I just returned from leading my first of two trips with Youth Works Missions this summer.
While on our trip in Red Lake, I frequently heard Youth Works staff describe the purpose of their summer ministry using the phrase, “We get to love on this community!”
Each time I heard this phrase, I wanted to vomit. It pushes my buttons in the same way that our culture's love of tolerance does.
(Lest you think I'm hypocritical, I'll admit that when I worked for Youth Works, I, too, frequently used the phrase, 'love on'.)
Maybe it's an evangelical thing.
Maybe it's a missions thing, an effort to protect ourselves from actually loving someone in a way that requires relational risk.
Maybe it's a Youth Works thing.
What it's not is a Biblical thing.
Oh, sure. Scripture – and in particular, Jesus – say a lot about love.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” - Matthew 5:44
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ - Matthew 22:39
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:34-35
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” - John 15:12-13
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” - 1 John 4:7-8
Notice what's missing in each of these passages?
The word “on”.
Scripture does not command us to love on anyone. It commands us to love people. Period.
Now, this may seem like mere semantics but in actuality, I think it's much more than that.
When we describe our Christian love – the love that is, as 1 John claims, from God – as something we put on someone, we cheapen it. After all, if we can put something on, then we can also take it off.
But do we really want to be able to do that with our love?
Don't we instead want our love to be lasting? To be transformational?
I know I do.
I want the fruit of my relationships – whether they be with my family, friends, or the students in my ministry – to be love; The kind of love that cannot be put on and taken off.
I want my service to be marked by love – the kind of love that unashamedly declares to the world that I am a follower of Jesus.
I want my time during a week-long summer mission trip to be spent loving people, so deeply and so authentically that both they and I are changed – not just for that week but forever.
So Youth Works, think we can stop loving on people and just start loving them instead?
(I’m posting every day this week as part of Conversion Diary's Epic Blogging Challenge.)