The Value of Love
In a recent meeting with our university board members and leaders, I was reminded of a compelling story shared by Provost Heugel as he reflected on our faculty’s tenacious devotion to their calling. The story was about Ernestine Rice, an elegant and brilliant English professor at NU for many years. As a student preparing for ministry, I remember classes taught by her and her husband, Dr. Frank Rice. Ernestine and Frank were deeply committed to their calling. They were passionate about training the next generation of young leaders, from which I directly benefited. Earnest loved students and she loved teaching. In her later years at NU, she received an unfortunate diagnosis of lung cancer. She loved her students so much that between lectures she would go to her office and with the aid of surgical tubing in her lungs, she would drain the fluid so she could return to her class and continue teaching her students. Ernestine did not miss one class, up to the point that she passed away within three days of the last class she taught. Ernestine loved students and literally laid her life down for their benefit.
In 1 Corinthians, the “love chapter” paints a powerful picture of love. Paul writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). This is a common scripture to read at weddings. However, it is important to know that this passage is placed in the middle of Paul’s instructions about spiritual gifts. Paul taught us that God placed in the church apostles, prophets, teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, etc. (1 Cor. 12:28).
Much of what we do is a direct reflection of what God has called us to – our callings as apostles, prophets, teachers, and might I add, business leaders, nurses, psychologists, students, athletes, parents, and the list goes on. But without love, our effort is simply a “clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). It is love that adds value to our effort and makes our effort valuable.
Recently I read a quote from George Washington Carver which deeply impacted my approach to what I do and how I respond to people. “Be kind to others. How far you go in life depends upon your being tender with the young, compassionate with aged, sympathetic with the striving, tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.” It is likely that at some point in life you will need the love you have given returned to you.
One of the great characteristics about our current generation of young leaders is their desire to redemptively embrace all people. Research tells us that today’s students have an innate desire to defend those who cannot defend themselves. The most positive outcome of this character quality is that compassion, sympathy, and love will be what the church is known for far into the future.
If Ernestine Rice was teaching today, I think she would be thrilled with the amount of young leaders who understand how to lead with love as they embrace what God is calling them to do.
Lord, help me to love - love my calling, love my neighbor, love my parents, love my roommates, love my workmate, love my teammate, love my professors, love my students, love my brother/sister, love those who disagree, and those who agree. Help me lead with love. Amen.