Love. Obvious right? Well, yes – but, in my experience, this is where the rubber hits the road for the Church. It’s hard not to love jazz funk, really great coffee, marmite, repeat viewings of ‘The a Great Escape’ and my lovely wife and daughters (that is not a list in order of importance by the way) – unfortunately, in English we are stumped by having just that one word for love. Love.
In The Greek, we have ‘Agape’ this is the kind of self giving, sacrificial love that has been poured out on us by Jesus and it is this kind of love that our young people should be experiencing when they come into contact with the Church. Holding no record of wrongs, hoping and persevering kind of love – always trusting, going above and beyond kind of love. What happens when people ‘blow it’ in our churches? What happens when that is a young person?
One of the toughest verses in scripture is this,
Love your neighbour as yourself
This comes as Jesus is summing up the law and the prophets – He has just given the greatest command and then said the second is like it and then smack – love others – the way you love yourself! Ok. Here is the question then – and we don’t ask this often enough – HOW do we love others, if we don’t love ourselves? This builds on from acceptance – the first need I mentioned – and is crucial for the well being of our young people, they must know they are loved and loved unconditionally. There is a great phrase I have come across – it is this:
loved into being
Simply this, we love people SO much – that they are loved into a good place, loved into a living, breathing, life could be good here, hopeful – life has possibilities and I am LOVED place. Our young people often need to be loved into being. So many of the young people I have encountered in years of ministry do not love themselves, struggle to believe that they are loved, that they are special, that they matter.
Dash, from the film The Incredibles puts it pretty well. He is being challenged by his mum when he is moaning in the car. Dash really wanted to do athletics at school, but being so fast would just beat everyone – he is frustrated and only wants to show how special he is and use his gifts. His mum says,
everyone’s special Dash
that’s just another way of saying no one is
Ahh. A child’s logic. If we are all special, what makes me special? And, we have another tough scripture verse here too,
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life
So well known! So well used! But, while some young people can get that God loved the world that He gave His son, they struggle with their part of the world, the bit of the world that they inhabit – the bit of the world that is different because they exist there. Everyone is special – they get that. Somehow though, for many young people, that ‘everyone’ can’t mean them.
This is where we need to step up for each and every young person and love them into being. Demonstrate the love that Jesus talks about with Nicodemus at the dead of night (did you ever notice that? This incredible passage of scripture in John 3 is a one to one conversation – a profound truth, Jesus precious time, the most famous verse about Gods love and salvation in the Bible – not shared from a platform to a crowd, but with one man). We need each young person to know – you are not just part of the youth group, or the crowd of young people – YOU matter. YOU are loved.
IF we can SEE each young person as Christ sees them we will accept them and we will also love them. Let’s see each young person we encounter discover and catch something of the love of Jesus for then through our lives, through our example, through who we tell them they are – let’s persevere, let’s not leave anyone behind, let’s love our young people into a better place . . .
Let’s encourage our young people to believe the following is true, not just for everyone – but true for THEM,
I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers, or height or depth, or any other thing that is created