Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

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The Word of the Lord: “Love One Another”
We know from Bible study, as well as history, that subsequent to the crucifixion of Jesus all the other Disciples, except John the Beloved, were put to death in various and summarily embarrassing ways.
John lived through those sad three days to relive them often for the balance of his life. He would have gained strength by the glorious resurrection of Jesus. That alone anchored his love for Christ in immeasurable ways.
John ended up on house arrest on the Greek Island of Patmos (now Turkey), and from reliable accounts removed his mom from the Holy Land to live out her life near him as well.
Fran and Wayne Nunnally, my bride Hazel and I, visited Patmos a few years ago with a tour group from Virginia Commonwealth Bank. I was moved to tears to contemplate how Spartan John’s life and surroundings were. The alleged site of Mary’s home was a medicine to this weary traveler. In the yard was a stone-lined baptismal pool, allowing for immersion.
I long had wondered why John was the only disciple spared? Then it hit me from out of the blue. John’s message was a constant repetition of that last commandment issue by our Lord himself: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
It is apparent that whatever the trials and tribulations through which John’s life journeyed, he kept this idea foremost…loving one another. Surely it was that gentleness of spirit that allowed him to take his mom with him to Patmos. He lived in a rock cave several yards down the mountain.
Let’s try and model our lives on this concept until Easter Sunday and then grade ourselves and the responses we’ve received from others along this Lenten route.
I know of no better way for us to live for Christ than by loving everyone else in his name. It will change the way families relate. It will change the way our job performance is valued.
Wait. Don’t jump the gun. I am not asking you to adopt some syrupy, unnatural attitude, which causes us to change to some character foreign to our demeanor. Just try this: When speaking, listening to, or writing (email, iPads, WEB and our Blackberries), just remember that God loves the person with whomever you are communicating. While engaged forever how long, repeat this “God made him or her too, and Jesus died for all of us.”
You know, I think that such a display of Biblical truth in our lives will change us. Not in some artificial, contrived way, rather as a growth of the love of Christ in us. It will change us all for the better. We will become contagious as we live our lives dedicated to others, not just the perpetuation of our long-held pride and prejudice. Our tempers will cool. Our faces will smile easier. Those with whom we relate may get to see the face of Jesus mirrored in our own.
The late Rev. Mr. Herbert Pollard Hall (1922 – 2010) was quick to quote the poem Others, by C.D. Meigs (early 1900s General Secretary, International Sunday School Association, Dallas, Texas). There is every reason to suspect that if we can center on others, as opposed to self—we will make huge strides in becoming whom Christ wishes us to be. That’s it: The best way to serve Christ and grow into mature Christians is to dwell on our growing love for others. Read along with me:
“Lord help me live from day to day in such a self-forgetful way that even when I kneel to pray my prayer shall be for—Others.
“Help me in all the work I do to ever be sincere and true and know that all I do for you must needs be done for—Others.
“Let ‘self’ be crucified and slain and buried deep; and all in vain may, efforts be to rise again unless to live for—Others.
“And when my work on earth is done and my new work in heaven’s begun, may I forget the crown I’ve won while thinking still of—Others.
“Others, Lord, yes others let this my motto be, help me to live for others that I may live like thee.”
One of my greatest arrival blessings in 1986 was to meet and to be befriended by Herbert Hall. Herbert had retired back home from pastorates from the Eastern Shore to the mountains, lastly so from Richmond. He was, like the disciple John, a man who lived out his days loving others. He stood beside me always able to help when family health issues called me away. He prayed for me and mine when my knees were weak.
The Rev. Mr. Hall was one of the finest examples of loving others; indeed much like Christ himself. Our loss to retirement in Richmond certainly enriched lives in the Imperial Plaza Community.
Saturday, December 4, 2010 we gathered at the Irvington United Methodist Church, with his family, to bid adieu to Uncle Herbert and to grieve our loss. I know angels carried him home to a joyous reunion with his Lord.
Day upon day since his passing, I have remembered Herbert as one of the sweetest blessings of God in my life and ministry.