Various places in the Old Testament and in the teaching of Jesus Christ as well, we are told the basic requirements for pleasing God. It boils down to a short phrase: Love God, Love People.Very simple, but far from easy.
I have never known anyone who fulfilled those requirements more consistently and completely than my father. When Dad committed to love God as a young man of 28, home from the war a few years, he never looked back. His devotion was complete, and he answered a call to ministry without hesitation.
But his love for God was not a profession or a vocation—it was his life; the way he lived. Every morning of his life, he was up in the early hours of the morning for time with God. I remember the slow murmur of his voice rising up through the heat registers from his prayer place in the basement. He talked to God about everything. His love for the Father was so great, it never diminished. In these last months, he was still grabbing every opportunity to talk with God and read His Word. When friends dropped in to see him just after he learned of the sudden death of my sister, his beloved daughter, he had fallen asleep with his Bible on his lap, deep in communion with his Father.
Dad loved God so deeply and knew Him so intimately that his character became like the Father’s. Over and over people have told me, “Your dad is the most loving, most godly man I have ever known.” Of course he was. We become like what we love. Not even his amazing love for his bride, my mother, rivaled his love for God. In fact, it’s common and very understandable for people to talk about seeing their loved ones as a primary reason to anticipate heaven. But Dad rarely ever mentioned anything about heaven except seeing Jesus.He loved to sing, “What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see! When I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace. When He takes me by the hand and leads me through the promised land, what a day, glorious day that will be!” Yes, Dad loved God. It was the most true thing about him. He believed, even in the face of the hardest circumstances, that God was thoroughly, unquestionably good and worthy of love. If you knew Jim at all, you heard his trademark statement many times: “God is good, friends, God is good!”
His love for God gave him an abiding love for people. We had so many people in our home all the time because Dad loved people. Poor Mom. She never knew when Dad would bring some hurting or needy person in for a meal, and sometimes even for an extended stay. Fortunately, Mom shared his compassion, and it was never an issue between them. Before I was born, less than a decade after the war ended, Dad brought a homeless and destitute Japanese student home to recover from an illness. He lived with the Masons for about six weeks, causing several people to be amazed at Dad’s ability to love and care. After all, he was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. Shouldn’t that affect the way he felt about the Japanese?
Dad saw everyone through eyes of love. Even for those who had really bad track records, Dad frequently said, “If it weren’t for God’s grace, that would be me.” His approach to inconsiderate people was “always be kinder than necessary. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load.” When people hurt him, he said, “I am OK, and I feel sorry for that poor person. I’d rather have hurts than regrets.”
Dad was an indiscriminate lover. If you breathed, he loved you and would go out of his way to check on you, to see that you were OK. That’s how he ended up in a nursing home. Both my sisters badly wanted him to live with them. He agreed to try it—and he lasted just over a week with Jeannie. He wasn’t unhappy with her or the family. He was just too far removed from people who needed love. He said, “I need to be where I can help people.” So he moved into Walnut Creek to have a ministry of love. And he did. He loved people, prayed for and with them, and saw himself as the unofficial pastor of love for the residents and staff as long as he had the ability to do so.
Dad memorized one book of the Bible years ago. He could recite the entire book of first John, the much-loved epistle of love from the apostle of love.He took it to heart, and he lived as a modern-day apostle of love. This was his creed and his guide:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:7-21
That’s the way Dad lived and loved. He got it right.