How he loves!
For as long as I can remember, everyone in ministry has been trying to communicate to this broken world that there is a God and that this God loves them very much. So much, that He gave His only son to pay for our sins so that we can be in restored relationship. And in this restored relationship, we can now be fully embraced by God and live in the spotlight of his love and affection. We sing our anthem, "How He Loves," and our congregations and students swoon and weep as they celebrate over and over how much God loves them.
And the warriors of transforming God's image from a one of judgement and wrath to love have won! In fact they have won so much that nobody in the western world would even consider that there is a God who has anger or wrath. Ok, maybe some old skool boomers, and for sure some old skool boomer catholics. But everyone else has a one dimensional view of God and that is that God is Love!
Instead of our culture reciprocating God's love and returning His affection, we have become spoiled brats.
I recently was part of an intervention between some parents and their out of control daughter. She had been failing out of school, experimenting with drugs, and become toxic to her entire family system. In an evening blow up, I was called in as reinforcements. What sparked this outburst you ask? The parents decided that the first step of regaining order back into their home, was to take the phone away. NOOOOOOOO NOT THE PHONE!!
Students' phones are the only thing in their life that seems to matter to them. And loving parents who ooze love and grace to their kids and provide everything they could ever need or want, doesn't seem to reciprocate respect, love, or kindness. Instead, when the parents step in, for their kid's own good, they throw a huge temper tantrum.
Most of us our as spoiled and as entitled as the students we work with.
This sounds like a lot of Christians I know. We love that God loves us, and that means that he is to never stop pouring grace and blessing on us. But when that gravy train ceases either by God's providence, or by our dumb choices, we freak out and throw in the towel.
It seems to me that love being received by students doesn't cause them to change their life. And this is true in my own life as well. But what does cause life change is when we love somebody, we actually want to be more like them.
Think about your students for a second. Whoever is the alpha in a group at school or in youth group, the rest of the group tries to become more like that person in order to win their affection. Or, in a more noble way, think of how you love the person you are dating or married to. Because of your love FOR them, you long to to find out what pleases them and blesses them and work towards that end. You don't sit around receiving love FROM them and then return the favor.
A fundamental change in focus:
If we really want our students to experience life change, then I think we need to change the focus of our ministries. Everyone gets that God loves us, but nobody gets that we are to love God in return. Maybe that needs to be the focal point of our ministries these days. What matters is not that you believe that God loves you or not, what matters is whether or not you love God.
Life change happens when we love! Not when we are loved.