“The only part I didn’t really like was when she said that before she was a Christian she didn’t know what love was.”
After a recent talk at school, a few students were voicing their thoughts about the talk. The speaker had made a bold claim, one I hadn’t really thought about too deeply before my students offered their critique. Another student agreed and said he thought the speaker was being dramatic.
“Is it possible,” I questioned, “that being a Christian profoundly changes how she loved?”
“No,” said one student.
“Yes,” said another.
The one who said no came closer and continued with this question. The more I teach and the more I know about people, the more I realize that questions help answer better than arguments. Questions help clarify where exactly the person is, how much they know, and how much they have thought about the idea in the first place. So I posed another question, uncertain as I did so where exactly I was headed or what the next question would be.
“Is there anything different between how Hitler loves and Mother Teresa?”
She looked a bit shocked by the question. “Of course! Hitler didn’t love anyone.”
“Well, only himself.”
I wasn’t sure I fully agreed with that statement, but I continued with another question.
“Okay, is there anything different between how you love and how Mother Teresa loves?”
“Why?” I persisted.
“I’m only human…”
“So was she.”
The student paused for a moment.
“Is is possible that the closer one is to God the better one can love? Could it also be true that becoming a Christian could profoundly change the way she loved?”
With a new perspective before her, the student agreed to the question she had rejected only a moment earlier. It was beautiful and unexpected. The questions weren’t planned beforehand and I could bet that given circumstances being even slightly different, I would have answered that question quite different. I didn’t launch into a conversation about agape love and I didn’t speak of the witness of the martyrs as they forgave the people who killed them. There are so many ways to approach the situation, but a few simple questions seemed so fruitful.
She returned to her seat with a great understanding and I started class with another beautiful realization that the Holy Spirit works in ordinary ways and in ordinary places to deepen our knowledge of how Christ changes our hearts.
When we fully allow Christ to live in us, the experience of loving another is profoundly changed. The early Christians were known and marveled at for their love. It went beyond what the pagan world knew and expected of a person. Today, if we permitted the Lord to delve deep and transform us, we could also show a pagan world what it looks like to truly love.