On Monday, I talked about leaving a legacy of love and allowing Jesus to transform hearts, and thus communities, through us. I shared a very easy way to have a tremendous impact in the lives of hurting children and youth–look them in the eye and smile–demonstrate acceptance, not rejection; love, not contempt. Today I want to challenge you to take it a step further by building, then walking across, bridges, an action Jesus modeled daily while on earth.
When you look through Scripture, you’ll notice Jesus never stopped at a passing glance. When he encountered the hurting, rejected, or mistreated, He stopped what He was doing and carved out time in His busy day to connect. Because love is a verb, demonstrated by action. Each day, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ, to demonstrate that we truly belong to Him, by how we respond to others.
When our daughter was young, we lived in Southern California. My husband worked with a man who had a teenage stepdaughter. Looking to catch a few free moments to clean house, I asked the teen to come babysit our daughter while I focused on my to-do list. Before long I realized God brought this teenager into our lives for a purpose. Her step-father drank, profusely, and often called people in the middle of the night (including his boss–not a wise idea) drunk. His marriage was a mess, their home was a mess, and Shaundra* was thrown smack dab in the middle of it.
Before long, Shaundra started hanging out at our house nearly every weekend. She’d nap on our couch, or join my daughter and I as we walked through the neighborhood. Often, she’d talk about how different our home was–no yelling, no fighting…relaxing. She felt welcomed, loved, accepted.
This went on for about a year, then they moved. A few years later, her step-father died from alcohol-related issues, and I have no idea where Shaundra is today. But I do know while she was in our home, she experienced a bit of the love of Christ. And each day we interacted, she caught a glimpse of effective parenting. Each evening she spent at our dinner table, she caught a glimpse of a Christ-centered marriage.
About three years later, we moved to a neighborhood with numerous latch-key children. Having spent most of their time raising themselves–or learning how to act by what they watched on television–these children behaved much differently than our daughter did and often I felt uncomfortable. They used language I prefered my daughter not to hear and spoke of things I’d rather my daughter not learn about. As time progressed, I grew increasingly uncomfortable and longed to shield our daughter from these neighborhood girls.
One day, while we were snuggled on the couch, a story book spread between us, our doorbell rang. I answered it to find Anna* standing on our front stoop.
“Can Ashley play?” A smile spread across her face.
Giving my “Mamma-Bear” full rein, I shook my head. “Not today.”
Her smile evaporated and pain registered in her childish eyes. A knife stabbed to my heart at the look of pure rejection on her face and as she turned to walk away I knew instantly–Jesus never would have done that!
Throwing the door open, I called out to her and she spun around, her vibrant smile returning. I invited her in to listen to stories with us, then invited her back for an afterschool Bible study which I launched the following Monday. By the month’s end, I had a kitchen full of girls each Monday evening. We read Scripture together and talked about how much God loved them. We played games and ate snacks.
Before long, this girl started spending nearly every evening at our house. She joined my daughter and I for our nightly story reading, and occasionally her mom stopped in for a chat. I taught the Bible study girls to cook and shortly before Christmas, they cooked a meal for their families, hosted at our house. And during the meal, these girls’ parents caught a glimpse of effective parenting as my husband and I interacted with our daughter. They caught a glimpse of biblical romance as they watched me and my husband respond to one another, and they experienced a taste of the initiating, accepting, all-encompassing love of Christ.
I often look back on that moment in time–the day God presented me with a choice to love or spurn, to build a bridge or a barrier–and I’m so grateful He called me to the table and stopped me from adding one more barb to this young girl’s heart.
What about you? How authentic is that welcome mat placed outside your door and how far will you allow God’s love to reach through you?
Do you have any bridge-building stories to share? Any attitude-changing moments like I had upon answering my door so many years ago? Or maybe you’ve stood in Anna’s place and know what it feels like to be turned away…or better yet, invited in.
As you begin your day today, remember we are Christ’s ambassadors. God expects us to be His image-bearers, to show others what He is like by how we live our lives. Jesus never turns anyone away. How can you demonstrate that truth today?
1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (NIV)
* Names have been changed for privacy purposes.
Love this song in the video below. Listen to the words and make this your heart’s cry today. “I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself…I refuse to turn my back and try to act like all is well…I refuse to make one more excuse…” ~ Josh Wilson, “I refuse.”