This is Pastor Dave writing to you from before taking my Sabbatical. I wanted to leave for you all a few blog posts to read while I am away this summer.
Why is Love so Important?
Shea was a good kid. He was young boy who had Down’s syndrome. He was walking down the street with his dad one day when he saw some boys his age playing baseball. Shea asked his dad if he thought they would let Shea play. His dad, thinking, “No, probably not” but also thinking, “It would be great if he could,” decided to ask. So he asks and the kids say, “Sure.” They explain to Shea, “We’re in the field now. You can be on our team. Come on, it’s the top of the ninth inning, Shea can play in the outfield with us, and hopefully get a chance to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.”
So Shea ran out there and played out in left field, grinning from ear to ear, but not a ball came his way. It didn’t matter though, he was just happy to be there. Then his team came up to bat, and it was time for Shea’s turn. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, there were two outs, and it turns out that the bases were loaded and Shea was lined up to be the winning run.
You can imagine some mental scenarios happening about now. The boys on Shea’s team might be thinking, “Oh, no, we had a chance to win, and now we’re not gonna win.” The boys on the other team might think, “Alright! Now we’re definitely gonna win, this is great!”
Then something amazing happened. When Shea got up to bat, the pitcher, who could have easily struck Shea out, took two huge steps toward home plate and lobbed him a slow underhand pitch. Unfortunately, Shea missed completely. Then the pitcher did something amazing again. He took two more giant steps forward, even closer, and slowly tossed him another pitch.
This time Shea hit the ball, but he had barely made contact and the ball just kind of dribbled beyond the plate right toward the pitcher. The pitcher could have easily just walked home toward Shea and tagged him out, effortlessly, or thrown it to first base for that matter. The point is that he could have gotten him out easily. But he didn’t. Instead, he fielded the groundball, and then threw it in a very high arc over the first baseman’s head. Then he turned to Shea and said smilingly, “Run, Shea, run!” Shea ran to first base. It was the first time he’d ever been there in his life! The ball ended up way out in right field. But when the right fielder got the ball, he threw the ball in a high arc over the second baseman’s head out into left field. Shea was pointed to second, and then third, and the third baseman pointed him home.
Shea hit a grand slam and he won the game for his team! Now that is a great story. But think about what makes this story good. What’s most moving about this story is not that Shea hit a grand slam. It is that those boys got outside of their clique and decided to accept and love someone who was not like them. Instead of rejecting Shea, they showed him intentional, purposeful acts of love. They embraced someone who needed love as much as they did.
Take the story one step further. Remember, Shea’s dad was watching this amazing scene unfold from out on the bleachers. What was that like for Shea’s dad? Did those young boys just love Shea, or did they also love Shea’s father in the process? You see, the Bible teaches that when we love those around us, we actually love God.  After all, they are His children.
Now ask yourself a question, who is it in your life who is difficult to love? Certainly, you would agree that for those young boys, Shea was neither an easy, nor a natural candidate for them love. Who is it that is difficult for you? Who is it that has lied to you? Who is it that is so annoying you think you can’t love them? Who has rejected you? Who has betrayed your trust?
Now imagine that person up to bat in Shea’s place. Where are you on the field? Are you in center field, with your glove thrown down, because you’re so upset that you didn’t get your way? Or, are you the pitcher, who is purposefully and intentionally taking steps toward the batter?
Ask God to give you the opportunity to be like that pitcher. What if we all did this? What if we all committed to love one another? Would it make a difference? Would anyone notice? Are people looking for this kind of church? We believe they are. Missional pastor Ed Stetzer says,
“People are not looking for a friendly church, they are looking for friends.” 
Who could you be a friend to? A withdrawn neighbor? An isolated family member? An arrogant co-worker? You might be thinking, “That will be really hard.” You are right, it is. We have the hardest time believing that God would put the greatest rewards on the other side of something difficult. Our entitled culture tells us that we should have everything we want whenever we want, with little or no effort on our part, but this is not God’s reality.
The beautiful thing is that when we take that step of faith into something difficult, God is waiting and empowers us, literally carrying us through the difficulty. Consider this as you think about loving someone who you have written off as so unlike you. Think about the amazing reality of God working through us and the blessings that follow.
Would that be a vision worth pursuing?