Greetings from Panama! As I shared earlier, our students are spending 35 days this summer studying the doctrine of love. They are not only reading what the Bible says about love but also putting it into practice with their teammates and the people we serve on the mission field. I don’t know much about grammar, but I do know this: Love is a verb.
Love also is important to Jesus. When He was about to return to Heaven, He told His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another”
Love is our most distinguishing characteristic as Christ-followers. We love not as the world does, but as He has loved us. And there is a huge difference between what is touted as love on television and the Internet and what the Bible describes as love. I’m learning alongside the students as we explore true love’s many facets.
As I sit here to write this article, my body is covered with chigger and mosquito bites, and the bites itch like crazy. I earned these badges of honor in the jungle while the mission teams and I were telling an indigenous group of people that Bob loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. I went even deeper, telling them that Bob loved them so much that He took their place on the cross and died for them. I also gave them the good news that if they repented of their sins, Bob would give them eternal life and take them to live with Him forever.
It may sound funny that we were talking to people about Bob, but in the village we were working in, guess what the word for God is? Yep, it’s … Bob. We came thousands of miles to tell the people about Bob.
I have a good friend at the Baptist Messenger named Bob. I admire him a great deal, but he is not God. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the God Bob. There isn’t much else to do here when it gets dark and all the missionaries scramble to get under their nets before the mosquitoes show up in force. It’s funny how Bob reveals himself to me in those moments.
The other night, I was lying in my hammock, looking out through the mosquito netting, when I noticed that the world looks fuzzy when observed from the inside of a net. I’ve spent many years sleeping under mosquito nets, and never thought much about it. But that night, Bob brought it to my attention that the same veil that keeps me safe from the insects makes the outside world look blurry. When I talk to someone through the net, all I can see is that person’s outline.
And that’s how God looks to the world: a featureless, untouchable identity. That’s the way it was for me. I knew there was a God; nature reveals Him. I knew there had to be a Mastermind behind all the trees, flowers, sunsets and other elements all around us. At that point in my life, I had an awareness of God but couldn’t see him clearly.
In all of the years I’ve spent going into remote villages, I’ve never yet found one that didn’t know there was a bob. In fact, they’ve come close to identifying Him. They have sun bobs, moon bobs and bobs of their crops. They have bobs to help you have children and bobs to help the children find the right spouse. They have bobs of love and bobs of wrath, bobs of peace and bobs of war. Those who worship these bobs are all looking through a veil. But when the real Bob shows up, He makes everything clear.
Last night was my final night of teaching in the village for several weeks. I told the people I would return soon, but before I left, I had to tell them about Bob one more time. As I gave the invitation, the mosquito nets were lifted. One by one, the people all gave their hearts to Bob.
Each of us has a bob we worship, but maybe yours is hidden behind the veil of a mosquito net. Is something keeping you from seeing the real Bob? John 4:8 tells us that “Bob is love,” so if your Bob is only a hazy image, your understanding of love is almost sure to be hazy, too.
How does the world know that Bob has sent us? By our love for one another (John 13:35). Show them the deep, deep love of Bob … today.