Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
I am a lifelong fan of the SEC (Southeastern Conference), as a diehard, if long-suffering, Georgia Bulldog. In fact, I was born in Oxford, Mississippi, home to the Ole Miss Rebels football team that took on and beat the Indiana Hoosiers on January 2 at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. But, I could not help but love the charisma and philosophy of Indiana’s head football coach, Tom Allen. They had a remarkable season, giving Ohio State all it could handle in the Big Ten Championship game. They are up-and-comers. They are over-comers. A big reason why is Allen’s motto. It has helped them deal with internal tragedy and loss. It has brought them together in a year that tore so many people apart, politically, racially, and philosophically. The motto is simply “L-E-O”: Love Each Other. He preaches to his players to live for something larger than themselves. He explained, “…You have to live your life with core values and core principles. There are anchors in your life. This is what we talk about all the time, that when these storms come — not if they come, when they come — you have a rock-solid foundation that cannot be shaken” (Jon Blau, Bloomington, IN, Star-Times, 1/3/21). He sees his opportunity as head coach as about much more than wins and losses, but about shaping young men at a crucial time in their lives. And what they need to succeed, he’s convinced, is “brotherly love.”
As fantastic as that, promoted by a man of faith like Allen, he’s simply echoing the motto Jesus already gave His disciples 2,000 years ago. John records Jesus’ admonition to His followers, when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). OK, technically, that’s L-O-A, but, when we remind each other, it’s L-E-O. More than a motto, it is our identifying mark. Jesus knew the power of selfless, sacrificial love. Love, defined as “the quality of warm regard for and interest in another” (BDAG, 6), helps us through the storms of life. It gives us something bigger than ourselves to lean on.
New Testament writers tell us what L-O-A will do:
- It causes us to serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
- It roots and grounds us (Eph. 3:17)
- It helps us show tolerance for one another (Eph. 4:2)
- It makes us spiritual laborers (1 Th. 1:3)
- It leads us to highly esteem one another (1 Th. 5:13)
- It shows us as proper examples of a believer in Christ (1 Tim. 4:12)
- It will cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8)
Of course, the list is much longer than that, but think about the impact we can make on the world, especially right now, if we will work to master such a motto in the body of God’s Son. Love each other! Don’t divide into camps, suspect, prejudge, accuse, isolate from, and indict each other. That’s the world’s modus operandi (M.O.). We do that, and we have nothing to offer them that they do not already have. Offer them love, and you help fill a crucial void. God’s nature is love (1 John 4:8). It’s to be our nature, too! Let’s love each other. A desperate world is waiting.