Over the past three months I have heard that phrase repeated over and over again at bank meetings. It is the new slogan at the Microfinance site and it simply means "I am third, Microfinance is more than just money." and we took it from Matthew 22:36-40 where Jesus essentially tells us that all of the other laws can be summed up as loving God with everything that we have and loving those around us. Since day one at the Microfinance Site, we have continually emphasized that we are more than just a banking institution. Gains in wealth can be helpful especially for the poor but they can never sustain true joy. Love sustains joy and true love can only come from God.
While our new slogan is short and easy to learn, the process of learning to love God and others well is anything but simple. In fact, coming to a common census of what love even is can be quite difficult. Recently, Miriam started a bible study over the concept of love and she opened the first study with a simple question. What is love? The answers that we got from each group and each women varied greatly but I was especially impacted by a comment that one of our associates, Judy, gave. She said that love isn't true when we do nice things for people without really feeling like doing it. It is an unauthentic love. It was easy for Miriam and I to explain to the group that "feelings of love" are part of what love is but that biblical love is something much deeper than just feelings. It is a sacrificial love. It is a decision. However, I couldn't help but think how infrequently Judy probably sees this type of love truly modeled. Our culture cries out that the key to freedom and love is to follow our whims, desires, and cravings. It says that love is a thrill, a delight, an adventure. It says that love is about MY feelings.
As a young guy working in a culture that is different than my own and in communities with different socio-economic factors than my own, I have been thinking about how choosing love almost always leads to feelings of love. When I was in high school and college, a majority of my friends or people that I loved were people that I naturally had feelings of love for. Many times that meant that we had common interests that drew us together. While my love for them in no way was unauthentic, I didn't really find myself loving people that were much different than me.
However, as I have lived and worked here in the Dominican Republic, my natural feelings of love have much less often drawn me into relationships. My decisions to love have. (Or maybe it would be better to say that my ministry obligations have.) Every week as part of my job, I have gone and spent time with a lot of broken people, met their families, listened to their problems, and tried to serve them well. However, an amazing thing has happened slowly over the past two years and four months as I have worked with people who for many might seem needy and unattractive. My feelings of love (most days) have caught up with my obligation or decision to love which is a very beautiful thing. As I go and visit Ramona, the coordinator of the first bank that Ryan started almost five years ago, my affections of love for her are that of a son visiting his mother. As I sit and shell beans with Martin and Rosa, I serve them because I feel a certain type of fondness for their family. And as I walk into Frankely's house, I joke around with him not to try and cheer him up but because I feel that he is a close friend and brother.
Actions of love for others will always lead to feelings of affection for others.
I'm not saying that I have learned to love perfectly or that my affections of love for each one of my associates don't wax and wane. I still have days where I wake up and because I don't feel like loving, I don't. I know that I still have a ways to go, much like all of us, as I learn to DECIDE to love God and love others the way that Christ has loved us. For he did not come down from heaven for the thrill, the delight, or the adventure of loving something beautiful, he came to give himself up for the broken, the ugly, and the unlovely. Jesus loved and loves us not because we are worthy of love but because He is love and it is part of his character. May we root ourselves in Jesus' love and may we CHOOSE daily to make that love part of our character.
Please continue to pray each of our MiBancos as we continue to teach about loving God and loving others. Pray that they may experience love through the MF ministry and that it would ultimately lead them to the author of perfect love, Jesus.