“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35 (MSG)
Recently a friend made a decision that changed everything. The ripples left behind have caused a lot of pain. Some people are building walls, hunkering down, letting anger be their shield and protection.
There is judgment. There is hurt. There is separation. But as I have walked with my friend through this time, able to see her reasoning on one end and the fallout on the other, I have often asked (and been asked) what does it mean to love her?
I turn to the woman at the well, a story I cling to because I have been that woman more than once.
The woman, oh how I wish we knew her name, knew the Word. It was steeped into her. She questioned Jesus on His place compared to Jacob. She knew a lot of the history of Israel and responded to Jesus’ reference to scripture with her own.
While she knew the Word and its history, she was not living it.
She knew what it was to trust God intellectually, but it was not in her heart. It did not affect her life.
She wasn’t even going through the motions of faith, and yet within her was a call to something better. Something kept her close to the Word even if her outside choices did not reflect it.
Too often we want someone to behave as we think they ought to before we engage. We hope our distance, our silent judgment, will correct their behavior. But as we look to the well, Jesus loved this woman in the midst of her struggle. He made reference to her sin only once. He did not tell her to leave her current lover and then come back. He did not let her sin keep Him from associating with her.
This is not a denial of her sin. Jesus had so much more for her. But He gave her the time and space to figure it out for herself.
God can hear us through our pain. He can hear our small cry when we are full of doubt. He is there when we are lost to even ourselves. The path is long and steep. It takes time, patience, maybe the loss of a few things dear to us, but God is there always, calling us to simply worship Him as we are.
To love my friend is to be there for her. To listen, encourage, challenge, and call her to a God who still sits at the well. I will not cast judgment on those who have chosen a different definition. I do know that during my time of greatest trial I would have loved someone to sit with me and say:
“Be someone who is simply and honestly yourself before God in worship” (John 4:21-23 MSG). Broken. Unsure. Imperfect.
That, to me, is love.