Updated: Apr 1, 2019
How do you measure a good life? Many people would say a good indicator is how many people show up to your funeral. Almost two weeks ago, my friend’s dad, Mark, passed away unexpectedly.
He was involved in the church we attend, Cedar Creek Church, and one of his jobs was to operate one of the cameras during the service, allowing people to get a good view of the band. I love worshipping through music, but if I’m being honest, I tend to focus better if I’m doing so alone, rather than in church (even though our band is AMAZING.) So sometimes I’d find myself observing him as he strategically found good camera angles. He was a tall man, but he was still really good at finding the perfect spots to hide himself, either by a pole (luckily for him he was thin enough to pull this off) or he’d crouch down. Regardless, he put his full effort into it. My favorite thing about him was that he wasn’t too good for anything, or anyone. As a dreaded millennial, I’m used to occasionally being dismissed or underestimated by adults older than me. It’s fine. Some of us have ruined the fun for everyone; I can understand the disdain. But Mark, he gave everyone a chance. My husband’s favorite reflection on Mark (who was in his 60s) was that he never treated us like we were just dumb kids. He spoke to us as equals. He valued what my husband had to say, despite the age difference. Whenever I spoke to Mark, we were either talking about his daughter (my friend) or he was complementing and encouraging me in the writing I do for the church. I always walked away from the interaction feeling like I mattered. Another person, Shan Powell, shared that he worked for Mark when he was young. Mark poured into him: praying over him, listening to him. Shan explained he got into some trouble, but Mark stuck by him, invested in him, and eventually became the reason he would finally feel the Holy Spirit. He said, “He was the same for everyone, whether he met you for one moment, or he met you for years, he always brought the same Mark to you. To encourage you, to lift you up, and just to believe in you, and show you a way to God through his own life and his own actions.”
At Mark’s visitation, there was a three hour long wait. People queued up, weaving all through the funeral home. All of those people had their own stories on how Mark impacted their lives. The funny thing is, I don’t think we all knew we existed. It occured to me that he made us all feel loved and appreciated.
[As a bit of a side note, my mom tells a story about how when she was in school as a kid, she’d sometimes stop at her grandma’s for lunch. Her grandma would ask her beforehand what she’d want to eat, and my mom thought of her favorite meal and answered, “A roast!” As she tells the story, she reflects that she didn’t really realize that a roast would mean a lot more work than maybe say, a peanut butter and jelly. But her grandma never let on that it was more work; she just made it and enjoyed her granddaughter’s company. My mom felt like she was her grandma’s favorite grandchild. My mom is one of 19 cousins on her mom’s side. As she grew, she realized this was just how her grandma treated her grandkids. She now says she thinks each of the cousins probably secretly thought they were Grandma’s favorite. That’s a pretty good legacy: the kind of love that makes everyone feel like a favorite. That kind of love makes people feel heard and cherished.]
I think many people felt a little bit like Mark’s favorite, in a way. He made everyone feel important. His family said his life verse was 1Peter 3:15: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. What a legacy. Probably one of his biggest legacies is his daughters. They are both Jesus followers and people lovers, just like their dad. I’m closest to his daughter, Andrea, and she told me many times about the value she placed on her talks with dad. They’d regularly have hour-long talks about the Lord. She used to give her dad a hard time when she felt he was letting people walk all over him. But his response was that if it meant showing them the love of Jesus, then he doesn’t mind. I know Mark has to be a big reason she is who she is. She is one of those friends who I go to if I’m needing guidance, and she’s brought more people to the Lord than I can say.
1Peter 3:15: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. Click to tweet
With all of this said, all of the praise I’m giving him, I know for a fact that he’d point it all to the Lord. His love came directly from Jesus, and he’d never take credit for it.
How do we even attempt to have a legacy such as this?
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 The Message (MSG)
We can do all the good works, sign up for all the volunteer positions, serve food every weekend, teach all the right things, go on mission trips, but if we do it without love, it is all for nothing.
We tend to get so caught up in the “good” tasks we do that we forget the humans they affect. We treat everything as a task, we check it off of our internal “Good Christian” list and move on. We pray regularly, we do the devotions, but if we don’t love people, what are we doing?
Over the past few years, I’ve watched as our country divides further and further. The gap is getting so big that it’s seemingly beyond repair. Christians see the sin in our country, and it’s scary. We point out what is wrong, standing up for and speaking truth, but without love, it is nothing. Nonbelievers see us as judgmental, uneducated, or rather, unenlightened. We hold onto our Bibles tighter, and say, “But it is truth!” But without love, it is nothing. We shoo away false teachings that condone things that we know to be wrong, and we take another step back. But without love, this knowledge is nothing. Friends, we are widening the gap. This love isn’t something that can so easily take place on a grand scale. It takes place in relationships. This is where change happens. Change doesn’t happen behind a computer screen, angrily clacking the keyboard at a person on the other side of the country.
One of the biggest changes in myself that I’ve noticed as I continue to grow closer to Jesus is my love for people. I find it so much easier to love people than I ever have before. When I think of what it means to love people, I think of how my great-grandma made my mom feel, and how Mark made so many of us feel: heard, understood, valued. When we make this our focus, the people we invest in will begin to see Jesus’ love through us. His love breaks the barriers. When we show Jesus’ love, we build relationships. This is when people begin to come to the Lord. They see our joy, and they want a piece. When someone comes to the Lord, the Holy Spirit will begin its work in them. And it is at this time that we can more effectively begin to minister into people lives, point out truth, and lead them into a more righteous existence. But again, without love, it is nothing. Every situation is unique, with some harder to navigate than others. But if we invest in our relationships with the focus of showing Jesus’ love, I think we’ll find the rockier parts easier to manage, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide. Let us be like magnets, drawing people in with our love.
"Let us be like magnets, drawing people in with our love." Click to tweet
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 NLT
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20 ESV
“Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 NLT
Please take a moment to watch an awesome live performance of the song, “The Proof of Your Love,” by for KING & COUNTRY featuring Lauren Daigle. This song rests on the truth found in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
A.j. is a wife and SAHM, an eager follower of Jesus, and a chronically loud-laugher. She loves finding new ways to look at the Bible, in hopes to grow closer to Jesus and to find fresh ways to learn and teach others.
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