Our church series lately has been on Transformational Love. I was asked if I could write up a piece for the church blog. I thought I'd share it here as well (you can find the original here).
We recently moved to North Minneapolis. We're learning how small acts make a difference. One of our next door neighbors keeps schooling us on living in the "hood." She's probably trying to be helpful, but the way she talks spread fear rather than help.
The family that lives on the other side of her is a Hmong family. The parents speak little English, but our kids like to play together. They've expressed thankfulness that we're in the neighborhood. They've been very generous, sharing food with us.
Our neighbor right behind us is Ecuadorian. He's lived here for over a decade, but his accent is still thick and hard to understand at times. But he was one of the first people to welcome us to the neighborhood. He's offered to help us if we have vehicle problems again (we've had way too many for our budget in the last couple months).
Even when someone walks by and says "hello" or makes a comment on how the yard or house looks, it has a bigger impact on my day than someone who walks by without saying a word. (Of course, I have the choice on how I react to others, but my point is that even small acts of kind words have an impact on others.)
And this is my reminder as well. I can choose to say a small, kind word to someone, or I can just walk by silently. I can choose to help someone, or I can choose to ignore them. I can choose to speak fear or hate to someone, or I can choose to speak love to them. I can choose to just live in my neighborhood, or I can choose to love those around me and in doing so become an agent of transformation.
A few years ago I was the program director at a Bible Camp that served the Covenant churches in Iowa. I saw many lives changed by transformational love there. Often a kid would come for the week who had some "rough edges"--they didn't want to open up, enjoy camp or participate in activities. By little, by little, through patient loving acts, their counselor (or sometimes the other campers) got through to them. And so did Christ. By the end of the week their lives were changed, transformed. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit of course, but it also happened because someone kept doing small acts of love and not giving up when it wasn't returned.
Oddly enough, it seems that transformational love can truly only happen in community (or in building community). Which makes sense, because God doesn’t just love individuals (“For God so loved the world"), and He doesn’t just transform individuals. Yes, when we love others they can become transformed, but so can our whole community (and so can we).