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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “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 that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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Jan Peterson: My Life as a Pastor’s Wife

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Eugene and I spent years serving others. Our giving often multiplied itself in unexpected ways.

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When I was around 13 years old, I discovered the treasure of spiritual friendship through a woman named Gertrude Floyd. Gertrude and her husband were our back-door neighbors. I had recently been confirmed in the Presbyterian church and was involved in youth fellowship, where a lot of kind folks helped me center my life in the Lord. But a good deal of my spiritual growth came from just on the other side of our backyard fence. I often found myself walking through the back gate and knocking on Gertrude’s screen door, where I was always received with a warm welcome and a “Come in—I’ll get us some lemonade. You go on out to the porch.”

Those visits had a profound influence on my life. Even at 13, I was beginning to understand the kind of woman I wanted to be as I grew up: I wanted to be like Gertrude. Her loving friendship showed me how powerful it is to be readily available to others—to listen, to care for them, to engage with their lives.

These years later, I’m well aware that being a pastor’s wife brings with it a lot of demands and a lot of time spent serving others. But the amazing thing about service is that it rarely returns void, even if we don’t see the end results ourselves.

Eugene and I saw this happen in a beautiful way during one particular season of serving. Our friend David and his wife, Janet, were part of our church community. She was our organist. They had a blended marriage; each of them had three children. Tragically, Janet was diagnosed with cancer and passed away, leaving David with all those children to care for. He had a good job and was working in Baltimore, but before Janet died, the company moved to the West Coast. His hands were tied. He couldn’t ...

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