Responding to God’s Priority of Love
By MANDY SAELER
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us…
With a deep groan, the iron gate slowly swung open. One step upon the next, freedom was becoming a reality for the ragged, aged woman as she stepped past the iron gate and crossed the border of the concentration camp compound.
She was unrecognizable to those who had known her just two years before — but not merely because of the tattered clothing that hung on her emaciated frame. Her hair had been cut short because of the incessant lice that thrived in the filth of the barracks. Her skin was sickly and sagged over her bones, her eyes were sunken and dark, and her mouth was stretched like a line across her jaw. She’d aged drastically in the months of her imprisonment — the meager food supply, severe lack of sleep, grueling physical labor, and the excruciating emotional strain — among the other daily horrors of concentration camp life — had taken a steep toll on her physical body. Yet inwardly, the woman intimately knew the overwhelming triumph of Jesus Christ — and in the midst of what seemed to be hell on earth — she had tasted heaven as she walked the halls of horror in the presence of her Lord. As she heard the gate latch in place behind her, she began to recognize a smell sweeter than anything she’d ever known — freedom.
The woman made her way to a train station where she began a three-day journey to Holland, where she was warmly received at a Christian hospital by a host of angelic young nurses. They seemed to sense the sufferings this old woman had endured and tended to her with genuine kindness. They drew her a warm bath and gave her clean clothing — even pins for her hair. She was served hearty, nourishing food, not to mention dessert — and all of it in such quantity! The luxury of it was immeasurable, and the loving care of the nurses warmed the old woman through and through.
In the days spent at the Christian hospital, the old woman tasted the truest rest, the most nourishing love, and a more tender kindness than she’d known in months — or perhaps all her life. More than the comfort and refreshment she received — she recognized that her very life had been given back to her in being released from the concentration camp. Freedom to live again was so, so sweet. Her joy was uninhibited and her heart was infused with a new passion to spend every remaining day of her life, and every last breath in her lungs, sharing the love of God — testifying of the height, depth, length, and breadth of this great love that had carried her through the valley of the shadow of death.
The worn old woman who was released from the concentration camp, was kindly ministered to by nurses, and endeavored to live her remaining earthly days as a “tramp for the Lord” was Corrie ten Boom. Corrie ten Boom was a bravehearted woman in Christian history whose life and legacy have eternally impacted many lives.
The entire ten Boom family — from Corrie’s aged father, down to her nieces and nephews — were intimately involved in the underground movement to rescue Jews who were being captured, tortured, and ultimately exterminated at the hands of the Nazis at the time of World War II. When they began the underground work, they well-knew the cost that they may be asked to pay — and yet, they were compelled to fully engage and invest their lives in this work. When their involvement in the underground rescue was exposed, the entire family was captured and arrested. Some family members were eventually released, while some of them died during imprisonment due to the harsh, disease-ridden conditions.
What was it that motivated the ten Boom family to place themselves in the direct fire of Nazi-wrath? Where did this love and kindness towards those who were vulnerable come from? How can such a radical willingness to sacrifice their lives be explained? I believe the answer to these questions is perfectly expressed in these verses from the book of Ephesians:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (2:4-7).
Having known the love of God for themselves, the ten Boom family lived with a deep sense of conviction for God’s love for all men — to the extent that they sacrificed their comforts and their very lives that others might encounter the kindness of God through Jesus Christ. They couldn’t resist extending a small fraction of His divine kindness through the offering of their own lives.
After the family was captured, Casper ten Boom (Corrie’s father) was given the opportunity to go free if he would promise to abandon his involvement in the underground. His sincere response was, “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.” Regardless of personal price or penalty, the ten Boom family was devoted to loving, in any possible way, any person who crossed their path in the Name of Jesus.
Trained in Kindness
If we, like the ten Boom family, desire to be readied and fueled to minister the love and kindness of God — we must begin with knowing our God and His truth. We must spend time in God’s presence gaining the spiritual strength that we need to be effective as we reach out in His Name. As our hearts are acquainted and re-acquainted with His truth — we will be changed, we will gain His heart for those around us, and we will be prepared to minister His lovingkindness to others.
Corrie described the nurses in the Christian hospital as being, “…trained in kindness. How opposite from the concentration camp where men had been trained in cruelty.” The tenderness and attentiveness of these Christian women — who readily loved and served Corrie, treating her as royalty — is exemplary and bears the marks of true, Christ-like love.
In the well-known “love chapter” of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, love is described as being “kind” (v.4). And the ultimate expression of kindness has been revealed by God’s love through Jesus Christ (see Eph. 2:7). As we bask in the kindness of God towards us — as individuals — we will be compelled to share it with others. In God’s presence and through His Word are how we will be best trained in His kindness.
Ask God to Open Your Eyes
Recently in my own life, I’ve had a few significant instances where I’ve unintentionally neglected opportunities to show kindness towards the people around me. While I haven’t deliberately withheld kindness, neither have I been unkind towards these strangers — I’ve recognized that I’ve missed opportunities that God laid before me. And I was saddened by my lacking impetus to show kindness in my own life.
In one situation, I was the barista behind the counter of our local coffee shop on my usual Wednesday evening shift. A high school boy with red shaggy hair had been sitting at a nearby table when I had arrived, his earbuds plugged in and rarely making a peep. I had hardly noticed him and hadn’t thought much of him sitting there until an hour or two later. I found out that someone had forgotten to pick him up after school, and he’d walked to the coffee shop and had been there since. In the moment, I was distracted making a drink, and a short while later his ride came. I realized in the following moments that an opportunity was in my presence that night — and I hadn’t even realized it. Whether I could have offered a friendly conversation and an ounce of compassion for his situation, or a latte and snack on my own dime — the opportunity for kindness was right in front of me and I was totally unaware of it.
A wave of conviction rushed over me and I felt my skin flush. I’d missed it. My attentiveness was lacking, and my chance to reach out to this young boy had fleeted. I quickly asked God’s forgiveness for not being attuned to His desires in that moment. As a result of that missed opportunity, I have been freshly challenged to ask God to open my eyes to the needs around me — and if there are specific people in my life, or in my public path, that I would be made overtly aware and compelled by His love to reach out with courage and kindness.
May we not sit by, breathing stale air and living dull lives, while countless opportunities to live intentionally for God’s glory pass us by. Whether it is with those we know well and love, or those who are perfect strangers — may our hearts be bursting with readiness, our hands be working to meet needs, and our feet be rushing to do good to others in His Name.
For a greater challenge on this note, listen to Eric Ludy’s sermon, Captive Lions. It’s a deeply impactful sermon that will inspire you to be ever-ready to “pounce” upon opportunities to serve and love in the Name of Jesus.
It has often been my prayer as I approach Wednesday nights behind the coffee counter that my life would be a light to those I encounter, and that the atmosphere cultivated would be one of warmth and welcome for God’s purposes to be accomplished. Though I missed an opportunity on that midwinter night with the high school boy, there have been other opportunities that God has laid before me — and I know that there will yet be more. In these opportunities, it is my hope that these people walk away having been given not just a tasty coffee drink — but a small taste of the kindness of God through Jesus. What a humbling thing it is to be entrusted with the High King of heaven’s work here on earth!
Getting Practical & Being Intentional
We’ve all probably heard of, or have encountered, the “Random Acts of Kindness” campaigns that sweep through our nation from time to time. These campaigns have impacted people in a positive way, and have even helped many people live with a greater awareness towards those around them. A church in our town recently hosted a “Kindness Week” where each day held a challenge for its congregants and the community. One day the challenge was to write a note of appreciation to someone who had impacted their life, while another day it was to reach out and buy someone a cup of coffee. Word got around and a number of people in our town participated and were impacted.
One of the shining attributes of these “kindness movements” is intentionality. In essence, intentionality means having an aim and strategy, and doing what you do on purpose. Simple, but so effective when we apply intentionality in our lives!
Beyond inspiring “Random Acts of Kindness” or a week of showing purposeful kindness — how much more do we, as children of God, bear the obligation to live lives that reflect the true kindness that we have received in our Savior! We are commissioned to share this love (see John 15:12-13) — and if we are going to heed this commission we must make practical decisions to intentionally live this way!
As we walk with God and are attuned to His leading, we will find that there are countless daily opportunities to express His love through kindness. Consider the check-out clerk or bagger at the grocery store, the lady that walks her golden retriever by your house every day, the office staff at your church, the check-in clerk at your gym, the girl that sits alone on the bus, the co-worker at the next desk over, and of course — the very people you live with. With the vast span of technology today — our capacity for showing intentional kindness only increases! When you see in your Facebook feed that it is your pastor’s wife’s birthday, send her a private message to tell her how she has impacted your life and encouraged your faith. When God puts a specific prayer point for a friend on your heart, text them with an encouraging note and Scripture for their day. Or if you see a need for prayer show up on your social media feed, don’t scroll past the need onto the next piece of interesting information — take time to stop what you are doing to sow prayer into that need. Don’t just “feel” for people — show intentional love and kindness by investing in their lives, even if they never know that you’ve done so.
Ask God to open your eyes to those around you, give you wisdom to intentionally live in a mode of “availability” to Him, and for insight to know how to be a conduit of thoughtful love and kindness. May living the Christian life not just be a priority in our lives — but the priority of our every moment.
Over the years, as I’ve learned about the life of Corrie ten Boom and have discovered more layers of her story in the books that she wrote following her release, I have been deeply moved by her example. She was a truly ordinary woman — yet her life has left a ripple in history because of her simple devotion to Christ. She knew and believed her God. And from that place of knowing and believing — she lived her life and impacted many other lives for the glory of God. It is truly amazing that God uses simple, yielded lives to impact the world for His Name.
There is no telling the ripple effect your life will have if you simply live an obedient life of love and faith. May we be energized and motivated by the call in God’s Word to be ready channels of His love and eager conduits of His kindness in this world. (See Titus 2:11-14, Romans 12, and Ephesians 2:8-10.)
Whether we are given the opportunity to practically care for those who have passed through deep suffering, or we are given the opportunity to simply show thoughtfulness towards a high schooler who doesn’t have a ride home — may we be attuned to the desires of our King’s heart and faithfully fulfill them with the strength, courage, and kindness that He gives!
We love, because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19 NASB
Love suffers long and is kind…
1 Corinthians 13:4