This summer has been quite a busy one for me. I had church camp, immediately followed by Texas Youth Academy, also immediately followed by BIG HOUSE. It feels a lot like I’ve been doing ministry on the road for the summer. I’m inspired by the opportunity to witness to youth looking for spiritual formation amidst the summer fun. Youth programs, such as these, were integral to my own formation as a Christian, so I proudly choose to serve as much as I can hoping to pass on that experience to someone else.
At Big House, I had the opportunity to share the messages. WOW! was it different preaching to 80 middle schoolers! I just talked about comic books more than I normally do and things seemed to work out well. We talked all the way through Romans 12, a chapter full of quality practical advice from Paul. All of his instruction can easily be summed up the same way Jesus did: Love God and Love Neighbor.
Yawn! We’ve all heard that before, right? Wrong. This message, the message at the heart of the gospel, the greatest commandment of all, is all too often misunderstood. Or not heard. Maybe we know it, but do we act upon it? From my best observations, its not easy for middle schoolers to connect loving and respecting their friends with loving God theologically. Adults are rarely better. We are nice to other people because culture demands it, our success depends upon it, and there are laws that prevent us from murdering each other. We may or may not love God, but our private relationship with God has little to do with “those people.”
I’m certainly guilty of this. But we cannot separate out a love of God and all that is holy from loving others. So here’s the difficulty I found: how do you convince middle schoolers that constantly deflating each other’s air mattresses is just as much a witness of your faith as working on houses and painting porches? Of course, junior high will be junior high and we can’t be too terribly harsh upon them having fun. But it did open my eyes to our deep need to love one another. That Christian community can and should be different, because we have a great reason to be: Jesus.
Christianity means that we are all in it together. There is no private relationship with God that doesn’t include all the rest of us as well. We are all stuck with each other. As Paul reminds us, we’re all stuck to the same tree together. After all, if we don’t love each other, then we are only doing half of what Jesus asked.
Now that I’m finally home, my goal going forward is to love those around me in community, that in that I might find the glory and wonder of God.