A Lifestyle of Love

  World War II took its toll on my father. A sensitive man, he watched with horror the death and maiming of men he cared for. In fact, his eyes actually changed color - from dark brown to green - from the stress.

After the conflict he was forced to engage in, the thing he needed most at home was peace. When he returned to the states, he gave his heart to the Lord, and, along with my mother, joined a small church near their home. As sometimes happens, a conflict arose. No one even remembers now what it was all about. But my father was drawn into the bitterness and hatred. The church split and my father's faith was destroyed.

It's hard for me to picture my father as a church member, sitting on the pew each Sunday in his blue serge suit. You see, 10 years later when I was born, he was an alcoholic.

Some of my earliest memories revolve around his staggering in drunkenness and cursing God, especially the God my mother served. As a child who was taught to love Jesus, I couldn't understand his pain and anguish.

What does this have to do with lifestyle evangelism? Even though through the years we literally begged for it, no one seemed to care enough about him or my family to try to help.

I cannot guarantee that my father would have been saved if someone had taken his plight to heart. If some Christian man had loved Jesus enough to befriend my father and lead him lovingly to salvation, maybe we would have been spared years of torment and suffering. Maybe I would have been able to see him sitting on a pew on a Sunday morning, radiantly joyful with his family gathered around him.

I wonder if any of the people who were supposedly praying for my father all those years really did call his name in prayer. It's hard for me to believe that the Lord did not call someone to befriend my father and minister to him. But whoever that someone was never obeyed the Lord.

The greatest hurt my mother ever suffered was when a church deacon told her, "If he needs help, let him come to the church."

I don't understand that attitude. Jesus, our Lord and example, never said, "If those drunks need help, let them come to the temple".

No, Jesus lived among sinners, being moved with compassion for them, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. He was accused of being "the friend of sinners".

If we really want to be like Jesus, we must live a lifestyle of love. That means not only loving our Christian friends, those that are as righteous and holy as ourselves. It means reaching out to those in need, loving them to Jesus, befriending the lost. If you don't count at least one sinner as your friend, you need to climb down from your ivory tower and join the real world. We are "in the world" to do God's will. It should be obvious that we are not to be "of the world" and engage in sin. But if you cannot be accused of loving sinners, you are not following Christ's example.

The story of my father's life should have ended in tragedy. But, there was one person who answered God's call to a lifestyle of love. That person was my mother. How she endured alcohol's abuse for all those years is a measure of God's grace in her life. When everyone, including her children, advised her to divorce him and leave, she adamantly refused and held on to God's promises. It was a beautiful lesson in God's love to us children.

And thanks to God's mercy and my mother's lifestyle of love, my father was born again three years before he died. Although he was too ill to attend church, I had the ultimate privilege of hearing my father pray for me. He helped me through an incredibly difficult time in my own life, and more than made up for any pain he had ever caused me.

My family rejoices because my father is now at peace in Heaven with Jesus. But there is still a sad place in my heart when I think of all those painful, wasted years, the ruin of a sensitive, intelligent man for whom Christ died. And I can't help but wonder, even now, if it could have been different. If only that person who God had called to be my father's friend had obeyed, God would have shown him how to follow a lifestyle of love.





This short essay in was published by the Advocate Press in The International Pentecostal Holiness Advocate Magazine, October 1991, Oklahoma City, OK.


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