Love Like Jesus

    Jan 31, 2021 | by Andrea Stephens

    Years ago, as a young pastor’s wife, I was asked to go visit a church member in the local nursing home.  This was before the trend of assisted living facilitates came into being.  In the small town of Covington, LA there was just the one local nursing home.  Yep, the one with funky smells, tasteless food, and drooling, white-haired people asleep in their wheelchairs or giving you a blank, empty stare. 

    There were a few younger people who lived there for various reasons. This was the case with Emmie.  When asked to go visit her, I willingly said yes, but had no information about her. So, when I finally located her in the TV room, thoroughly enjoying one of many rocking chairs, I was a bit taken back. Emmie was a short, 56-year-old woman with Down Syndrome.

    I timidly approached her, introduced myself, and told her I was from the church. With the mention of the church, she flew out of that rocking chair, flung her arms around me and squeezed tightly. I was a bit overwhelmed by her enthusiasm as well as the smell of body odor mingled with urine. Her hair was greasy, and she had dried mustard on her face. 

    Still in her death-grip, Emmie looked up at me with a toothless grin. Then with a forced, guttural sound, she said, “My name Emmie.” In that moment, as many thoughts swirled through my head, I landed on the one that said, “I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t’ know if I have it in me to accept and love on Emmie." But that is what I was there for and that is what Jesus was asking me to do.

    In John 13:34, Jesus is with the disciples in the upper room sharing their final Passover meal. After he washes their feet, he tells them, “A new command I give you:  Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    Love one another. Okay, got that. Yes, of course Jesus wants us to love each other.  But it’s that next part that tells us how to love others that presents most of us (at least me in that moment) with a challenge. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” I’m called to love others in the same way that Jesus has loved me. Oooo.

    And how has Jesus loved me (and you)?  With an unconditional, unbreakable, ever forgiving, and everlasting love. It is a love that is kind, patient, non-judgmental, and doesn’t end when I get offended or feel apathetic. So, I am to take all of that, then turn it around and use it in my love toward others. Looking down at Emmie, I thought, “Okay, Lord, but I can’t do this without your help.”

    After being released from Emmie’s embrace, she grabbed my hand and lead me from person to person announcing, “she from my church, she from my church.” Eventually we made it to her room where she showed me her coloring books and introduced me to her stuffed animals. We had a brief conversation about what she had for lunch—hot dogs. And what she wanted for dinner—hot dogs. I told her that God loved her and we prayed before I left.

    Loving others the way Jesus loves us in nearly impossible without his help, without the aid of the Holy Spirit living in us to provide what we need, when we need it. Our willingness and His power, teamed up to make others feel like the valued, accepted, forgiven, and loved people that they are in the eyes of Jesus. I’m grateful that Jesus led me to Emmie and taught me how to love her like he loves me. I spent many afternoons in those rocking chairs and in her room coloring. My heart grew bigger because of it.

    Who has Jesus put in your life that He is asking you to love in the same way that He loves you? 

    “…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” - Romans 5:5

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