This is the article I wrote for the October Parent Newsletter for our Youth Ministry:
Bart Campolo, veteran urban minister and activist who speaks and writes about grace, faith, loving relationships and social justice, was this year’s speaker at Forest Home’s “Briefing”—a weekend conference for adults from 18-35—to which a few of us from the Young Adult Bible Study went. On the second night, Bart talked about how church can be a dangerous place for people who don’t get “the order of things” right.
Bart said, “in this universe, God always makes the first move, and his first move is always to love you.” Now, although we may hear that God loves us all the time (it’s even on hokey little bumper stickers), I think we forget it more than anybody. We tend to talk as though our relationship with God was our idea but the truth is that God chose us, we didn’t choose God. God loved us and we simply love God because God first loved us. Our love for God is wholly a response to God’s love for us. God doesn’t love us because of anything we do… remember, He makes the first move. Nothing we can do can make God love us any less or any more. That’s the first move, that’s the highest priority.
Now what does this have to do with priorities? How could not understanding this make church a dangerous place? Well, at church there tend to be a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts.” We tend to give people lots of things they can do—join a board, go to Corazon, teach Sunday School, give money, donate something, go to Bible Study, read the Bible, pray a lot, sing the hymns, listen to the sermon, etc. And if we don’t understand that none of this will make God love us any more or any less, if we don’t get that God makes the first move, then all that stuff is just going to pile on you and make you feel burned out on top of everything else in life. But if we understand that all of these things are a response to the love of God, then we’ll want to do them, not out of obligation but out of a desire to be with the one who loves us. We won’t try to serve in order to fulfill some duty or obligation. We would serve because that’s what God is up to, and we want to be a part of it. We won’t pray because we’re nervous that God won’t recognize our voice but because we want to communicate and commune with the one who loves us.
If we don’t put God’s love for us at the top of our list, at the center of our wheel, so that it transcends all of our other priorities, our lives are just gonna get bogged down with stuff and we’ll be blind to the true presence of God in all of it. If we do everything…yes everything… as a response to the love of God, it’ll change what we do, what we want to do, and how we do it. If we don’t have a clear sense of the one thing that’s really important, then our hands are going to get filled up with all sorts of other things, good though they may be, so that we’ll be unable to grasp the one important thing.
Why do you go to church?
Why do you serve on a board?
Why do you go to work?
If you do it all as a response to God’s love for you, rather than as a way of earning it, then chances are you’ll be free from the burdens of obligation and climbing some ladder to a higher status.
“In this universe, God always makes the first move, and his first move is always to love you.”