The bible tells us "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers... Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:16, 18
Several years ago a new preacher came to town. He was a little worn and bruised from life and his first ministry just up the road a few miles. The small church who invited him was a little worn and bruised too. It had been a while since the seats were filled with teens and children, even though the desire was there.
It didn't take long and God began filling the seats on Sunday morning with people who came from all walks of life. Some who had been raised in the church, but many more who had experienced religion but not Christ, Church but not love. Sunday night was the same, 40-60 teens right off the streets. No church background, some with low riding pants and hats resting sideways on their heads. But with McDonalds cups in hand, they came.
The first couple of years were electric. Baptisms almost weekly. Walls came down and more seats were added. And then it happened. The tattoos, the McDonalds cups, the volume of the music, the worn carpet and dirty walls, a few disrespectful comments, became stressful.. A decision had to be made. Who was going to give?
Isn't that the question when it comes to love? When it seems that the bill is adding up, when the cost seems to be all on you? How long do you keep giving? How much more do you give?
The next year at this small church the decision was made. Keep giving, keep loving, don't keep track of the cost. They also kept waiting for God to make His next move in the heart of those who kept coming through the doors. And you know what? God made His move, but it wasn't just in the hearts of the "new folks." He made His move in the hearts of those who continued to love and show grace to all.
Eight years later, that small church is now a big church. A church with big love. Big grace. Big heart for people who are looking for a 2nd chance and new beginning. A church that lays down her life for others that they would know the One who laid down His life for us all.
God bless the heart of the church that expresses His love not just with words, but with actions and in truth. For those of you who have gone and continue to go the distance at that small church, keep going. "This is how we know that we belong to the truth and we set our hearts at rest in his presence." 1 John 3:19