The More Excellent Way

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by Tova Kreps, LCSW President and Co-Founder

This week, I was given a Bible that was owned by Ms. A. Wetherell Johnson, a famous missionary, Bible teacher and founder of Bible Study Fellowship. I was privileged to know her in her later years, as she spent a great deal of time in my parents’ home. The Bible I received was the one she had with her during the years she was a missionary in China where spent 3 years in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Attached to the inside cover of her Bible was an address to China Inland Missionaries, written in 1933. It said, “Faithfulness is exercised in small things, and the kingdom of God comes not through seeking a wide sphere of influence, but by being scrupulous in a small one.”

Fall is a time of new beginnings. Summer is over, school starts, and new goals are made for the approaching year. But what should those goals be?

1 Corinthians 12 and 13 tell us that no matter how much we use our giftedness to do great things, if we do them without love, we have done nothing. Our greatest contributions are not made by our achievements, but by the effect we have on others in the process. This is the  “more excellent way” of love; it is being scrupulous in small things.

This Bible passage further tells us that faith, hope and love will outlast all of our other efforts. I can’t help but notice that faith and hope are unseen virtues. We have faith that God exists, that Jesus was raised from the dead and that He loves and forgives us. We have hope that He will return and wipe away our sorrowful tears. But love, the greatest of these three, is a virtue that can be seen. Love is seen daily in the small things we do for others.

It is seen in the sacrificial love of mothers and fathers, working several jobs in order to offer their children opportunities. I see it in the love my daughter has for her children, recognizing their every type of cry, rhythm or mood in order to attend to their needs.  It is seen when we are patient or kind, when we are not arrogant or rude, when we do not demand our own way, when we let go of resentments and when we choose not to be irritable.

What does it mean to love? It is to think about the best interests of others before our own. It is to care about someone’s feelings even if you are in a power struggle with him. It is to let go of your desire to prove you are right because you know that the other person needs you more than you need to be right.  It may be to forgive someone even before she says she is sorry, because you know she needs your forgiveness. It is to be happy for the success of those who have hurt you, and to allow people to finish speaking before responding. It may be to give away the better parking spot, the best award at the office, the most comfortable seat in the car, or your favorite object. It might mean cleaning a mess that is not your own, or inconveniencing yourself because someone needs something.

Most people love at least someone in their own family, but the Christian, is remarkable for loving the unlikely. Like the Good Samaritan, he loves even a stranger and welcomes him into his home. She loves even her enemy, being kind in the midst of a power struggle.

The address to the missionaries in Ms. Johnson’s Bible goes on to say, “None of [your daily duties] will appear tedious if they are done with a definitive view to the extension of the Kingdom, but they will be glorified beyond measure if your daily contacts are a means of conveying life to those whom God causes to cross your path.”

May you set your goals high this fall, and may you include the greatest goal: loving those who cross your path.