The young man had just gone into the military – his first time away from home. Prior to his leaving home each night, he regularly knelt beside his bed and prayed. So he thought, ‘why should I change this?’ I’m in a new situation. He was a fine, upright Christian lad who loved God.
And so on the first night in the barrack, true to his custom, he knelt down beside his bed to say his prayers. On the other side of the room, a much older man who was strongly opposed to Christianity laughed at the praying soldier and threw over his muddy boots, which landed with a crash on the young man’s bed.
There wasn’t a sound. Everyone was watching for his reaction. He got up brushed off the dirt. Nothing was said. The next morning, the soldier who tried to embarrass the young man awoke with sheer amazement to see his boots clean and shining at the foot of his bed. What a remarkable story of love, the kind of love that expressed itself in a most unexpected way. We are told that love makes the world go round and all you need is love. It’s a very big subject to consider – it has many meanings.
George Lansbury was at one time a well-known politician in England. He became an agnostic by reason of his great disappointment in people he was trying to help. He even wondered whether they were worth working for – it said that later in life he returned to his earlier Christian faith. Then he said, I saw people through the eyes of Jesus. I knew that I must care and work for them. He had a reversal of thought away from agnosticism back to the reality of the Christian faith. He rediscovered the philosophy of love that seeing people through the eyes of Jesus.
Our young friend in the Army barracks that day saw his loud and obnoxious friend in the same way, and he retaliated in love. He showed the love of Jesus in doing a kind deed in answer to an action of unkindness. God is love, and he loves each one of us as if we were the only one to love. He loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus into the world to live among us and to show us in a personal way that God is love. And one of the tragedies of this world is the fact that we do not love one another.
In many cases, we do not even have a healthy regard for ourselves. And contradictory as it may seem deep within us. We want love more than anything else. And yet divorce rates continue. Lonely people continue to live alone. Hearts break for the lack of knowing how to give true expressions of love. One lady that I read about wrote to a daily newspaper ever since I can remember, she said. I wanted my mother to put her arms around me and love me. But when I got within hearing distance of her, she’d be complaining or she was ill. And I never received the love I longed for. And when I married, I knew it was a mistake, and it was here. I am at 47 with that same deep longing within all my life, I’ve pretended and played a part. Now I think a lot of people might have written that same kind of letter everywhere. People longed to be loved – to recapture the lost love, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ understood the human heart. We read in the Gospels that one day he was travelling to Galilee and stopped by a well for a rest, and a Samaritan woman came to get some water.
Jesus perceived the woman to be lonely and unhappy. He helped her, although the tradition said that the Jews and the Samaritans were to have nothing to do with one another. But God is love and has love. This implies that God’s love is a gift. But there is more than this for the one who gives to God an open mind and a receptive heart – they will know God within and through Jesus Christ. And that makes all the difference to many situations.
William and Catherine Booth were the founders of the Salvation Army, and when Catherine Booth in England was a little girl, one day she saw a police constable escorting a drunken man through the streets of Boston in Lincolnshire. Lookers on were jeering, and the drunk man seemed to be alone not to have a friend in the world. And then the little girl, Catherine, sprang to his side and marched along with him. Love identifies with the needs of individuals. It was George Bernard Shaw who said – The worst sin against our fellows is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That’s the essence of inhumanity.
We know, Lord, that you are a God of love. But when we look at our fellow human beings, it’s sometimes a bit of a problem to get on with everybody, let alone to love these people. But that’s what you’ve instructed us to do – to love each other. Give me the grace, courage, strength and patience to do that every day. And I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.