NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Frances Mason died a few days ago.
I realize fully that very few who will read this article will know anything about Frances Mason.
But I did.
You see, Frances Mason made a powerful impact on my life for one very simple reason: She loved me.
I became the pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1990. It was my second church out of seminary, and I was a 35-year-old “kid.” Frances Mason had seen neophytes like me come and go, but this senior citizen made a decision the day I came to Green Valley.
“Pastor,” she said with enthusiasm, “you will have some good and bad days here, but I want to promise you two things. First, I will pray for you every day and, second, I will love you no matter what.”
When I think of people who have made significant positive differences in my life, Frances Mason is near the top. Even after I left Green Valley, she continued to call and write with a simple message: She loved me.
Maybe it is because I am in a position today to see a broader view of evangelical Christianity. I hope it is not because I have become cynical. But it just seems to me that Christians are showing less love and more judgmental behavior.
I can hear possible sighs: “Oh no, Rainer is talking about this love thing. He is going soft on doctrine.” But the foundation of Christian doctrine is the love of Christ manifest on the cross. And the Apostle John tells us that this love is most evident when Christians love one another: “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).
Indeed my doctrine drives me to love others. And when I do not, I am nothing less than disobedient to this doctrine I say I believe.
Coach Joe Hendrickson loved me, too. Again, few of you will know his name. He was my high school football coach. In the two short years he coached at Bullock County High School in Union Springs, Ala., he made a profound impact on the team. He was tough, but we players never doubted that he loved us.
Coach Joe was a follower of Christ, and the love of Christ was so very evident in his attitude and behavior. So when he shared the Gospel of Christ with me, I listened. He had already won my trust and my heart by his love. And on that same day he shared with me, I became a follower of Christ.
I was surprised to feel the lump in my throat when I received the call that Frances had died. Indeed it has been years since I have seen her. It is simply amazing how love transcends barriers and years. She knew how to pray. And she knew how to love.
One person led me to Christ by demonstrating Christian love. Another person’s Christian love and prayers strengthened me in some challenging times.
This morning in my quiet time, I reflected on lives like Frances’ and Coach Joe’s. And I began to pray. May I share with you portions of my prayer?
“Lord, teach me to pray for someone before I criticize them.”
“Lord, help me to see others through Your love, and to treat them as You would.”
“God, remind me of the brevity of life, so that I will spend more time loving and less time judging.”
“Father, teach me to love those who do not love me.”
“Lord, may Your love be so apparent in my life that I will have ongoing opportunities to share that love with those who do not know You.”
Frances Mason died a few days ago. But she leaves behind a legacy of love.
“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Lord, teach me to love.
Thom S. Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.