A couple days ago, Traci and I attended the funeral of a friend. Pastor John Gleason died, in his mid-50s, of a freak water accident. He was, by human standards, taken while in the prime of his ministry. Several hundred people attended this service, and the scope of influence his ministry had was broad and touching.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about death, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last. Death is a grim reality in this life, one that all of us must face in relationship to others, and in relationship to our own mortality. Reflecting on someone else’s death gives a chance to evaluate our own lives, and to consider the influence we’re having on those around us. I certainly found myself doing that as John’s service unfolded.
During part of the ceremony, several people shared stories of Pastor Gleason’s influence in their lives. While he pastored a smaller congregation, you wouldn’t have known that by the large number of people in attendance at his funeral. And story after story reflected the same two themes: John loved God and John loved others.
There were several humorous moments, and of course, not a dry eye in the place when his son shared about the love he received from his father. But through it all, funny or touching, obscure or enriching, the same themes of love emerged. Love for his wife and children. Love for the people in his church even those who had walked away from the Lord. Love for the prisoners he visited each week in jail. Love for children. Love for music and using it to bless others. And most of all, a deep, rich and unquenchable love for God.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget how simple it is. When Jesus was asked to explain the most important laws and rules His people should follow, He broke down His answer into two simple categories: Love God, and love others.
“Jesus replied [to the question]: ‘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.’”
Jesus went on to explain that everything in God’s Law hangs on those two themes. In other words, our lives can be measured by how well we love God and love others. Our decisions can be weighed by how much they reflect a love for God or a love for others. If you break down the Christian experience to its most basic form it boils down to these two questions: How well do you love God? How well do you love others?
Based on my experience with Pastor John Gleason, and confirmed by the myriad of testimonies I heard about his life, he excelled in both. And as I reflected on his life, his sudden death and the mark he left in this world, I wondered how I was doing in loving God and loving others. How are you doing?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
p.s. The more I’ve thought about John’s life the more I realize that one of the ways that he loved people, was by having time and being available. I know John was busy, but it never felt like he was busy when you met with him. He always had time, and he never seemed rushed to get away from a conversation or relationship. He was a good listener. How can you show love for others today? Maybe by applying one of John’s principles to your interactions with the people around you:
- Take time to invest in relationships
- Don’t be rushed into, or out of, conversations
- Listen intently