I wish I could share the experience of being out on the water surfing with our youth, the sheer joy they exude when they get the perfect wave, or some tube action, or a glimpse of the next set. I wish I could share the sounds of their laughter drifting in and out of the waves as they tease each other, compete with each other, and share tails of their surfing victories. There’s no way to properly video the post-surf-rinse-time when everyone gathers around the shower to rinse themselves and their boards of the salty water sticking to their skin. The rapid fire Spanish bouncing off each others damp towels and wet feet as they pass around bananas and pour each other some coffee. It is impossible to capture the beauty of their laughter bubbling out of their gut as they joke over smoothies; the evening sunset lighting the room with a pink glow. It is impossible to capture with pictures and even words, the community we have built here. With Christmas here it is even more bright and happy than usual as gifts are passed around and we all remember the birth of our Jesus.
How easy it is to see the love they all have for each other and for us during these times we get to spend together; it fills the house and the atmosphere around it. It extends onto the beach and can be seen by passers-by as they watch the massive group of youth run towards to water every week and their shrieks of joy as they catch the “biggest wave ever”! It is enough to bring anyone a warm feeling to their heart. Not that it’s cold, because it is impossible to be cold here, but you get the gist.
One thing I always ponder when I think on the topic of love, in light of our youth, is the fine line they must draw for themselves. Here at Casafé we teach the youth not to be friends with the world. We teach them not to indulge in the Jaco party culture and desperate attempts to escape their struggles.
We teach them to love their neighbours as themselves. Yes. Even their enemies.
How confusing it must be to be told to love your enemies, but also told not to be friends with the world.
Love is such a widely discussed phenomenon that we have an entire day set up to celebrate it, we have millions of books written about it, every song (it seems) on the planet is influenced by it, and every person has a story about it. Love can, they say, conquer evil. It is said to be the best thing there is, worth living for. People say love can achieve anything and with love all things are possible.
But, why don’t we have songs about loving those you’d rather hate? Those who you wish you could live without. The enemies of your life.
Why don’t we write books about following the greatest commandment we were given? We are told plainly in Leviticus 19:18 to “not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself.” How much clearer can it get?
How are we supped to walk the line between loving our enemies, and not being friends with the world (James 4:4)? Does one contradict the other?
How do we teach this to our youth? Our youth, faced with their culture, and the culture of their Church. Two cultures contradicting each other, teaching opposite things to these impressionable youth. How do we tell them to balance on that tightrope?
How about the boy who attends Church, youth group, and Casafé, has a budding relationship with God, and whose mom is a prostitute? How do we walk that line with him? How do we teach him to approach his relationship with his loving, caring mom? How do we bridge these worlds for him in his mind? In his world? How do we allow the message of a life following Christ, and a life loving his mother? When both messages are so important, but could easily be seen as contradictory.
How do we demonstrate to them that to love like Jesus is to love people even when things are unfair. A big theme with our youth is fairness, if one of them gets cookies, they all want cookies and will make their voice heard on the matter. In that light, Jesus loves even if it isn’t fair. Jesus took on all the sins of the world, one who was completely sinless died for all our sins, I wouldn’t exactly call that fair.
A gift we want to give this season is the gift of freedom though love. There is no need to hold those grudges or make those enemies. We don’t have to keep track of everything and keep things fair all the time. We are free to love people just for being people. We can approach anyone and everyone and love them like the brothers and sisters they are. How amazing! We don’t have to keep tabs anymore, we don’t have to hold onto this angst.
I can one-up this.
We don’t have to worry about JESUS keeping tabs and remembering all our mistakes. We don’t have to worry that God knows everything we have ever done or hold onto the lie that he loves us according to what we deserve.
No, God loves us unconditionally.
Even that one thing you hold against yourself. What a gift to share with our youth fighting the battles they fight. Involved in the war they are caught in just by living where they do. Yes, they are called to fight against the temptations to be friends with the world and seek Jesus with their entire beings; but when they fail and make mistakes, Jesus still loves them. He still loves all of us after countless lifetimes of mess-ups, pain, and disappointment. Our father sees only his children, who he loves more than anything.
This season we want to love freely. We want to let the love God has for us overflow to everyone we meet, especially to our beautiful youth. We want to pour into this community with everything we have and more, we want God to use us in ways we could never have imagined.
This is the life we have been called to. One of giving and giving and giving without ever expecting anything in return. This is the blessing of being a disciple, to give until we have nothing left and to let God make up the difference.