“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.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)
If you have heard my testimony, you know that I asked for God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ when I was 8. You would also know that I was on fire for Him (as much as an 8 yr old could be). THEN... we moved to Texas. That is when everything seemed to change for me. My mother who was my spiritual model and leader grew angry with God and stopped going to church. I either had to fight with my parents to take me to church or ask for rides from my Sunday school teacher. THEN… my pastor left, and opinions divided the church. I found myself in a spot where I was fighting my parents at home to come to a church where they were fighting about the future pastor potentials. I decided it was enough and stopped going to that church. That was somewhere around 7th grade. I didn’t go back to another church until I was in college.
Church, please continue to love one another as Jesus loved us. John records Jesus informing his disciples that it is this which will identify them as His disciples. People can be difficult. People with differing opinions can be even more difficult. “Agreeing to disagree” is a three word cliché that is far more difficult to practice than to say. For people to love others as they love themselves is beyond difficult. It’s almost miraculous. Could it be that it requires one to be a disciple of Christ who has bent their knee and will to the King of Heaven to be able to truly love someone as much as you love yourself? I was in a church filled with people that I believed loved each other. THEN… opinions polarized people and a loving church became a warzone of cold stares, passive aggressiveness, backhanded comments and whispered assaults thrown into turned backs. I suspect the Grown-Ups did not believe the kids could see what was happening or that they would be affected, but at least this kid did witness the melee and was struck by the crossfire.
Jesus rebuked the disciples for hindering children from coming to him. Our Savior King wielded a makeshift whip to drive out those in His house who turned it into a den of thieves. What will He do to disciples who have lost their love for one another, fought to defend their own opinions and caused kids to go running away wounded, hurt and lost? This past weekend we sang a song about God moving mountains in our lives. God moved a monstrous mountain in my life when He reached out to grab more than my attention while I was in college to call me back to His loving arms and into His ranks of ministry. Yet, I had lost my youth and early adult years to my own choices without the guidance of godly parents, a youth pastor or a loving church. This is a true story and a cautionary tale.
Please continue to be a church that seeks to be a safe place for the struggling to find respite and healing. Please continue to be a church that values children. Be a model from which they can learn how to serve Christ. Please continue to be a church that loves families and strengthens them to lead their children in the ways of the Lord. Partner with them to raise kids who will run after God, but don’t take the reins from them, and, don’t let them hand the reins off to you. Teach them how to use the reins so that they retain the spiritual leadership of their children.
Thank you for the privilege to lead here for these past 17 years. Please continue to be the Church as you love one another more than you love yourselves.
His Servant & Yours, Bro. Alex