Rick Love’s life and legacy resonate deeply with the Zwemer Center of Muslim-Christian Relations at Columbia International University. As Ed Smither, Dean of Intercultural Studies at CIU, put it: “Rick loved Muslims and they loved him.” Yet, beyond his work with Muslims, Rick was known for conflict resolution among families, in the workplace, and in cross-cultural relationships all over the world. Below is mostly a personal reflection but also how colleagues and friends remember him.
Teaching at the Zwemer Center
Rick and his wife, Fran, served as missionaries in Indonesia; he was an ordained pastor, a consultant on reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, and a professor. This is how I first met him. As director of Zwemer, I had invited him to teach short courses at CIU, and had used his book, Muslims, Magic and the Kingdom of God as a textbook. However, one class shortly after 9-11, stands out. Rick, along with CIU administrators, allowed a journalist to sit in on the instruction because we reasoned this journalist had previously written favorably of evangelicals. It proved to be an error in judgment. An article soon came out in the magazine, “Mother Jones,” under the provocative title, “Stealth Crusade.” The journalist misrepresented what Rick was teaching, put CIU in a bad light, and accused Christian missionaries of trying to “wipe out Islam.” Anyone reading the article would have the impression that we were a bunch of fanatics. The truth is, sharing the Gospel and destroying Islam are fundamentally different. Dave Cashin, professor of Intercultural Studies, said: “…The ‘expose’ of CIU showed us another side of spiritual warfare.” That is undoubtedly true, and it taught us how much the world was changed after 9-11. Yet, despite the bad press, some new students were drawn to the program and Rick says it helped change the course of his life: “…the good parts [of the article] … forced me to re-evaluate some of my beliefs and practices in the light of Scripture.”
Making Peace with Muslims
What stands out next in my mind was an incident that took place six years later: Rick invited me to the historic “Common Word” conference at Yale University in 2008, where he was doing post-doctoral study in peacemaking. More than 150 Muslim and Christian leaders, including some of the most eminent scholars and clerics, met in order to bring understanding between members of the two faiths that make up over half of the world’s population. The meeting had been organized by Yale Divinity School and Joseph Cumming had a leading part. Though the conference was criticized by a few evangelicals as compromising with Islam, it shows Rick wanted to live in peace with Muslims. One quote on his website says, “Peace, like war, must be waged. It must be waged courageously, persistently, creatively, with imagination, heart and wisdom” (Glen Stassen). Joseph Cumming writes, “Rick was a true man of peace who founded the organization Peace Catalyst International to promote peace and love and understanding between Muslims and Christians …” Ed Smither adds, “Even a cursory glance at his Facebook page over the last month shows many joyful interactions with Muslims … Rick Love was an excellent, beloved child of God.”
Building Global Relationships
Rick said, “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live out peace with others (Peace Pilgrim). And, “I love teaching about conflict resolution and enjoy coaching organizations in peacemaking. I help people develop skills to mend relationships, increase harmony and decrease alienation.” Also, from his Facebook page, it is evident Rick was very much a family man. Betty Brewster, who was teaching at Fuller Seminary when Rick and his wife studied there, wrote: “… Rick is a global citizen, having lived in Indonesia and England. He has traveled extensively, having consulted and lectured in every major region of the world: North Africa, Sub-Sahara Africa, the Middle East, Central Asian, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States … and received the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award from Fuller Theological Seminary. Rick has published four books: Grace & Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims, Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Families, Organizations and Communities, A Peace of the Bible and Following Jesus in the 21st Century.” From his writings, it is also evident Rick was deeply concerned about how divided the United States is now. He says, “Jesus said you will know his followers by their fruits (Matt. 7:15-20), not be their political party.” And he says, “Paul would say the kingdom of God is not about being a Democrat or a Republican but about righteousness, peace and joy…”
Many of us knew Rick was fighting cancer, but hoped he was winning the battle, when suddenly we learned of his heart attack and death. When Samuel Zwemer (after whom our center was named) died on April 2, 1952, a grieving colleague said, “A missionary prince has fallen in our midst.” Many of us feel the same about Rick and we pray for Fran and the family. Mae Cannon, Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace, wrote “The world won’t shine as brightly with him gone. Rest in Peace, friend.”