When first chatting with the event organizer, the theme of “love” came up. During that conversation I shared a phrase I used a lot during my time as a youth pastor. It has ended up becoming the theme of the entire weekend: “God loves you, and there’s nothing you can do about that!”
A little in-your-face, admittedly. But nevertheless true. For me, proclaiming God’s love is vital, especially to a those in a social and developmental stage that need to hear it. Especially when the world is–more and more–perceiving Christians as people of hate. Especially because God is love.
I realize that speaking so boldly of love carries a danger with it. After all, there is Gospel AND Law. Not just gospel alone. God confronts us with both a Yes and a No. There is meant to be repentance and responsibility in all of this. I get that, and I admit it. But then I think that the everyday failures and brokenness of the world–and ourselves–speak pretty loudly to the fact that we’re aware of sin. Even if not our own, then at least the world’s. We are broken people who live in harsh place. So if I’m going to lead with something, it is going to be that God can overcome our pain, estrangement, fear, and sin…with LOVE.
The constancy of God’s love for us–which admittedly, we can choose to accept or reject–is important. By affirming that God’s love is there for us and available for us regardless of who we are or what we have done is essential. It is not changing or capricious. You don’t earn it. This, my friends, is gospel.
I believe that if students can emerge from this weekend definitively knowing that God loves them, it really matters. Regardless of where they go from here and what happens, being convinced of God’s love is vital. This is an essential foundation upon which I hope a great deal else is built. In this, the churches, ministries, and pastors represented have the important and continued task of discipleship before them.
There’s more to the weekend itself than just a proclamation of God’s love for us, of course. I’ll also be talking about how this love comes to so permeate us that it necessarily involves becoming more like God and exhibiting a love for others. But then, of course, the root of this response is just that. A response. To a love beyond our own. To a love that defines Love. To the love of God that knows no bounds, and is here for us even now.
That might be dangerous, but I’ll take it.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)