Youthful adventures into the old Malone homeplace ensured my friends and I a good time every afternoon. Mr. Malone and his family moved and sold the land to a developer. I remember the dirt roads that led through the property. We explored constantly. Once the heavy equipment came in we would wait until the workers left and we crawl onto the great machines and into their scoops and buckets. When houses began to emerge from the red clay soil we would explore them too. It was great to be a kid.
But I have a strong memory of the dirt roads, especially after a long dry spell. The parched earth would crack and curl like the land was suffering from some awful skin condition. Dirt clods would explode in your hand leaving only a dusty cloud behind. Before long, the clumps of weeds and tall grasses would turn brown and begin to bow their tops toward the earth. They needed water. I’m sure that if dandelions could pray they would beg the good Lord for a refreshing shower.
Our world has become much like Mr. Malone’s farm road after a long drought. It’s dry. It’s parched. It’s scorched. But our world doesn’t need rain, at least not here on the Gulf Coast.
I suspect world rainfall totals are pretty consistent year-to-year. Our sunbaked world yearns not for water, but for love.
As I write this article war is looming between Israel and the Palestinians. In Birmingham, Alabama a teenager was killed in a drive-by shooting last night. Two employees at a box store near me almost came to blows right in front of the store. You don’t need a long list. You know exactly what I mean. Love is gone.
Unlike COVID their is no vaccine for meaness and hostility. You cannot inject love. But you can learn from the most loving teacher of all, Jesus.
Preaching Love: Jesus
Jesus entered this world in the midst of oppresive government and harsh religious oversight. Yet he taught love to his followers.
Among the first words Jesus uttered, he preached love:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48
It wasn’t just loving. Jesus was preaching love of your enemies! Obviously, if you love your enemies you will easily love your friends. But it’s worth noting that even back then, 2000 years ago, the world needed refreshing. What they didn’t know was that a torrent of love was about to be poured out. Dusty, cracked hearts were about to be shattered by the teachings and life of this carpenter from Nazareth.
According to Mark, Jesus elevated love to the greatest command. First, to love God and second, to love one’s neighbor.
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 10:29 – 31
There is no command here to love self, at least not specifically. Love of self is assumed as it is the example of the kind of love one should show others.
Jesus preached love of others first.
The example of his love is even stronger than his words. Let’s begin with the Golden Text of the Bible
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
The immense love that brought Jesus to us in the first place is taught in these several words. The implication is that man was perishing and needed saving. Therefore Jesus came to save. But it even clearer in Romans.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
The world needed to be refreshed and Jesus was the answer.
But, even these words and actions are shadow by the greatest act of love ever recorded. As our Lord hung on a cursed tree, his words there, as he was dying, ring loudly today. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:24).
Preaching Love: Our Words and Actions
Jesus combined his intentions, words, and actions into a single mighty message. His people ought to do the same.
While prepping this article I came across an author who has obviously looked at our public image from a political perspective. His article was first written in 2012 but has been updated. I commend Bryan Robert’s 7 Things Christians Need to Remember About Politics.
But politics is not the only venue for review. Consider our everyday lives; those moments when we come into contact with others who do not know Jesus and who know his people only through the shallow caricatures of the media. How do we show Jesus love at Walmart? How do we model real love in a traffic jam? How do we show people that the Lord’s disciples are different? Consider this from Jesus:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35
Only by showing love for one another, and by extension, those we come into contact with, will we ever show the world that we are different. It is a difficult task, but that one that can be accomplished.
The rains restored those old dirt roads on Malone’s property. Soon they became awash in mud which was a young boy’s dream. I know that the refreshing love of Jesus’ disciples can set the world awash in newly discovered joy as well.