without love, what?

My heart is aching. I feel heavy. All around me is grieving, groaning. Nothing is as it should be.



So many, many places around the world. Every single day.

Our precious Judah is weakening (Jesus, we need a miracle).

Now Nebiat. The girls’ neighbor-friend back at Abbey Lane. 14 years old. Found dead in a pond today after an apparent suicide. My heart breaks for her, for her family. Refugees from Eritrea, trying to make a life in Columbus, Ohio.

Oh, Nebiat. Beautiful, smart, smiling, young, young Nebiat. (Sweet Jesus, be near.)

And so many others hurting. So badly.

And I feel overwhelmed. What can I do?

It feels like the answer is nothing. But I know that’s not true.

I can:

Pray. Listen. Give. Love.

And I think about love and how we live it out as Christians.

And I think about people who don’t feel loved. Who feel sorrowful and trapped and anguished enough to say, “I can’t live anymore.”

And I think about the statistics that say Muslim, overweight, and gay teens are the most likely to commit suicide. That 45% of transgender teens have attempted it.

And I think of how Christians rant and rave about Bruce Jenner and how “despicable” he is for saying he’s a woman trapped in a man’s body. I see Christians applauding and linking to a post by another Christian, notorious for “speaking truth” (but rarely in love, hardly ever, ever in love), blasting Jenner with cruel, hateful words. I think of that same blogger bashing Robin Williams when he took his own life. (etc, etc)

I think of Christians “loving” gays by despising their sin. Loudly. Self-righteously. At every opportunity.

I think of white Christians refusing to admit white privilege exists. Of Christians saying racism is “in the past” or “goes both ways,” that black people “make a big deal out of everything.” Of Christians pointing to rioters, looters, and saying, “See? They’re thugs!”

(Deep breath. And another.)

(Jesus, forgive me. Forgive them. Help me to love, not just the marginalized and oppressed, not just the pimps and johns, but the Christians spewing hate in the name of Jesus.)

Friends. Please listen.

Can we know, even for one minute, what it’s like to be someone else?

Can we know the depth of someone’s pain, what their lives have been like, the injustice they’ve endured, what it’s like inside their head and heart?


I have never been black. I cannot know.

I have never been gay. I cannot know.

I have never been overweight. I cannot know.

I’ve never been bullied to the point of wanting to end my own life. I cannot know.

I’ve never lost a child or spouse to a horrific disease. I cannot know.

I’ve never been an alcoholic. I cannot know.

I can’t know. I can’t judge. It’s not my right, not my place.

I am to love. Period.

To listen. To be there. To hear the whole, tearful story. To nod in affirmation. To pray for empathy. To offer my shoulder to cry on.


Love is the most important commandment. Love is the way people will know we’re disciples of Jesus. Love is the command given over and over and over. Love is what Jesus modeled for us time after time after time.

God = love. To be Jesus to someone = to love that person. And not with idle tongues, but with actions. Jesus didn’t beat people over the head with scrolls. He listened, he touched, he healed, he loved.

Without love?

We have nothing.

And I am so, so, so tired of the age-old response. “Yes, BUT…”

No. No more buts. Love is NOT a watered-down gospel. Love IS the gospel.



24 thoughts on “without love, what?

  1. Pingback: not my shoes! | Marla Taviano

  2. Mary Robison

    I plan on reading this in both of the churches my husband pastors. Thanks so much for your heartfelt expression of what love should look like. We don’t have to understand we just have to love and try…. God Bless Your Ministry!

  3. Jennifer

    Your thoughts echo my own so well, I just haven’t found a way to say it yet. So much pain…I just pray to find the right ways to love people!

  4. Jon

    Fantastic comment; thank you. Slightly disappointing at the lack of males endorsing what you have written here. Let me be one of the few. Maybe it’s my feminine side coming out! 😉 xxx

  5. Alexandra

    I feel like a good follow up to this would be how to correct someone in love after earning the right to speak with him/her about his/her faith based on 2 Tim.2:23-26 and 1 Peter 3:15. For without loving, listening, and truly befriending someone, how can we as Christians expect people to want to hear about the gospel if we aren’t willing to show it first? Again, we have to earn the right to really talk to others about their faith before shouting “SINNER” from the rooftops, and be willing to humble ourselves and admit our own sins.

      1. Alexandra

        I didn’t miss the point. I completely agree with everything said.
        “To listen. To be there. To hear the whole, tearful story. To nod in affirmation. To pray for empathy. To offer my shoulder to cry on.

        To LOVE.”

        But, it doesn’t end there. That’s the beginning of beautiful relationships that can hopefully lead to hard conversations and salvation. Without all of those things mentioned, we aren’t being Christ. But, Christ didn’t stop there, and better should we. The post may have.said “no butts,” but I disagree. Loving is just the beginning.

  6. Linda Preston

    God bless you for bringing this to light. GOD IS LOVE. May we be love to those around us who are hurting too deeply to put into words. Thanks for this post.

  7. Colleen Streetman

    Marla, Thank you for this post. If everyone approached every interaction with love , rather than fear the world would be a much nicer place. I am sorry for your loss

  8. Tammy C

    Thankfully my sister has not taken her own life but she has this lost: I’ve never lost a child or spouse to a horrific disease. Her son died from a drug over dose in 2004 .She lost her husband in 2012 after he hit his head and cracked his skull never to regain consciousness.She also had stillborn twins and both of us lost our mom at 5 for me and 10 for her.

    Sadly I have been to a funeral after a young man took his own life because he never could get over his father’s death.

    Sorry for the loss of Nebiat.

  9. Melinda

    We will be posting this on our MiddayConnection.org Facebook page on May 15. One of our topics on air that day will be “do we want to know peoples backstory? ” Thoughtful, beautiful post. May it find a huge and willing audience-this needs to be heard IMO!

  10. Kelly

    I heard Graham Cooke speak over the weekend. He said “love is the answer, let’s MAKE it the answer.” LOVE.

  11. Ruth C

    My heart breaks. Very well-said, Marla. I’m so sorry for your loss & I am devastated over all the other things happening. It really is about love. We make it too complicated. Just love.

  12. Sarah Farish

    My tears stream as I read this…no, you can’t know. I can’t know. (Well, I have one of these covered and I DO KNOW, but fear keeps me from entering the conversation.) And all these FB posters weighing about Baltimore – heavens. I am floored and saddened. And the tension in my heart these days? So heavy. And while I have tears for each group you mentioned and each struggle – my heart especially breaks for a 14 year old girl who may have committed suicide – feeling unloved. You’re right, friend. Love is not words and blog posts. Or Facebook comments. They’ll know we love Jesus because of our LOVE – God is LOVE – action – doing – showing up – just like Jesus. Thank you. I miss you. I love you. You make me such much better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *