Aerial view of Downtown Joplin, MO, USA

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I had to answer this question for a class yesterday:  ‘Do you believe that love for the Lord must come before love of and service to others?’  I guess maybe I read it wrong, because everyone else answered yes.

I have known many, many people who love deeply and lay down their lives for others, but they are not Christians. We grieve because we love; we grieve deeply because our love is great.  We run to the aid of those we do not know because our hearts feel the shared experiences of compassion, tragedy, and loss.

This week our church is sending a team of people to Joplin to work alongside many others who don’t necessarily ‘know the love of the Lord’ but certainly share a great love for people.  And will serve together.  Sure, there will be some for whom it’s more about the feeling they get from helping.  But helping does make us feel good.  Christian or not, forgetting about yourself to care for those who have lost everything, makes us feel good.

I realize the question was probably meant to be answered as it pertains to me personally, as a counselor.  But after hearing everybody say that, absolutely, it’s not even possible to really love people unless you know the love of God, and all service outside of that is selfish, or about what you can get in return, I decided (for once) to remain quiet.  Because, having worked with many, many clients who do not yet know ‘God’s love flowing through them’ it seems horribly unfair to discount their obvious love for others.  And I have known just as many service providers who do not yet know the Love of God, who consistently provide selfless service to people the church wouldn’t bother with.  So, having said that, I disagree.  But hopefully, my clients know they are loved, and that through me, they will come to know the love of God.

“This, then, is love’s demand- not merely to be skilled in discerning and reflecting the feelings of others, but to be present to them in such an open and peaceful way that our love and God’s love seem to be one and the same.”  (Alastair V. Campbell, Professionalism and Pastoral Care, 1985.)

So, what do you think?