The one-room home fashioned from cardboard and junkyard scraps was dim—all shadows. The only light came from cracks where a metal roof met flimsy walls. My clean tennis shoes scuffed the hard-packed dirt floor.
Little more than a shelter, a desperate woman sat on a mattress resting on the ground. An outcast. Forgotten by the world. Ten years after Apartheid’s end, and this South African woman with her beautiful ebony skin still had no voice.
She had AIDS.
Considered an untouchable by many in her superstitious culture, she had been left to die. With only weeks to live, we had been asked to pray for her.
“Just come in and touch her,” the local pastor told me. Me—the only female in a mission party of men. ”Come in and touch her. No one will touch her.”
We all crowded into her home. While our prayers began, I sat beside her. I wish I could say I didn’t hesitate, but I did. The fear of investing my heart crept in, trying to hold me in its shadows.
But when I did wrap my arms around her, I couldn’t let go. Love does that. Love breaks down walls of fear. Because Love is bigger than fear.
Never before have I felt the intense power of connection in one touch. Never before have I felt the ache of my Jesus as I did in the woman’s home. Never before have I felt as if I could touch the presence of the Most High.
In that dark room, my entire being had been flooded with warmth—with the presence of Love.
I walked out of her simple shelter and looked across the sea of a thousand other homes just like hers. I couldn’t keep the tears from falling or my chest from heaving. There were countless others just. like. her. Desperate to know love.
To love the unlovable. To love those so many say are unworthy. To love, not just our neighbors, but the drug addict a few houses down. The welfare recipient with many mouths to fill. The coworker everyone else ignores.
Whether from fear or judgment or both, we often reject when we should love. We look down our pious noses and forget the planks in our own eyes. We hide behind our busy. We don’t want dirty hands. We don’t want to accept the work it takes to invest our lives into the broken.
I know. Because these are sometimes my thoughts too. My thoughts are wrong.
In our rejection of those we mark unlovable, we miss our call. Because when we wrap our arms around those the world will not, we shine Jesus. And this broken world so urgently needs to see His light.
The love I share should matter more than the opinions I have. Because without love I am only a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. I could stand on my soapbox all day, or I can embrace the man on the corner with his cardboard sign and shoes with holes.
When we spend our time scolding the world for its problems we become a noise that points in the direction of a Savior we’ve distorted. We give the world a picture of a Savior who is only out to punish. A Savior who could never love the broken.
When nothing could be further from Truth. Because the idea of being unlovable is foreign to the God who loves. Because there isn’t one—no, not one—He didn’t become bruised and bloody for. Jesus died for His love of humanity. All of it. Every single human. No. Matter. What.
And while there is a time to stand up for our convictions, we must only do so while standing on love. Otherwise? Our convictions may look like angry judgment.
This is why Jesus says the world will know us by our love. Because if love is not what oozes from our pores, slips from our souls, then the world will continue to be blind. The world will continue to walk in darkness.
The only way to bring Light to this world of pitch black? I must love His people. We must love His people. And what if we begin changing the world one loved-life at a time?
This is the miracle.
I went back to South Africa one year later. My soul-sister? Death had lost its grip and weeks to live turned into years. Through the healing of a Savior who loves the world and His science for anti-viral medication, she was healthy. I knew I had been part of a miracle that had me shaking-in-my-knees humble. She was teaching songs of love to the little voices in her township.
Changing the world. One loved-life at a time.