Learning The Most Excellent Way

Yesterday was moving day.

Last night, after a long day of hauling furniture, every muscle in my body was sore, aching from 27 too many trips up and down the stairs and from stubbornly carrying things twice as heavy as my back would have liked. It was an exhausting end to an exhausting week of packing.

While my body silently cheered contact with a soft bed, my mind, in contrast, was spinning with all the beautiful lessons it had learned in one short week. And as my body quickly shut down, my mind struggled to process the thoughts that swirled around in it, until it, too, finally fell silent under the weight of slumber. Before it surrendered to sleep, though, my brain spit out one last attempt at making sense of my recent days:

“I have seen the most excellent way.”

As a Christian, I tend to value the gifts of teaching and preaching. I just love the way that people can use words to convey deep truths of God, the way a well-delivered lesson or a well-written book can illuminate your mind and elevate your thoughts to greater heights. There have been a few times lately that as I read a great book about God’s Kingdom, my heart was literally racing, and I can almost felt my mind actually expand as I read. It is so exciting to have people use words to convey such wonderful and life-changing truths as the ones I have read and heard in these last few years.

And the Bible talks about how teaching and preaching are great gifts, ones to be desired. Paul lists wisdom and knowledge, the keys to great teaching, among other wonderful abilities, in 1 Corinthians 12, when he talks about how the church is one body with many parts. However, he concludes his discussion with the interesting line, “But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” That line, of course, begs the question, “Which ones are the greater gifts?” Thankfully, Paul provides the answer quickly, declaring,

“And now, I will show you the most excellent way.”

What follows is a systematic devaluing of every other gift—tongues, knowledge, faith, generosity, courage—in comparison to the greatest gift, which is love. Without love, all those other gifts are absolutely worthless. We are nothing with them, and we gain nothing from them. This week, I saw that greatest gift over and over in my brothers and sisters.

I saw it in the meals that were voluntarily made for my family.

I saw it in the childcare that was graciously provided several times by others.

I saw it in the hospitality that was offered to my family to come share a meal or even to stay at another’s house while mine stood empty.

I saw it in the immense physical effort that was expended to move each and every piece of heavy furniture out of my house and into a van.

One way I especially saw it was through two families who, due to economic hardship and unfortunate circumstances, have had to move several times. Their repeated displacement has bred in them certain skills, such as expertly packing boxes and loading trucks. Even more, their hardship has bred in them compassion for others who are going through the same situation. I personally hate to move, and after I move, I never want to see another box again. These people feel the same way, but instead of running from the inconvenience of moving, they use their experiences to help others. At different times, both of these families have run the moving ministry at my church. Last week, the wife of one of those families, herself having recently moved, repeatedly dropped by to drop off boxes, called to offer her services at packing, and came by on Saturday, not only to help load, but also to help clean the house afterward. The second family was also there on Saturday, spending hours of the husband’s day off carefully and meticulously loading our oversized moving van.

As I watched those two families work so hard and with such dedication, I was amazed at how they had taken pain and hardship and channeled it into love and service. Unfortunate things had happened in their lives, and through the love of God, they had transformed their obstacles into blessings for others.

That is the most excellent way!

And more than any book I have read recently, the simple selfless actions of my brothers and sisters this week illuminated my mind and elevated my thoughts to greater heights. They conveyed wonderful and life-changing truths to me, in a deep, tangible way, truths like

God loves you.

And,

You don’t have to do this on your own.

This week, God’s love was tangible. It tasted like warm broccoli and cheese soup and homemade bread. It sounded like peaceful quiet while boxes were being packed, like silence unbroken by bored and neglected children. It looked like the sweat running down the faces of men who gave up their Saturday to move load after load of furniture. It smelled like clean bathrooms and baseboards. And it felt like a soft bed to fall into after a long, hard day.

Sometimes I read the words of Jesus, and my mind bends and struggles to figure out exactly what they mean. In fact, I was going to address those feelings in the post I was supposed to write today. I will probably still talk about them soon, but yesterday, I was reminded that following the radical way of Jesus doesn’t have to be that complicated. It can be as simple as bringing two carafes of coffee and a couple boxes of donuts to a tired moving crew, as an elderly gentleman (and founding member) from my church did yesterday.

Also, as much as I love great books and speeches, I realized yet again that you don’t have to be a theologian or a scholar to communicate great depths of truth to people. Simple, selfless love trumps all the trappings of intellect and reason.

This week, I was blessed abundantly by people who showed love to my family. Their sacrifices brought me joy and peace, and overwhelmed me with gratitude. Even more, they taught me wonderful lessons about God, lessons that transcend mere words.

They showed me the most excellent way, the way that I long to pursue myself.

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