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“Required Reading”

September 14, 2022
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“What does love require of me?”

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I sat in the meeting trying to be very quiet. Maybe they would not notice the flush of red that was slowly creeping up my neck. Maybe they would not call on me. I was already afraid the conviction would show all over my face. I sure wasn’t about to let it come out of my mouth. Sitting in a church meeting, wearing my custom-made love warrior shirt, I felt like they could see the hypocrite in me standing atop my head waving a banner that said “over here” as I heard them ask it again.

“What does love require of you?”

Our church session often participated in group teachings to help us open up as a team and grow in leadership. This time we were diving into Andy Stanley’s book and video series called, Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets. There had been some tough questions in this series already.

This one was the toughest.

It felt like a very visible failure to me. I already considered myself a champion for loving others and I made sure everyone knew it. I spouted Love God, Love People anyone who would listen. I mean, I even had the t-shirt, literally. But as we dived into the conversations about what was actually required of us if love really was really our primary mission, the room got very warm. I could not sit there and honestly say I did what was required. Don’t even ask my kids about those fun mommy-on-a-rant moments or my husband when he triggered my stubborn streak. But this question cut even deeper than that.

This wasn’t even about the struggles of holding your tongue in hard times or loving people who society gave a “well that is understandable that you would not love that kind of person” pass to. Now they were talking about some really personal admissions. Now they were talking about me loving people as a requirement and not a return. I had always been very good at loving people who loved me back. But what if they didn’t? Was I still required to? Surely Jesus would understand?

What about that neighbor that hates me? What about that friend I betrayed who wouldn’t forgive me when I said I was sorry thirty-seven and a half times? What about that bully from middle school? It’s not like I would ever even see some of them again, why do I have to worry about loving them? I already love so many. It’s easy for me to love people.

All people?

The question said nothing about easy. It asked about what was required. If I am who I say I am, if I am a love warrior, a disciple of Jesus—it had nothing to do with easy. Warriors are warriors because they go into battle . . . on purpose. Oops.

There was that conviction. I love the people. But let me finish that sentence honestly. I love the people who love me. I love the people who reconcile with me. I love the people I know nothing about. I love the people who are in my circle. I love the people that—

Well, you can fill in the blank. There was no fill in the blank with this question. I was required to love. Period. No finish to that sentence, just fact. And because of that teachable moment in that meeting room, I knew I couldn’t wear that shirt anymore unless I meant it. Which means I have to ask myself this incandescent question every single day and take the heat of the answer.

Your turn.

What does love require of you?

Shannon Leach is a slice-of-life encouragement writer and the owner of A Repurposed Heart and ARH Inspirations. Her authentic stories and books about leadership, life, and loving people focus on encouraging others and reminding them they are not alone. Her work can also be found in Guideposts and multiple Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is the co-founder of the nonprofit The Fostered Gift.
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