by Bob Ayres

As Campus Life leaders, we pursue lost young people with the love of Jesus Christ. Building relationships with students, in spite of their sinfulness, is fueled by our passion for sharing God’s truth. Willingly, we go where we may not want to be; among students who may not want us to be there. Entering the world of lost young people, as Jesus did, we walk “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) The hardest part may be remaining in friendships with emotionally wounded young people who express their pain as anger or hate. The temptation is to leave them behind and find others who are easier to love.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 summarizes this message of enduring endearment: “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.” This scripture expresses our high value in Campus Life on “loving relationships”. Through Christ, our love can be more enduring than their pain. Anger is exhausting. Christian love, which emanates from Christ, is strong. If you can get up one more time than you are knocked down in ministry, you win. Enduring love, in the name of Christ, makes all the difference.

Several years after his graduation, one of my former students who is fully self-identified as gay, contacted me about going with him to the doctor to determine his HIV status. This friendship was built through hours of listening to his heart, dreams and personal struggles without giving any endorsement his sexual behavior. We talked many times about biblical perspectives of what is appropriate and inappropriate regarding sexual relations. Yet, even in the darkness of his sin, he recognizes me as a loving presence in his life. My friendship reflects the mercy I experience from the One who is my Lord.

For a long time, I called this “unconditional love”. The word “unconditional” is much more a product of the 1960’s and 1970’s than an accurate expression of scripture. God’s love may be unmerited or unearned or undeserved or un-understood (that should be a word) but it is not truly “unconditional”. There is one huge condition and others that follow. We must give our life to Jesus. This is a condition of receiving the grace God offers. Grace is the gift; faith is our response. As theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer is oft quoted, Jesus bids us to “come and die.” God’s grace is not cheap; it “cost God the life of His Son”. (from The Cost of Discipleship).

In our Campus Life ministry, never think of “Loving Relationships” as an alternative to “Faithful Bible Teaching”. Christian love is a commitment based on truth as revealed in the scriptures. Love is much deeper than feelings that simply come and go. Sometimes, it means you just keep showing up. Even in the face of rejection, your commitment remains. You might even love them longer than they are angry or in pain. Enduring love, in the name of Christ, wins.

 

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