“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40)
Very rarely do I use this space to link to someone else’s writings, but I wanted to share with you a story I read recently that left me in tears, challenged, and inspired. It was written by Skip Hollandsworth in the Texas Monthly (can’t say I ever read that before) about an unlikely friendship between a formerly homeschooled evangelical Christian girl named Jaelyn and a Muslim exchange student from Pakistan named Sabika, and the school shooting that changed their lives and families forever. I’m embarrassed – and dismayed – to admit that with all the school shootings that have happened over the past two decades, I didn’t even remember the one in Santa Fe. Without giving away too much, let me share three lessons I took away from this story:
- Your life may be the only sermon someone hears, or the only Bible someone reads. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. As I read about the Cogburn family, I couldn’t help but think of how their lives were a witness to Jesus. The way they loved their neighbors shown through, not just in words but in actions. Their witness called to mind 1 Peter 3:15 – “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
- Love your neighbor. Jesus told us plainly that all the commandments were summed up in two: love God, and love neighbor. This story highlighted a friendship between a Christian girl and a Muslim girl, which of course could raise all kinds of questions about theology, evangelism, and eternal destiny. But as I read, I was encouraged about how although Jesus commands us to love our neighbor and to go and make disciples, in the end only God can change a heart, and only God can judge a person’s life. We need to make sure we are loving others, first and foremost. I was also challenged once again that Jesus tells us that when we welcome the stranger, we welcome Him (Matthew 25:34-40) – whether that stranger is a Muslim exchange student or a troubled teen at risk of becoming a school shooter.
- The world is a complicated, messy, wonderful, and awful place. The girl in this story made the decision as a 16 year-old to ask her parents to go to public school instead of continuing to be homeschooled. As a result, she was confronted with people of different faiths, tricky interpersonal dynamics, and traumatic experiences. Her heart was inspired, crushed, and in the end, enlarged. The decision a Christian makes to step out into the wider world, to meet new people and hear new ideas that challenge what you have always believed, can be a scary one, and is rarely easy. But we can be encouraged that we are following in the footsteps of a Savior who left the comfort of heaven to live – and suffer – among us.
You can read the whole story here. It is a lengthy read, best attempted when you have 15-30 minutes to spare and tissues nearby.