The importance of clothing ourselves with love
Oct. 3, 2019
Here’s a confession: last night I discovered how weary I’ve been.
Ministry is hard (amen?!). It comes with its unique set of challenges and difficulties. Even though it’s beautiful work, it can also be draining. There are seasons when it seems overwhelming and apparently I was in that place. I chalked it up to being tired and sinus/allergy issues, as well as just getting over a cold. But then, in the unexpected refreshment of my soul, I realized how weary I had become.
This unexpected renewal came through having an opportunity to hear one of our former summer mission staffers preach at her college. I had heard Rachel preach before, she’s worked here for three summers, has preached multiple times, and has become a dear friend of mine. I knew I was in for a treat, but her message seeped deep within me and reminded me just how much of a ripple effect this ministry at Hinton Center has. I was replenished for the journey.
I asked Rachel Ahrens to share her message as our guest blog this week and was thrilled when she agreed. (You, too, are in for a treat!)
How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Harmony. Webster’s gives it many different definitions: the combination of simultaneous musical notes in a chord, the structure of music with respect to the composition and progression of chords, the science of the structure, relation, and progression of chords, pleasing arrangement of parts: CONGRUENCE, AGREEMENT, ACCORD, internal calm: TRANQUILITY, an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative, a systematic arrangement of parallel literary passages (as of the Gospels) for the purpose of showing agreement or harmony.
Read these synonyms: balance, coherence, consonance, orchestration, proportion, symmetry, symphony, unity.
Both scriptures we read use the word harmony. “How wonderful and pleasant when brothers live together in harmony!” and “above all, clothe yourself in love, which binds us together in perfect harmony.”
What would that look like in today’s world? We could even break it down into a smaller example and ask, are you living in harmony with your roommate, coworker, or neighbor?
What if I told you that we are called to walk alongside all those we meet? Yes, even the one you just thought “I hope someone else walks alongside them, so I don’t have to.” Life is funny, it strategically places you in some of the places that stretch you above and beyond your comfort zone.
I had a homeowner I worked with my first summer I worked at Hinton Rural Life Center. He was a little rough around the edges, and I will be honest, at first, I was not thrilled I was placed at his home. I was a little anxious, even a little afraid. But I did my job, I introduced myself, and the team working with me, and we began to work. Over the span of weeks I was at his home, I really got to know this neighbor. He was caring, with a gentle spirit, and wanted to help do the work and be involved. I grew to really love my friend, someone I did not expect myself to enjoy working with at first. So much so that I was devastated when he unexpectedly passed away.
This person that I had incorrectly judged all those weeks ago as “rough around the edges” and someone I was unsure I wanted to associate with became someone I learned so much from and someone who made each day brighter. I was stretched in a way that summer that taught me what it means to love unconditionally, and what it means to intentionally value someone in your life. Life is precious, you may not always have that person next to you. Intentionally cherish the time you have with them now.
The past three summers I had the privilege of working at Hinton Center as a Summer Missions Leader, Field Manager, and Missions Activities Coordinator. Hinton is where I met my dear friend I mentioned earlier. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but in a beautiful way. Hinton takes on this approach that we do not work for people in the community, but instead we are intentional in working with them; we walk alongside them. This concept transformed my understanding of what it means to be called to love one another as we are to be loved. I no longer saw by the societal labels put on by others like rich or poor, black or white, male or female, even too young or too old, but instead I saw them for who they were, a human being just like each of us. Someone worthy of love, someone who deserved to be valued and needed to have those feeling expressed to them.
Friends, we are the church, we are the body of Christ. We are called to walk alongside those we meet, no matter where they come from, what they look like, or how they act. We are called to love. Find people you feel called to walk alongside, and don’t be surprised by who it is. We find ourselves imagining walking alongside people who walk the same speed and same direction, but what about others? Isn’t it just as valuable?
People can come from all different walks of life, have pasts and backgrounds that vary from here to the North Pole, but loving God and loving neighbor bares the weight of it all.
We walk with different people in different stages of life – theirs and ours.
Who says the church has to reside within the four walls of a building. What about all those who cannot go to church, maybe those who have been burned by the church? Haven’t we been called to walk alongside them as well? There’s this great thing that happens when we meet people where they are at, when we are empathetic towards what is going on and treat them as humans, loving and caring for them as we would want someone to do for us. They begin to feel understood; they begin to feel like they matter. And guess what? They do! There has never been a point where they did not matter. What happened was that we, as a society, belittled and “othered” them, to the point they felt shame for actions, shame for where they were in life compared to their neighbor.
Our human nature tends to view people as other or different. But what if we begin to change that? Why if, instead of feeding into the system, we push against the system? You may have heard the starfish story many times, but I’ll share the gist of it again: There was a man walking along a beach full of starfish and he saw another man walking along the beach, stopping every few feet to throw a beached starfish back into the ocean. When the one man asked the other, he said “why do you do that, you cannot save all the starfish.” The other man responded, “it mattered to that one.”
We may not be able to break this cycle as one person, or even as a generation, but we can make a difference to the lives we encounter, the people we meet and intentionally walk alongside. Can you imagine how different the world we live in would be if we took the time to be intentional with those around us and did what we could to show others that same love we desire ourselves?
It goes back to the scripture: Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
Rachel Ahrens is in her senior year at Young Harris College, majoring in Outdoor Leadership with a minor in Appalachian Studies. She’s from McDonough, Georgia and she began working at Hinton Center as a Service Ministry Leader during the summer of 2017, returning to Hinton both summers since. Fun facts about Rachel: Her natural bedtime is 8:00 pm and she has an aversion to cotton balls.