Easter this year consisted of a passionate worship service followed by a chilly beach baptism in the fog. I ran home afterwards to ignite some charcoal and start my mad dash of preparation for a deluge of friends barreling towards me for an Easter BBQ. About 20 of us enjoyed linguica, chicken grilled to perfection (by this sexy man), garlic-cheesy bread, various sides, and most of all, fellowship. As the afternoon wound down, about five of us took a nap on various couches and recliners in my living room.
Out of the haze of horizontal digestion, someone outside said, “Hey, here come some Mormons!” Two young men approached sporting suits and “Elder So-and-so” nametags. The love we shared that bright afternoon overflowed to them, and while I continued my lounging, my friends loaded them up with our abundant leftovers and treated them like honored guests.
The two stayed for about an hour, which I’m pretty sure the LDS police wouldn’t have approved of. And they didn’t spend the time talking about their gospel, they just sort of hung out. Their youth struck me: they looked like kids. Lonely, overworked kids desperate for love and family, stumbling upon it by divine chance.
We joked about their plush assignment in our area and asked if they enjoyed the beach. They replied that they weren’t allowed to go on the beach. I couldn’t imagine a more complete contrast than between these the two young men and my free-flowing, jovial, hugging, laughing Everyday family. We laid hands on them, prayed for them, and said goodbye.
Learning to love
Many of the most important parts of the Christian walk are simple. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” “There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
At the same time, acting them out in our daily lives is hard! How many walk out or daily lives without a shred of condemnation?
The command “Love one another” is one of these simple, impossible commands. We all believe it’s important, but we regularly fail to walk it out. We generally don’t need another sermon on I Cor. 13 to teach us to love better; we need examples of what love looks like. At Everyday, my brothers and sisters have given me such examples, even treating a couple passing Mormons like good friends.
Three thoughts about love
Love disarms. We could have argued about theology, but they would have raised their missionary masks, their humanity lost to us. Instead, through love, we saw an incredibly rare sight: Two Mormon missionaries without masks. We glimpsed their deeper hearts, the hearts God longs to touch. When we lead off with truth, people retreat into a fortress. When we lead off with love, they put down the drawbridge and welcome truth in.
Love transforms. I’ve watched broken, hurting people walk into a small group for the first time and collapse in tears when loved. I’ve experienced change in my life simply because the people around me have shown love. Sometimes, we try to pound people into freedom from addiction: just stop drinking! However, when we love, people become whole then seek their own freedom. Mysteriously, when you accept people in their sin, they’re more likely to find freedom from that sin.
Love is fun. When we learn to do relationships well with people, we know more peace in our human interactions. When you host a BBQ and love runs high, we have fun! At times, love is hard: You have to forgive and do good to your enemies. But a whole community that loves effectively is a joy.
What your church must do
So, one thing your church must do is this: teach you to love better. Ironically, we more often focus on the preaching, music, and age demographics. But all history’s sermons will only help a little in this key part of Christian maturity; this growth must be walked out in community.
And a vital part of this (perhaps the subject for a future post) is learning to receive love better. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have.
And the ultimate result? What does God want to accomplish through our love? Nothing short of the salvation of the entire world. “By this, all men will know you are my disciples: if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
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