Love the One Next to Us, Peace Flourishes
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. (Romans 12:9-13)
In the children’s story, The Three Questions, based on a novel by Leo Tolstoy, a young boy contemplates how to be a good person. He decides he could be “good” if he answers three questions. With his animal friends, in an allegorical manner, the boy searches and finds the answers.
- When is the best time to do things? Right now.
- Who is the most important one? The one who is with you.
- What is the right thing to do? Take care of the person (or thing) or show compassion to him/her.
The allegory resonates with our Christian beliefs. Jesus preaches and lives compassion, ministering -- to those he is with, and to us today -- to do the same.
Yet, the challenge does not always lie in how we’ll care for those in our communities, nation and world. As United Methodist Women, we have national mission institutions, international programs and projects, advocacy work, and educational development opportunities that represent mission with others in compassionate ways. We support these with time, funds, and prayers.
The challenge lies in showing compassion to the person right next to us – a family member, partner, daughter, son, sister, brother, mother, or father.
Often, because they are the closest to us – they live with us or have been with us for years – we react quickly without taking the care we would with others. We show compassion and understanding to others, while we scurry intently and insensitively around the persons who have been with us for years. We communicate with others freely, while not taking time for heart-to-heart conversations with our own family members, because there could be a more convenient time some other time.
A retreat leader once told staff of the Women’s Division that it’s important to care for your internal flame, so it doesn’t burn out. I agree. As United Methodist Women, many of us do pretty well caring for our internal flame through spiritual growth opportunities. At the same time, we are able to stoke the fire of love and compassion in the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ.
We must not forget, though, our own loves and lives – those right next to us.
When we nurture those next to us, they can flourish. With confidence, support, and empowerment, they also will act with compassion – doing great things for others. The result: extraordinary things that create peace and love in our world. Love and compassion in our own homes and lives will spread beyond our walls, shine to the world, and glorify God in new and unique ways.
Reflection: Think of those with whom you live and find some ways today to mend breaches. Simply care for them, say “I love you,” or show compassion and patience. Do so without expecting anything in return, but with faith that when you do this regularly, they will do the same in the world.
* Kelly Martini is communications director/information officer of the Women’s Division. This meditation is written to help United Methodist Women begin to prayerfully prepare themselves for the United Methodist Women’s Assembly, May 4-7 in Anaheim, Calif., and for the ensuing education, inspiration, and mission work of the organization.
 Muth, Jon J. The Three Questions: Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. New York: Scholastic Press 2002.
Date posted: Mar 25, 2006