Our church is in the midst of a five week emphasis called “Be The Message” utilizing a resource published by Kerry & Chris Shook. One of the most memorable pieces of this emphasis so far for me has been the phrase “love the one in front of you”. Chris Shook introduces the phrase in one of the videos as she describes an encounter she had with a woman in the grocery check out. She was frustrated with this woman who was completely disorganized and unable to focus on paying for her groceries. In a hurry herself, Shook could feel her irritation building until the woman shared with the clerk that she had just come from her daughter’s first chemo treatment and she was trying to find something at the store that her daughter could eat without it upsetting her stomach.
Shook was reminded that everyone, including the one directly in front of you, has a story. Our calling as followers of Jesus is to “love the one in front of you”. This may require that we learn a little bit of their story, or at least extend the grace of patience, prayer and goodwill. Jesus, of course, was a master at loving the one in front of him. As we study his life we see him doing this again and again.
As we’ve moved along through this series I’ve been mindful that the one in front of you is often someone you know pretty well. He or she may be a member of your immediate family, someone at work whom you encounter daily, or someone in your daily routine (the barista at the coffee shop, the crossing guard when your walk your child to school). The one if front of you, even though they are familiar and readily present in your routine, may also be someone that you occasionally take for granted.
This came home to me as we prepared to begin our “Be the Message” emphasis and my wife, Lori, was taken to the hospital with a sudden health crisis. Thankfully she is now fine and recovering nicely, but for a few days things were unfamiliar, and for a few hours pretty uncertain. The one in front of me for the past thirty-three years of marriage, one who is a rock of dependability, kindness and service to others – including her family – was now the one in front of a medical team at work to diagnose and correct her very compromised health.
Not a day has gone by in the couple of weeks since we emerged from that scare that I’ve not considered how I am loving this one in front of me. But it has also caused to me to consider the many others who are in front of me – be that on a regular or one time basis. I’ve found myself asking complete strangers how their day is going. I’ve lifted up persons in prayer as I watched them pass in front of me. The phrase “love the one in front of you” has become a good reminder of what it is to “be the message” of Christ’s love, grace and compassion.
I’d love to hear how others in the church, or who may be reading this blog, have been challenged by the phrase. How are you being the message through loving the one in front of you?