It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Papua New Guinea. The sun was shining, the birds sweetly singing, the dew was glistening on the long, green grass. My neighbors and two visiting men from Australia were driving to a church school about forty-five minutes out of Lae, Papua New Guinea. Along the way they stopped to take photos and to chat with the locals at a bridge, and then again at a market.
Suddenly, as they were getting back into the car, three men wielding guns appeared. They tried to force the driver from the car. One of the visiting men, an aged pastor, decided he would take his chances outside of the car and did not get in. Meanwhile, the driver managed to deftly maneuver the car and escape the clutches of the gunman. Then, realizing that one of his passengers had failed to get in and that the bandits (known locally as ‘raskols’) were becoming interested in this man, he began to aggressively drive his car at the gunmen, trying to scare them off. Shots were fired at his car, damaging the bonnet and grazing the windshield.
In the midst of all this chaos, one brave local woman took hold of the vulnerable, elderly pastor, and ushered him hastily to her humble home. Hiding him in her bedroom she went outside with intentions to guard his life with hers.
Fortunately, it never came to that. The gunmen were chased away by my neighbor's car, their elderly friend was found, and they were all able to continue their journey, shaken by the experience, but praising God that their lives had been spared.
Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This woman risked her very life to protect someone she did not even know.
How much love do you and I show in our day-to-day lives? Granting an economical smile to the one serving you in a store? Holding a door open for an elderly lady? Sending flowers to your mother on Mother's Day? Giving a hug to a grieving friend?
Jesus gave us a far more revolutionary concept of love. He says, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He also says, “but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
God's perfect way of love goes completely against everything that feels natural as a human. Jesus loved the condemned. Jesus loved the tax collectors. Jesus loved the Samaritans. Jesus loved the thief on the cross. Jesus loved the Roman soldiers who crucified hm. Jesus loved Judas.
Strangely enough, writing the words, “Jesus loved Judas,” seem to prompt one more phrase.
“Jesus loves me.”
I, too, have screwed up, I have tried to force the hand of the Lord (as did Judas), I have denied the Lord—sometimes by my poor choices, and sometimes by missing opportunities to share Him with another. Yet somehow, with all these failings, Jesus still loves me and asks me to show that same kind of love to others.
“ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
I pray that you and I will be transformed into Jesus-like loving Christians who love others as Jesus first loved us, and who are prepared to put our lives on the line for another—even for a complete stranger.
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