As a public school teacher, every year I am forced to work with 130 ten and eleven-year-olds.
I say “forced,” because no matter how I feel on a particular day, there they are. I meet, listen to, get to know, react to, put up with, encourage, and manage over 130 humans.
Many days, I don’t feel like being with these people. But I must. It’s my job. And though I frequently fail (like everyday), it’s my job to love them, and yes, teach them Language Arts.
The advantage teachers have is the sheer number and diversity of people we interact with. I am forced to get to know and work with people of different colors, disabilities, cultures, religions, and sexual orientations.
I don’t have the privilege to stay in my bubble and control who I rub shoulders with. It just happens to me.
I’ve slowly discovered that the art of loving people is to first be with them. In fact, it might be the biggest missing element to loving. As we read the gospels, Jesus is startlingly preoccupied with hanging out with people. He talks to them, heals them, listens to them. He’s just… with them. And at times, this really perplexes the disciples. Remember when they came upon Jesus talking to the woman at the well in John 4? Awk-ward! Also when Jesus was teaching the crowds in Matthew 14, they urged him to send the people away so they could eat. Jesus’s very name, Emmanuel, means God with us.
Looking at the trinity of three persons of the Godhead, there is perfect unity, perfect love, and perfect “being with.” God is a God of relationship.
The “being with” part of loving is why marriage and fidelity are so important. In marriage, two humans are in an unbreakable relationship. They both must either learn to love, be miserable, or the marriage will be broken.
I’ve learned to love the “being with” of teaching. I get a tiny sampling of what God has created: a diverse plethora of people, all loved by Him.
But here’s the kicker: the method God has chosen to love them is through me. That’s not the plan I would have come up with, but here it is.
This is the meaning of 1 John 4:12 - “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” That’s a big “if.” And that “if” hinges on “being with.”
God has chosen to express his love through us, those that know him. Every interaction we have is a chance to love another with the love of Jesus. And how does he love? By spending time with, listening, laughing, making small talk, and discussing life issues. All of it. You know, just life.
Jesus also chooses to love US. Every day. All the time. Unlike myself, Jesus‘s love never fails. No matter what a jerk I am or how well I’m doing, Jesus loves me.
He is the model of pure love. For while I’m better at loving people that are good or righteous than those that are difficult to love, Jesus loves us all. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Now think about this: The way your spouse experiences God’s love is through you.
The way your coworkers experience God’s love is through you.
Your kids; your friends. God’s love is shown through you.
Love in action is a redundancy.
Love is not a feeling.
Love is not a sentiment.
Love is not an intent.
Love is action.
It is impossible to love in the abstract or theoretical.
Every day, we have at least one opportunity.
One chance to be a messenger of Christ’s love.