Blog from Kristy Engel….

I have been on the road recently, speaking and preaching in churches throughout the state of Maine. I’ve also traveled to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and India in the last few weeks! It has been a crazy beginning of autumn for me and the travel will only intensify over the next few months. I am asking for your continued prayers and for your continued support of this ministry as I spend more time away from home than in it.

The visits to multiple countries and congregations, recently, has really brought home a common theme: everyone wants to feel loved. I know that may sound trite and obvious but I’m not sure it is. From my perspective, the anger and demand for recognition that seems to be happening all around us and around the world, shows me that people do not feel unconditional love. And, because they feel this lack of love, they are trying to force others to “show” this love through things such as political maneuvering.

Now, please hear me as I write this…this will NOT be a political statement! This is simply an observation of what I’ve been watching happen around me. People are angry. People feel they aren’t being heard. People are desperate to make sure they get “a piece of the pie” or their corner of recognition. People fight because they aren’t shown love. People are taking sides and trying to push all of us to take sides. It’s really been quite troubling for me to watch.

I am taking a side. I am taking the side of LOVE. I am taking the side of Jesus.

When I speak about love…Biblical, Jesus-modeling love…I am seeing a wonderful response. Everyone I have spoken with agrees that we, as Christians, should love God and love our neighbor. No one has fought me on that. And, at least for the moment when we talk about this love, people are in agreement in spite of having different political or social views.

What is most troubling is that when the discussion is over, when I pack up my display table and my speaking materials to head to the next place, it seems that many revert to taking sides and making love conditional.

 “I will love you if you look like me.”

“I will love you if you speak like me.”

“I will love you if you practice religion like me.”

“I will love you if you vote like me.”

“I will love you if…(fill in the blank).”

 Unfortunately, this is not the love that Jesus modeled when he walked the earth. His love was not conditional on where we were from, what language we spoke, what political party we supported or what neighborhood we lived in. His love was for EVERYONE. Period.

 The crazy thing for me is that when you gather a group of Christians together in a room (no matter what their other differences are) they really will agree that God’s love is for all of us. It is in the practical response to that belief that we seem to diverge. And, I’m having trouble understanding why.

 It would be good for all of us to remember, myself included, that none of us deserve the love and sacrifice that God, through his son, Jesus, has extended to us. None of us merit grace. (it wouldn’t be grace if we did!) And, although we may have differing opinions, we are still required to show grace to the world. Yet, we often do not.

 My heart aches for those in the world that are shown less grace and love than I have been shown…than you have been shown.

 We often wonder why people are not flocking to the church when it’s such a great place (or has been for us). “Why don’t they want to be here?” we ask. My opinion is that we have not shown love the way Jesus has asked us to show it and people are avoiding judgment and conditional love.

 Parkway is a phenomenal example of love and has embraced me from the first day I walked through the doors. But I have to wonder if, for some, we need to do better. Maybe it’s not even within the church that the issue exists but rather our example OUTSIDE of the church doors.

 I would like to challenge everyone to stop and take stock of your witness in the world. Just for a moment, please.

Do your words (all of them) express love?

Does your behavior/action tell the world of the grace and unconditional love you’ve been shown? (or maybe, better yet, your absence of action?)

Do people see your form of “religion” as judgmental and conditional when they are around you? (do YOU live as if there are conditions on acceptance?)

These are hard questions, especially within a congregation like Parkway which, I believe, models Christ’s love. Yet…somewhere, in some way, we are very likely living into the discord that exists around us and we should continually examine our lives to find ways to live as examples of Christ’s model of love.

Where can you do better? Where can I do better? How can we do better, together?