Jonathan Rockey

In the past week I have attended a number of church meetings. Attending these meetings is nothing new in itself. But, during each of these meetings the opportunity arose, and I took the chance to share the advice I give to other pastors, when asked. In fact, I shared this advice 3 times! My advice is: “Preach GOD’S word, not your opinions. And LOVE your people!” Actually, that last bit of advice was given to me by a former professor. When I was a young pastor in my first year in my first congregation, St. Paul Lutheran Church in St. Louis, MO, Dr. Richard Dinda called me from Texas to talk. After discussing a number of issues, and after asking how things were going in the congregation, he shared his own heart-felt advice with me. “Love ‘em, Jon. Just love ‘em.” I spoke agreement at the time, but I had no idea how deep the wisdom was which Dr. Dinda shared with me in that summer of 1979.

However, pastors are not the only ones called to love others. It is natural for humans to care about their families and friends, sometimes very deeply. A child of God, a disciple of Jesus, might be even more inclined to such compassion. After all, we know God’s undeserved love for us in Jesus, who died to pay for our sins. We know the grace of forgiveness, which we receive because God loves us. Knowing this love from God for us, it is natural for Christians to care for one another. It is natural for Christians to love one another. That is after all what Jesus called for from his disciples in the upper room on the last night before he died. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34) Perhaps, St. Paul describes what this love looks like when he teaches about Christ’s church in 1 Corinthians 12: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (I Corinthians 12:26) It is just natural that Christians hurt for each other, and rejoice with one another. It is natural for Christians to care for one another, and to show that love in our words and our actions.

But, how do you show love to someone when you don’t know how to help? How do you show love to someone when the good which you want for the other person is beyond your ability? I have heard from 5 specific people this week, people for whom I care deeply. I heard from them concerning their hurts and their hopes. Some of these people I have known for 30 years or longer. And, these 5 only add to others about whom I have concerns. I keep an on-going list of those folks. Some of these people have life struggles. Some have chronic illness, or serious and even critical illness. Some have struggles with faith, or have lost loved ones. Also on my list are concerns and hopes for my own family. How do you show love to someone when you know their troubles and their sufferings, but cannot wave a magic wand and simply make everything better?

On the night Jesus was betrayed, in the upper room, before going to Gethsemane, he commanded His disciples, “Love one another. As I have loved you.” But Jesus showed his love in more ways than through His suffering and His death. Later that same night, 2 chapters later in the Gospel of John, we read about another way that Jesus showed that love. In John 17 Jesus speaks these words. “9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. . .20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” Jesus cared for His disciples by praying for them. Jesus also shows that love for us, by praying to His Father on our behalf.

In fact, we even know what Jesus prayed. Listen to John 17:15 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus did not pray specifically for deliverance from this world and its troubles, even though Jesus did often heal, and feed, and save people in His time on earth through His miracles. Jesus first prayed that His children are “protected from the evil one.” Satan seeks to cause doubt and disappointment, anger and separation between God and His people. Jesus came to save us, but the devil seeks to steal that salvation away from the followers of Jesus. So, first Jesus prayed that His followers are “protected from the evil one” by our Heavenly Father. Jesus prays that we remain in a relationship of faith, hope, and love with our Lord and Creator. Jesus prays that Satan cannot use the trials and losses of this world to take away our faith and our salvation.

You see, no matter what trouble we face, Jesus’ love for us, from the cross and in our lives, is sure. St. Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) And, sometimes life might be tougher than death. But, through it all nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus!

So, when I care about someone, and I want to show that love, but in some ways it seems I am powerless to help, I pray. Actually, as part of my love for others I pray even before life gets to that point. But I PRAY. I pray that people ARE “protected from the evil one.” I pray that those whom I care for know that God is with them, in Jesus, through life and through death. I pray that they remain in faith, in hope, and in love. And, then I also pray for help, for direction, for healing, for deliverance, for comfort, and for love.

How do you show love to someone when the good you want for the other person seems beyond your ability? I follow Jesus’ example. I pray for them, and I let our loving Lord protect them and help them in the way which He knows in His wisdom is best for their welfare, in this life and eternally.

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