From the desk of… “Masters of love”

By Doug O’Brien, Lt. Colonel

During the Gowans and Larsson musical Man Mark II, the apostle Paul—via time travel—was thrust into the company of well-meaning young Christian activists. The tension between these 20th century Christians and their 1st century role model was the essential thread of the plot.

I’m sure the inspiration for the musical was John Gowans’ appointment to our territory, where he found Salvationists awash in technology and hired specialists who were responsible for the delivery of many of our Salvation Army services. There were masters of social work, masters of psychology, masters of education, masters of business administration—qualified people for almost everything. So, using the context of the musical, Gowans lamented that we didn’t have Salvationists who were masters of compassion, masters of kindness…Salvationists who were masters of love.

I’m one of those people who think all of God’s children ought to get a good education. But education is never a substitute for those qualities of Christian character Gowans hoped to encourage—the chief of which is love.

Even the casual Bible student must be aware that the English New Testament uses the word “love” to translate several very different Greek words. One Greek word carries the impression of romantic love. Another Greek word conveys a kind of brotherly love. A third Greek word carries the idea of a love that seeks the best for someone else.

Of course this “love that seeks the best for someone else” is the kind of love God has for us, and the kind of love we ought to have for others. Jesus made this kind of love a mandate for all Christians and said that “love” would be a test to identify real Christians: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

But Jesus was always one to push the envelope and he just kept ratcheting up the expectations for Christians. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:43-44).

The story of Ashley Smith is worth remembering in this context. About this time seven years ago, Smith was trapped in her apartment by an escaped prisoner, Brian Nichols, only hours after he had killed his way to freedom from an Atlanta courthouse. She talked to Nichols throughout the night about God’s love and in the morning she made him pancakes with real butter. That morning Nichols released her without harming her and he surrendered to police authorities without a fight. Smith’s testimony to God’s love—and the practical expression of her love for Nichols—transformed the man and the moment. No doubt Ashley Smith qualified for one of those Man Mark II degrees—a “masters of love.”

I believe it is true that in corps around our territory people are hungry for pancakes with real butter and the message of God’s love.

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