When my Mark was a youth pastor, I wrote articles for the parents newsletter we put together quarterly. I came across this one the other day and even though so much has changed in how I view the church and Christianity and Christians, I have to say, I still believe all of this. Every word. Because Love Wins. It makes me sad to read this and remember how much we loved youth ministry. It was a whole lifestyle for us. We ate, breathed and moved youth ministry. The only aspect of church I miss is teaching middle school Sunday school. After twenty years of living that way, we don’t know how to function without doing youth ministry. It’s literally heartbreaking.
The articles I wrote for the newsletter were always entitled WHY – something. Why is Mark’s favorite word. He loved to encourage the young people to question everything to lead to better understanding. So here’s the article that was called “WHY…LOVE?” that went out to all the parents of our 6th-12th grade young people.
If you are around the youth ministry very long you will pick up on a theme. Most of the young people that come to youth group and Sunday school on a regular basis should be able to tell you what God wants from them, what His “will” for them is, how He wants them to live. And the answer is? Love God, and love others. Why do we do mission trips? To show the people we love them. Why do we work with Bridge of Hope? To help them to show love to abused children. Why do we reach out and invite our friends to youth group? So they can learn about God’s love for them, and they can learn how to love God.
Our culture has hijacked the word and idea of love so much that sometimes we don’t seem to grasp what it means to really love someone, including God. The love that God has for us is completely unconditional, full of patience, kindness and forgiveness. His love for us is sacrificial. And that’s the kind of love He wants us to share with others. That’s why we talk about LOVE so much in the youth ministry. If we don’t understand how to give and receive love, we will never be the people God meant for us to be. If everything we do isn’t motivated by our love for God, it isn’t worth doing. Love is not just one of many ideals to shoot for. As Paul said, “If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
What motivates you? What drives you to make choices in your life? There is an opposite to love, and it isn’t hate; it’s selfishness. It isn’t possible to live a life full of love for God and others while pursuing everything you want for yourself in your life. This is what we stress to the young people. Love is selfless. If you want to know what else love is… come by the youth building sometime to see our “love is…” poster collection by the door. It’s just another way we try to remind the young people that it’s all about LOVE.