A note from Kelly King: Loving people like ourselves isn’t hard. Loving people from different backgrounds isn’t always easy. Yet, Scripture commands us to love one another. Peter struggled with loving Gentiles, but who do you struggle to love? In today’s article, Whitley Tracy gives some personal insight from her experience of loving someone very different than her.
About this time three years ago, I became friends with an ex-convict. I bet you didn’t see that one coming. Neither did I. I also never thought I’d begin an article with that sentence either, but sometimes life surprises us. We were truly an unlikely pair; my friend was covered head to toe in tattoos. Me? About as straight-laced and Baptist as they come. My friend sometimes used language that stemmed from over ten years of being part of a gang. Me? The only language from my past that comes out is my southern drawl when I start talking about anything related to the farm.
I often think back to how we even had anything in common to become friends in the first place, and I really don’t have an explanation except for Jesus. Oh, and maybe the fact that I love to cook, and my friend loved to eat. On more than one occasion, my friend would come over, and my roommates and I would listen to stories about the former life—the gang life.
One thing that I remember thinking when these stories were recounted was the devotion and dedication that my friend had for the gang. It truly was “ride or die.” (Do the kids still say that these days?) Anyways, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I could never do that.”
But what if this mentality—the “ride or die” way of life—was how you and I as Christians were intended to live?
In his newest book, Letters to the Church, Francis Chan says it like this: “Much of the gang life sounds like what the Church was meant to be. Obviously, there are major differences (drugs, murder—you know, little details like that), but the idea of ‘being a family’ is central to both gang life and God’s design for the Church.”
So what was God’s design for the church? And what have we as the church missed?
John 13:34-35 says it like this, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Love. I think we’ve missed the love.
Are you known for the way you love? Are our women’s ministries known for the way that we love our women? What about our churches? I think we’re known for a lot of things, but love probably doesn’t make the top five list.
What if we’ve missed this completely and need to re-evaluate the definition that we’re even using because it seems that even lost people know how to “love” people. The love that the Bible talks about us having is a sacrificial love, a giving of oneself, and a selfless love. Is there really any other kind of love?
As Chan so blatantly puts it, “When was the last time you looked at a Christian brother or sister selflessly, wanting to bring him or her life no matter the cost?” This takes work. This takes putting ourselves aside. This goes against the very nature of our being.
This is the type of believer I want to be. This is the love that I want to portray to the students I lead. This is the love that I want to talk, walk, teach, and live. And I think you would agree. This is the love that you want portrayed in your lives and in your ministries.
But how do we do this? Practically how do we do this? I’ve asked myself this a lot lately, and maybe you are too.
I think it starts small. Or that’s the only place I know where to start anyways. I think it starts by asking ourselves the hard questions.
I heard Andy Stanley put it this way, “What does love require of me?”
Paul answers this in his letter to the Corinthians. Love requires patience, kindness, selflessness; it’s not rude or irritable; it keeps no record of wrongs; it rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
If you’re looking for the five-step plan to getting back on track—even if you read to the end—it won’t be here. What is here though is just the avenue to talk this out with yourself and maybe even the ladies in your circles.
I want to leave you with this. 1 John 4:7-12 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.”
We may not have a five-step program, but right there is the promise that if we’ll seek the freedom that comes with selflessness and simply love one another, God will abide in us, and His love will be perfected in us.
Whitley Tracy is a small-town farm girl from Oklahoma and is thankful for God’s plan being better than her own. Graduating from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Whitley is now continuing her education at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Girls and Women’s Ministry. She has been the Girls Minister at Trinity Baptist in Ada, Oklahoma for the past six years, and she has a passion for girls to find their true identity in Christ and live for Him. Simply put, Whitley loves all things Girls Ministry and passing that love on to others. In her spare time she enjoys living life with her two roommates, visiting family, cooking, listening to music, eating ice cream, planting flowers, and laughing.