love your neighbor? Don’t forget that kids have a great ability to break down people’s defenses and to open lines of communication. Here are a few ways that children can help us know and love our neighbors in the middle of busy days:
- Starting Conversations. It’s easier to start a conversation with someone at a community event if our kids are playing together. I’ve also found many people start conversations with me when my kids are with me, simply asking how old they are and where they go to school.
- Meeting New Neighbors. While anyone can bake cookies and knock on a neighbor’s door to say “welcome,” there’s something about having a child with you that makes this less intimidating.
- Spending Time Together. If you meet neighbors with kids the same age, it’s easy to make plans to get together at a park, to go on a walk together, or have a playdate at one of your houses.