Love Endures All

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. [. . .] Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. (John 15:1, 6–16 NLT)

Each Saturday during Lent, we will explore a story or profile of peace in action: people who are acting as shalom-bearers in a world increasingly in need of God’s peace.

While they were at a talk concerning the plight of incarcerated children, Mr. and Mrs. Jennings heard the story of Charlie, a fourteen-year-old boy who was in jail for the murder of his mother’s abusive boyfriend. Almost immediately, they became interested in how they could help him. This older couple – who were active in their local church and known as compassionate and generous people – were particularly drawn to children in crisis.

Years earlier, their only grandchild, who struggled with mental health problems, had taken his own life. They had helped raise him; and they never truly stopped grieving. After hearing about Charlie, they knew how they wanted to use the money they had been setting aside to send their grandson to college. They also understood Charlie needed people who cared about him to stand in his corner with him.

After striking up a correspondence with Charlie, all three soon met up in person at the juvenile detention center where he was being held. The Jenningses later shared that they “loved him instantly.” For Charlie, Mr. and Mrs. Jennings became family.

They helped Charlie get his general equivalency degree while he was in detention, and they were intent on paying for his college education. When Charlie was finally released, Mr. and Mrs. Jennings were there, with Charlie’s mother, to take him back home.

As Mrs. Jennings told Bryan Stevenson, Charlie’s lawyer, “If we don’t expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed.”

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

(This story can be found unabridged and more fully detailed in Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.)
Michael Benson is the NAB communications director.