Is there anything a grave marker can teach us about love?
The answer is “a lot.” Take a look at the stone below that stands over the grave of Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Cam’s final message to his followers includes two exhortations. First, “By love serve one another.” Second, “Finish the task.” Notice that serving one another by love comes first and the task second. The order is deliberate, instructive, and biblically accurate. The great task of Bible translation is carried out by the community of believers who love one another.
There is always a temptation to put practical results first, to make “getting the job done” the first priority and then to fit in love for one another when there is time or opportunity. The problem with this approach is that loving one another gets squeezed out in the rush to catch the next flight, to get to the next appointment, to take the next phone call, to answer the next email, and–well–very simply to do “the next thing.”
Commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission can turn into this kind of high-pressured race. Let potential followers who want to gather together for fellowship go elsewhere. We “signed up” to do evangelism and the Great Commission not to love one another. This can even turn into a suspicion of taking time to love one another as if loving one another could become the enemy of the Great Commission.
Do you serve in a “difficult place” for ministry? A place where the work is hard and progress slow?
“This is a difficult place, Pastor,” someone says, “People do not respond easily here.” The conversation that follows is about a list of things that make this place “difficult,” a “hard place” for the work of the gospel.
It’s true. There are hard places, but not always for the reasons we have in mind. Jesus went to some hard places, and he explained the problem to his disciples.
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” (Matthew 11:20-21)
In the very place where he had done “most of his mighty works” he had been rejected. Definitely a difficult place!
How about Damascus, where the Apostle Paul had to escape from the city in a basket lowered over the wall? Or how about Jerusalem, where Herod had James put to death by the sword? Difficult place, Jerusalem . . . in those days.
Where, then, are the “easy places?”
Where are the places where people are rushing toward salvation in such great volume that the workers there are overwhelmed. Occasionally we hear of such times and places of the Spirit’s working, but these is not most places and not most times. And most of God’s servants spend a lot of their time in the “difficult places.”