Since becoming the youth ministry leader with Mary, I have felt that I need to teach about the Old Testament stories, with the emphasis on love. Now, I’m feeling the need to stress more out of Jesus’s teaching on the “Sermon on the Mount,” (Matt. 5-7 or Luke 6). However, it can be frustrating when you don’t have instant changes. It is a slow process, that depends on relationship building with the youth, and for that matter, adults too. After 15 years in youth ministry, I still stumble with this. Just as it seems you are getting somewhere, one of the kids does something that is disappointing.
I realized, while Mary and I were on our vacation, that everything is a journey. That we all carry God’s image. That we all need each other to help raise each other up. However, the observations that God made in Genesis 3 (yeah, it was translated as curses, but that makes it sound like God put them on us. ) shows us how self-centered we are when we reject God’s image in us, and His ways. The internet has brought this out even more, as I read the comment sections on news websites. I read of some tragedy, and then I read the compassionless comments. The ones that are judgmental, like they know the best way to resolve the tragedy and deliver the punishment. Some call it justice, but most often it is revenge filled spite for with no mercy or grace.
I recently read the book of Jonah to the youth group, only I put in local places, and changed things up a bit. Since then, I have read over Jesus saying that the only sign of Jonah (Matt 12:38-41) will be shown to this generation. After reading Jonah, I wonder if we aren’t seeing this. The church in general sometimes gets so into the rules that get legalistic. So when someone preaches about love and grace and mercy, they are shouted down, or even asked if there is a sign that God has given them. The sign of Jonah that Jesus was talking about was about him dying and rising again, but I wonder if we can’t learn something about our generation here.
Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh and prophesy to them, because of the wickedness they were doing. He didn’t want to go, so he ran somewhere else. When he finally went where was supposed to go, he did so angry, and even when the Ninevites listened to him, and repented, he still wanted them destroyed. I wonder if this is the sign of Jonah to our generation. God is so full of love that when we reluctantly witness, we have no grace or mercy to really want them to change. Of course, if they do change then we pile all sorts of rules and stuff on them as Jesus says in Matt 23:15, and make them “twice as much the child of hell that we are” (Paraphrased).
So as I went on my rant…my point is that transformation is not instant. There needs to be love, grace, and mercy involved. The justice that is meted out should not be in vengeance, but a justice that corrects in love. This is the tension that I live in…