“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32)
After becoming a follower of Jesus Christ many years ago but as a mature man I thought I already knew what love really was, having a real wife, two wonderful children with a third on the way, a good job and no known enemies. Yet I knew, and everybody kept telling of God’s love, especially around Valentine, saying that God’s love is different.
Having joined the choir in church it became my passion to sing as often as possible, even to waking up in the morning with a song in my heart. This was nothing new, but the words and the melodies changed. So I volunteered to sing solos, but they were hesitant to add me to the roster, and instead suggested that I sang once a month at the downtown rescue mission. I had made the promise to God that what He wanted me to do I would do if possible, so I went. One thing led to another, and I became responsible for the music, and also to select a preacher for the service.
I complained to God: Why do you insist that this is the only opportunity I have to minister, I don’t even like those down and out people? It was like I heard God answer: I never asked you to like them, I asked you to love them. So once humbled I persisted, and I did it faithfully for 15 years, until moving from the area. My pastor liked to coach a number of “preacher boys” and I got the privilege to present them one at a time as the featured preacher. The crowed really appreciated that since the boys only spoke for less than 10 minutes. We spent the rest of the time singing, and since I always had a good accompanist I took requests, trying anything they suggested. The audience was more than half black, some were good singers, and they sometimes laughed at me for my lack of rhythm. They thought me a lot about singing in the joy of the Lord, and they did it differently than I was used to. One time they asked to sing “Just a closer walk with thee” and I started in what I thought was a normal tempo, but was overruled by four young black men starting to sway and slap their legs in a very slow beat. Suddenly the song took on a whole new dimension, and I found the joy of the Lord in the song. Looking at the men, happily and triumphantly smiling that their way of singing won the day, I felt a love for the men I never thought possible.
I never learned to like the men, seeing them destroy their lives with drugs and alcohol, estranged from family, and with no ambition to change their position in life. Some were repenting of their ways, but were usually back in even worse shape after a few months. During the 15 years I found they went under at a younger and younger age. What usually took 10 years to make an alcoholic could be accomplished in 3 with drugs.
Yet, with God all things are possible, and rescue mission fulfils an urgent need, standing in the gap. The social agencies act too slowly and with a bureaucracy that sometimes makes matters worse. It is also far more cost effective than to involve the social agencies.