I recently received a birthday card from my favorite parents. It was one of those cards that had a nice picture on the front with a few lines of print that most of us just skim over as we pretend that we are reading every word. Both of my parents wrote a short message on the inside. Typically, my mom is the one who always writes the notes in my birthday cards, but I guess because their favorite son was turning forty, my dad decided to pen a couple sentences as well.
He shared a verse from the third book of John. That’s not a book of the Bible we reference very often as it only contains fifteen verses. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). That short, simple sentence hit me rather hard. It’s a verse I’ve heard before, yet this time it seemed to sink in a little deeper than ever before.
That evening I took some time with the good Lord thinking about the people He has placed in my life over the years to bless, to challenge, to encourage, and to speak of the truth John wrote about in his letter. My first thoughts revolved around my three caring, crazy daughters. I pray every day that they always have a saving relationship with their Lord and Savior. I thought about my family and friends and how they have had an impact on my faith; I hope the Holy Spirit has used me to strengthen their faith as well. And I thought about all the students I’ve been privileged to influence during my education career. How many of them are still walking in the truth?
As I continued reflecting on John’s words, I began to really wrestle with that question. It forced me to not only look at my role as an educator but also as a son, husband, dad, and friend. If I desire the joy John speaks about, then what am I doing about it? What needs to be at the heart of my relationships so those around me know the love of Jesus and walk in His truth? Sympathy, empathy, concern, kindness, consideration, care, kindheartedness—all of these are synonyms for one word… compassion. It is through our compassion for those around us that we are able to give a glimpse of our Savior’s love.
We can’t make our children walk in the truth, we can’t coerce our loved ones into believing in God, and we can’t make a compelling enough argument to convince a student he/she is in need of a Savior. But because of God’s compassion shown to each one of us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can show compassion to our children when they get frustrated with one of their siblings, we can show compassion to our loved ones when they are overcome with grief, and we can show compassion to a student when they feel betrayed by a friend.
My dad probably didn’t realize he’d cause me to have a long conversation with my heavenly Father by writing that verse in my birthday card, yet that is how the good Lord works. He takes our simple actions and uses them in powerful ways. I hope to one day write in each of my daughters’ fortieth birthday cards, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Until then, I need to continue to give them small glimpses of the Savior’s love through my words and actions. May all of us experience joy by overwhelming the people God has called us to love and serve with a heart full of compassion.