Like many of you, I am at home processing this “next normal”. My terminology has shifted from “new” to “next,” because I believe we will experience many shifts in “normal” in the coming months. The best thing we can do is embrace these changes.
One of the most impressive outcomes of this experience has been seeing people in our community express love in a variety of ways. We have seen doctors and nurses go the extra mile to take care of our health. We have seen churches provide meals and groceries for those in need. We have seen neighbors checking on each other to make sure they are safe.
Recently, a friend challenged me on the biblical concept of agape love. They contended that humans always express love with a hidden agenda or the hope of getting something in return. Such love is not unconditional. I must admit, when I initially heard this person’s perspective, I almost agreed. Then I realized that they weren’t right. In these times, people who don’t even profess faith are demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit as they help people they don’t know (Gal 5:22-23).
I have some wonderful new neighbors from China. They moved into the house next door to ours just as the pandemic started to spread across the country. When I saw them in the driveway about two months ago, I greeted them with a friendly hello. In return, they looked up at me and ran into the garage, promptly shutting the door behind them. I don’t know what generated this response, but it ignited a desire in my spirit to find a way to connect with them. They are renters, and they inherited a jungle of a front lawn when they moved in. The Lord dropped the idea into my heart that this was an opportunity. I decided to love my neighbors by mowing their lawn. The next day, they were in the driveway again. I said hello, and they smiled, waved, and responded with a friendly hello in return.
Agape love is self-giving, self-sacrificing love. Christ embodies this true love and bestows it upon all believers (1 Cor. 13:4-8). It’s not normative for us to love beyond ourselves without the work of God’s Spirit in our hearts. Selfless love grows out of a personal encounter with the living God and comes to fruition by intentionality. John provides invaluable insight into the development of love in us. We demonstrate love by doing right and loving people (1 John 3:10-11). We love by being life-giving people (1 John 3:14). We love when our words and actions are truthful (1 John 3:18). We love when we keep God’s command to love others (1 John 3:23). We love when the love of God is seen in us (1 John 4:12). We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:16, 19). We love as we walk in obedience to God (2 John 5).
Lord, so many people are hurting. Help me to love well. People are without work, isolated from friends and family members, some are in difficult home environments, and many have lost friends and relatives. Help me to see everyone as my neighbor, and give me a heart of compassion and love. Amen.