Learning To Love As Jesus Did

In this Sunday’s gospel from John, Jesus gives us a “new commandment,” to love one another as He loves us. But what does that look like?

A few weeks ago, I had my first experience of offering a Word and Communion service at the Washington County Jail. I met my friend, Dan, who has been going into this facility for years, and we began removing our metal in preparation for our walk through the metal detector.   Dan’s new artificial hip always sets the machine off!

We made our way to the only available space for us on this day—the gymnasium. We popped through several heavy locked doors and eventually made our way to the gym. Soon we were joined by five men, all with Bibles in hand. They brought in chairs and greeted us as we got things ready for the service. Dan sought volunteers to do the readings, while I prepared to begin the service. The Holy Spirit was powerfully present on this early Saturday morning. The men had an evident bond and a deep concern for one another. It was clear that they loved one another.

I became hooked on corrections ministry soon after I made my first visit to a correctional facility nearly 18 months ago. There is something so real and so authentic about people who have lost the most precious gift of their freedom. I was amazed at how quickly these offenders opened up their hearts and lives to me. I looked past the orange jumpsuits to see the face of Christ in their faces. The Holy Spirit gave me words of comfort and encouragement that seemed like a healing balm for some of them.

For me, learning to love like Jesus is a process of letting go of myself and focusing completely on the other. As I enter the correctional facility to offer ministry, I realize that I am entering both a place of darkness and a place of light. Every person in this place is there because they have offended in some way. I have met murderers, rapists, robbers and drug addicts who have shared stories of their broken lives. I have cried with some of the most broken. The light I see in these places comes from those who find a way to turn their hearts toward God. In the midst of despair, uncertainty and hopelessness, these precious souls have opened their hearts to their Savior.

Jesus teaches us to love as He does by placing people and situations in our path that open opportunities for us to be Christ to others. Jesus loved without judgment or ridicule, and without complaint or delay. We learn to love by acting as Jesus did, selflessly and openly. Love is not a “feeling like those you see on TV. Love is an “action.” It is an act of willing the good of another.

There is a favorite old song from the 1970’s called “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” In John’s gospel, Jesus tells us that others will know we are followers of Christ by the way we love. I am learning to love each time I enter a correctional facility, or rock my granddaughter to sleep, or take out the trash without grumbling. Each of us is a student in the school of love.   May we be attentive to our Teacher. Let’s strive to get an “A” in Love Class!

With Easter Blessings!

Deacon Tim

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