Part of the gift of being a church with a clear sense of what our mission is is that it can so often make difficult decisions a lot easier. Last summer we were confronted with an invasion of sorts at Holy Trinity. A group of foreigners started filling our pews. Some even sat right in our seats. It was disruptive to us. They weren’t Lutheran. Of course, none of our reservations mattered a whole lot because our mission is "Loving Not Judging" and we weren’t going to hold it against them because they were Episcopalians. So we decided to love our newfound brothers and sisters. That was actually an easy decision.
But there have been other times when our mission of loving not judging at Holy Trinity has been tested and it hasn’t been so easy. A couple years ago one of our members got himself into some serious trouble. He was arrested for engaging in illicit sex with minors, something that happened while he had been serving as a missionary in Haiti. It was all over the news. And, as a congregation we were trying to make sense of it. Beyond the initial shock that we all shared, there were mixed reactions within our community. Some were sympathetic with Larry. Many were angry and disgusted with what he had done. A number of us expressed great compassion for the victims. Others focused their attention on supporting his wife, Margaret. Most of us got caught up in the details: the circumstances of Larry’s life, the way he was treated by the justice system, the age of the girls involved, the length of his sentence.
But it wasn’t really our job to weigh in on the details of the case or make a decision about the gravity of his offense. As a faith community, we only had one decision to make. And it was really quite simple. Would we love Larry? Would we love him with the mercy and compassion of Jesus? Would we love him as a child of God? That was our decision to make as a community. And we knew the answer to the question before it was even asked. Despite how we may have felt about his actions, yes, we would love our brother, Larry. It was an unpopular decision with the public. But that’s who we are at Holy Trinity. And it’s what it means to follow the way of Jesus.
The central command Jesus gives his followers in community is that they love one another. And that has to be where a ministry of love begins, in the way we show our love for one another. Of course, it doesn’t end there. It ends in the way we love the world around us as Jesus did. But we practice loving with one another. If we can’t get it within our Christian community, we’ll never be able to get it out there with the rest of the world.
I’m thankful to be a part of a faith community where we can experience something of the unconditional love of God in the way we love one another. “This is my commandment,” Jesus said, “that you love one another as I have loved you.”