Thursday, January 18, 2018

Love – Sitting on the Mat

Elmer Warkentin
I asked Jesus, “How much do you love me?” “This much,” He replied. And He stretched out His arms and died. Your ESL student, your Muslim immigrant neighbour, your Hindu friend asks you, “How much do you love me?” What’s your answer? Jesus set the love bar very high, infinitely higher than our Valentines verbiage. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mk 12:31) “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13)
Linda, a dear friend and missionary colleague in Nigeria, was just two days short of a hundred years old when she passed away in Swift Current last year. Linda served as the chef in a missionary kids boarding school in Nigeria and was deeply loved and appreciated for her dedication to making this a home for kids away from home. She loved those kids. And they felt it. But Linda had another passion.
Not far from the school were settlements of Muslim Fulani cattle herders. Linda had a burning desire to tell the women and children there about Jesus. But they wouldn’t let her in. For the next three years Linda regularly approached the entrance of a village, spread her grass mat on the ground and sat there. Yes, for three years. After three years, the village women came out to her and invited her to come in and tell them about her Jesus. “We know now that you love us”. Linda had an amazing ensuing ministry with these Muslim women and children.
I love Keller’s definition of Biblical justice. May I substitute ‘love’ for ‘justice’? “Justice [Love] means taking the threads of your life: your emotions, your time, your body, your physical presence, your money - and plunging them into the lives of other people.[1] That costs.
Dear ESL teacher, do you love your students? Are you prepared to sit on the mat?  How can you show that you love the internationals that God puts you in contact with? How do you show your students that you love them? It may be by sitting on the mat: visiting them in their homes, or having them into your home; eating, and learning how to make their food; meeting in coffee shops for hours on end just talking or listening.
I have an Iranian friend I meet with for coffee regularly who wants nothing to do with religion. We meet for coffee, talk, go for bike rides, and I have him and his wife join us on the campground for a halal barbecue, etc. I love him and hope and pray that one of these days he’ll “invite me in”.
Sitting on the mat – loving – is hard; it costs. It won’t make the headlines but God sees us and in His time our friends will open the door: “Come in, we know now that you love us.”

[1] Timothy Keller, “The Beauty of Biblical Justice”, para. 14, at (accessed January 13, 2018).

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