Boys Town’s role in my Faith Journey
There’s all sorts of reasons why I believe Sarah and I felt that being a Family-Teaching couple would be a good thing for our family. I thought I’d provide a glimpse into the faith angle of why this is important to me.
There’s no doubt that this will be a huge sacrifice for our family. In a way we are giving up our lives to serve these girls. But through that, I believe that we are living out the gospel in a real, tangible, all-encompassing way. Jesus said that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” We are giving up our lives to serve these girls, and by doing so, we believe we are serving Jesus. We are putting our faith into action.
We believe that when you are serving those in need – the poor, the ignored, those who are sometimes hard to love – you are serving Jesus. We believe that’s what Christianity looks like.
Rich Mullins, one of my favorite musicians and a significant influence to my faith, said this about Christianity at a concert (of predominately white, middle-class people) back in the early 90s:
“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the wild where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your perfect little house where you have no gays or minorities anywhere near you. Christianity is learning to love like Jesus loved. And Jesus loved the poor. And Jesus loved the broken.”
Sarah and I believe that every single person on this earth has intrinsic worth because they are made in the image of God. I personally believe that one of the core elements of God’s relationship with us as individuals is that we receive so that we might give to others, whether that be love, comfort, grace, compassion, forgiveness, or patience.
I feel like there’s a lot that I could dive into about why this is theologically consistent to me, but at the end of the day it boils down to what I believe to be true about what the Gospel is all about. I believe that core to the Gospel is believing that because of Jesus we can know that we are loved by God. We don’t have to worry about our standing before him because in Jesus we are forgiven of any wrongdoings or sins. We don’t have to do things to be forgiven or loved by God. He’s loved us from the start. He’s forgiven us from the start.
We have a tendency to believe that we have to do good deeds, believe just the right set of doctrines, look and act just the right way, or say that right sort of prayer in order for God to accept us, to love us, or to forgive us. We burden ourselves by trying to define holiness through what not to do, what not to look like, what not to believe, and how others might view us. But we can never be holy on our own, through our own attempts. To wallow in our depravity or to try and live perfect lives does not seem like the way God intended for us to relate to him. To do so flirts with or even lives into a legalistic relationship with God. One where God is more like Zeus, ready to throw down lightning bolts because of people’s brokenness and mistakes. That’s not the God I know.
We are all born into struggle. We do things we don’t want to do, and we don’t do things we want to do. But if we are worried about our standing before God, then we fill find ourselves constantly focused on ourselves.
The thing is, God loves all of us right now as we are. It’s not about believing, repenting, or working hard enough. And it’s not about balancing out the bad out with the good. The hardest thing to believe in this world may be that there is an infinite and benevolent God that loves us infinitely and unconditionally. And frankly, I think that it’s hard for us to love unconditionally because we have a hard time truly believing that we are loved unconditionally.
We constantly want to belong. To believe that we are loved.
The hard thing is simply believing that we are, and then living like it.
But when we do, we find freedom. The freedom to live in gratitude to a God that loves us unconditionally. When we live in gratitude, we are able to find true satisfying joy. And when we live into that joy, we are free to love others well. That freedom enables us to be eager to do good works.
To me, that’s the Gospel. That because of God through Jesus, we don’t have to worry about ourselves or our status before him. We repent of a life of self-centeredness and begin living in gratitude for God’s love and care. We die to our old ways and are transformed by the renewing of our minds.
And as we mature and learn to live in gratitude, to practice it, we recognize that all people are valuable and loved just as we are. It’s not our place to judge and condemn, but it is our responsibility to exemplify God’s love towards others. To even be a proxy of that love. To be a tangible reminder of the reality of God’s unconditional love of all people. We get the privilege to tell people through our words, and especially through our actions, of that reality – that they too are loved and are valuable because they are also made in God’s image. They have intrinsic worth and value. They are loved and therefore are lovable.
A huge part of the freedom found in believing in Jesus and his resurrection is that we don’t have to spend the time and energy worrying about our standing before God. Knowing of our standing before God as loved and forgiven gives us the freedom to be eager to do good works towards others. To serve them as our equals, as our brothers and sisters. To laugh with them. To mourn with them. To live with them. To love with them. And therefore to laugh, mourn, live, and love with God.
To me, this is what the Good News is all about. And for Sarah and I to take this position as Family-Teachers, we get a unique and amazing opportunity to tell and show what it looks like to believe that we are all loved, and to live into the promises of God. That when they question if they are lovable, we’ll be there to show and tell them that they are. That when they question if God is real and if God loves them, we’ll be there to show and tell them that He is and He does. How do I know? Because we are there. And because we love them.
“Sin and grace, absence and presence, tragedy and comedy, they divide the world between them and where they meet head on, the Gospel happens.”
– Frederick Buechner