September 19, 2015

Serving God Through Loving Others

1 John 4:7-12

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

—  Romans 12:11

In the book The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis takes readers on an imaginary tour of heaven and hell. At one point in heaven, “Sarah Smith” passes by, receiving great honor from many heavenly beings. She received no earthy accolades but was a simple woman who lived in a simple home and showed deep love to every person and every creature she met. Sarah Smith had great spiritual fervor.

A few months after my friend’s wife committed suicide, he spoke about the support system that has held him up. These are some of the behaviors I believe the apostle Paul was talking about when he called us to keep our spiritual fervor:

People listened nonjudgmentally as my friend told his story repeatedly.

They prayed faithfully for him.

They understood that grief is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith, but the price of love.

They encouraged him to eat, exercise, and sleep well.

They remained aware of his vulnerability and the uniqueness of each person’s trials.

Loving someone whose life and experiences are very different from our own takes energy, time, and effort. Our spiritual fervor can wane when it costs more of our time or money or energy than we expect. But, in God’s strength, fervent love listens, encourages, and seeks to understand.

Loving God, sometimes I tire of loving others. Make my love be a reflection of your unending love for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

About the author — Mark Stephenson

Rev. Mark Stephenson is the Director of Disability Concerns for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Previously he served in two congregations in Michigan. He and his wife have four children.

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