2 – Shaped by love

For the love of Christ urges us on…
2 Corinthians 5:14

People can get warped ideas about God. Early on in my Christian walk I met a woman who told me that for the longest time she didn’t want to follow Jesus because she was afraid he would send her to Africa. Her fear seemed irrational to me. Why would God make her do something she really didn’t want to do? Now, God does tell us to do things we sometimes don’t want to do- like forgive the neighbor who dislikes us for having noisy kids. The things that God commands us to do are relationally orientated, guiding us in building healthy relationships and strong communities. They are not vocational. God is not an ogre, sitting around thinking up ways to make us miserable. God wants to give us a vocation in life that enables us to flourish.

As for me, God didn’t force me to become a world Christian. I asked him to make me one. When he did I willingly offered myself to go wherever he wanted me to go. There was no compulsion from his side; but I am grateful that he answered my prayer.

What I didn’t expect, and would never have even imagined when I asked him, was that he would lead me into a conflict-ridden part of the world. I grew up in South Florida, close to the ocean. So I was naturally inclined to want to go to Hawaii, Fiji, or Tahiti; but the Lord offered me Peshawar, Pakistan and for some reason I accepted.

Jesus gave my wife and me the grace to live about 25 years in that conflict-ridden area of the world. We loved the purposefulness of our lives and the significance of what we were doing. We loved the people we came to know and their culture. We learned so much from looking at life through their eyes.

Yet, it wasn’t like everything was rosy. In our eyes Peshawar did not have much natural beauty; and the weather was far from ideal. Peshawar was uncomfortably cold in the wintertime and oppressively hot in the interminable summertime that started mid April and did not end till mid October.

To give you an idea of what summer was like, a group of five interns came from Singapore toward the end of May. When they first arrived I advised them to slow their pace down because of the heat. They shrugged off my advice, saying that Singapore was hot and they were used to heat.

Now, the temperatures in Singapore generally range from 74 to 90 degrees. At its worst, Singapore can get up to 98 degrees. It is also humid; and humidity can be very uncomfortable. When one is used to high humidity, upon first encounter dry heat doesn’t feel so oppressive. However, this was the time when we were entering the extreme dry heat, with the temperatures shooting up from 115 to 125 degrees during the day.

When their three-week internship had come to an end they couldn’t wait to leave. On the way to the airport we stopped at the bazaar so they could purchase a few crates of mangos. (You can actually bring fruit into Singapore!) It was noon, and as usual it was blazing hot.

As we stood by the fruit stall, one of the interns asked me, “How can you take this heat?” Their tolerance had already come to an end; the summer for me was only beginning.

His question was valid. How could I take the extreme heat and the miserable cold year after year? Paul gave the reason why in 1 Corinthians 5:14: “For the love of Christ urges us on.” When God gives us a glimpse of his love for the people of the world, he also injects some of his love in our hearts. When he does this, his love reshapes us so that we are willing to endure discomforts.

Hudson Taylor was asked towards the end of his life how was he able to endure all the suffering he went through in his life. He had lost a wife and children in China. His response to the question was: “I never made a sacrifice.”

From what I have seen, this is the response of everyone who has been given a glimpse of God’s love for the world and been shaped by his love.

For the love of Christ urges us on…