the greatest and most difficult commandment

On Thursdays I have a group of students I meet with at a local high school. These students are all friends yet the reason why they meet each week is for support. WIthin the last year all of these friends lost a friend to suicide. One of their friends was in a dark place that eventually caused him to take his own life.

And, they don’t want anyone to ever have to go through this again alone.

So, we have met every Thursday since January. Each week we have discussed issues like stress, resources, relationships, decision making, and the future. Weekly we check in to see how everyone is doing and making sure that needs are met.

While we have been meeting one of the girls has lost a parent to cancer and a friend to a drug overdose. We were there for her as she struggled through these horrible events.

Yet, there is one thing I haven’t told you about: there is a high probability that most of these students will ever set foot inside a church. In fact I think that if I pushed God very hard with them they would likely shut down and stop coming to group. There are atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, as well as a few who would say they believe in God. Yet, we come together to support each other each week.

As a former minister, this is a bit of a conundrum. For the last eight years I felt compelled to get people to my church. That was the goal. Maybe it was a sense of duty or job security. Not sure.

But, with these students I’m not quite sure what my role is.

When I read the gospel reading this week, I see Jesus commanding those who would eventually betray and deny him to love one another as he loved them. I love the way Allen described the story on Monday in our opening blog for the week.

And, I can’t help but to think that Christians have lost a little spine when it comes to loving people like Jesus did. We seem to be quite threatened when the possibility arrises that a return will not be made on our investment with people. That is, if there is a small likelihood that a person will ever come around to the things I believe about Jesus and church, should I even bother?

I met with a group of youth ministers a few months back who were struggling with this idea. I felt bad for these guys because of the pressures they often face as ministers to bring students to a building. They expressed frustration about how their local school districts wouldn’t let them in the schools. When I posed the idea that even if they were able to go into the schools, many of the students they would encounter might not go to their church, they seemed a little dejected.

While I understand this, I wonder if we might be missing the point. If Jesus was able to look his betrayer in the eye and say “I love you” while sharing the passover meal, can’t we love people who might not like or agree with our faith without moderation?

Instead of trying to get people on our side, what if we tried to align ourself more with Christ’s love and get on his side? How would things look different if we loved without expectation of repayment?

This is the work of the greatest and most difficult commandment: “Love each other like I loved you”.

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