Abundant Living Vol. XIX, Issue 29

“This is my command: Love each other.”  – John 15:17 

One sentence, seven words to be exact, and even though it did not come from a pulpit I would rank it among the most impactful sermons I have ever heard.  Someone was angry, having a bad day, throwing a tantrum with a raised voice spewing out venomous words.  Justified or not, the person’s behavior was over the edge, out of line and out of control.  They deserved to be called out, thrown out, and punched in the nose if I had my way.  Except, at the same time those thoughts were circling in my head I heard the calm voice of my friend and former pastor Johnny Cook speak softly, almost as if talking to himself, yet audible enough so that those around him were able to get the message of that powerful one-sentence sermon. “That person needs to be loved on,” he whispered.

Okay, okay, I confess!   The story, which sounds like something out of a barroom, didn’t happen exactly that way.  Actually, it is more of a composite of various instances of someone becoming angry and behaving badly to which the pastor and perhaps a few others were witnesses, or even victims.  What is true is that on multiple occasions our good pastor Johnny Cook would respond to such situations by preaching that same one-sentence sermon, both to himself and the small group of one or two or three from among his flock who happened to be present, and I had the good fortune to be one of them.

It is almost a certainty that each one of us will either witness or be victims of some sort of hostility today.  Someone will cut us off in traffic, be rude to a store clerk or a wait person in our presence, write a nasty email, or post something derogatory on social media – or never mind that, just read the news briefs or watch them on TV.  How easy it is to respond the way I so often do, to want to give them a piece of my mind, or have them thrown out, or smack them in the nose, when what they really need is to be loved on.

I wonder how many people out there, the ones who cut us off in traffic, who treat store clerks and wait staff rudely, who seem to be angry with the world, I wonder how many of them have never experienced what it is like to be loved on?  And for those of us who do, what a difference it could make if we respond by following Johnny Cook’s lead, “That person needs to be loved on.”  After all, Jesus stated plainly: “This is my command: Love each other.”

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