In his book The Pastor, Eugene Peterson describes the Church as a "colony of heaven in a country of death." God's Kingdom and God's Kingdom people are meant to stand as lighthouses of His love to the world in which He has sent us into!
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. -Jesus (Jn 15)
Isn't it an overwhelming thought that Jesus loves us in the same way that God the Father loves Him? And Jesus' desire is that we take that same love He has given us and share that love with others!
In her book Praying The Names of Jesus, author Ann Spangler tells the story of journalist Randy Frame who, in the mid-1990's, along with a team of other journalists and business leaders, was invited to Haiti to view it's problems close up. Trained as a reporter to maintain his distance, Randy wasn't prepared for what happened on the last day of his trip.
That day the group visited La Cay Espwa, the "House of Hope," a refuge for starving children cared for by a small group of nuns. As soon as Randy entered the two-room structure, a nun by the name of Sister Conchita approached, offering him the child she cradled in her arms. Reluctant at first to take the child lest he violate his role as an objective observer, he finally gave in, deciding it would be rude to refuse.
"Her name Maria," the Sister said with broken English and a quiet smile.
"I took Maria into my arms, gingerly at first. She seemed so fragile: I could practically see the skeleton beneath her skin. Only her eyes seemed to have escaped the circumstances of her young life. Her eyes were deep brown and as shiny as any healthy child's ought to be. She focused them not on me, but on Sister Conchita. It was clear I was 'second string'. Perhaps my arms were not as soft or comfortable. Yet she didn't cry. Maybe she was too weak to protest being held by a stranger. Or perhaps she was glad to be in anyone's arms. How could I tell?"
After they left, Randy's tour guide explained that on average one in four of the children in the House of Hope die because their internal organs are too damaged by the time they arrive. You can spot the ones who won't make it. Lethargic, with pale, rigid skin, their hair has a reddish hue. She could have been describing Maria.
Despite being warned about the danger of venturing out alone in Port-au-Prince, Randy left the security of his hotel that night to make the two-mile trek back to the House of Hope. When he found Sister Conchita, she was still sitting on her rocker with Maria in her arms.
"As I approach Sister Conchita, she stands, sensing exactly why I have returned. She says nothing, but offers me the child. And also her chair....I have arrived at the place where I want to be. And as I live out what I'd earlier in the day envisioned, I am suddenly and fully aware of my weaknesses, my limitations. And aware also of the limitations and shortcomings of humanity, which has somehow failed this child and many like her....
I am utterly powerless to determine whether this child, who bears the image of God, will live or die this night. But I do have power-complete power-to make certain that if and when her frail body finally yields, she has felt the security, the comfort, of someone's loving arms. Tonight they are my arms. It's the least I can do for her, and also, perhaps, the most. Her weak but gracious eyes look up to mine. And hold their gaze. And in the sacred silence of this moment, there is no other power I crave, no other purpose I desire."
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you!" (Now) love each other as I have loved you."- Jesus...Emmanuel....God With Us.
Today in hundreds of small and seemingly insignificant ways, "God IS With You"- expressing Himself and His love through you and I to other image bearers. Just like Randy, you and I are called and sent to be Christ-bearers reflecting His love and presence to others.
I encourage you today to meditate on the fact that just as God loves Jesus, so Jesus loves you with a love that compelled Him to want to lay down His very life for you. You are loved. You are valuable and precious. And God is sending you and I -Greenmonte- to be a colony of heaven in a country of death.
Go in God's name and in His power today to love and serve others as you, a son and daughter of God, have been loved!
Seth Hankee has served in pastoral ministry at Greenmonte Fellowship since 2004 and has a passion to see the church equipped for Kingdom ministry. Nothing excites him more than to see people recognize their identity and purpose in Christ and begin living that out.