I asked a friend, David Swanson, to respond to the “current moment,” particularly speaking as a pastor to our children, our church’s children, stating what things we might say. I’m grateful for his careful reiteration of a basic truth.
To Our Church’s Children,
In my sermons to your mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and the other adults in our church, I often tell them that, though there are many, many important things about them, there is one thing that matters the most: each of them is loved deeply by God. You are generally not in the room when I say this, but I know you hear it from the adults who love you and from the teachers who tell you the story of how God is rescuing this world through Jesus. Even so, I want to say it to you too. Of all the interesting, beautiful, and challenging things that make you who you are, the most important of all is that God loves you.
I know this might not sound so important. Most of you have people who love you and they tell you this. But if you could see what I see when I tell the adults that they are loved so completely and profoundly, you might begin to suspect that there is more to this simple statement. And there is, mostly because it is God and God’s love we’re talking about and whenever we talk about God we have to be humble about all we don’t know. We have to, in other words, admit that we will always be discovering new ways that God loves us. And we’ll be discovering for the rest of our lives how this love changes us and everything around us.
But there is another reason it is a life-long struggle to accept all of God’s love for us and this one is harder. We live in a country where it is normal to make people feel less worthy of love. There are many reasons given for this lie: girls can hear that they are less worthy than boys; children with darker skin can hear that they are less worthy than their friends with lighter skin. Does this make sense to you? I hope it doesn’t, but I need to tell you that for too many of the adults in this country it does make sense. I don’t want you to imagine that the adults you love actually think these lies are true, but this country finds so many tricky ways to tell us these lies that they begin to wiggle their way into our thoughts and our hearts.
These lies are the hard reason that we have to hear over and over again that God loves us. Because when we live in a place that lies to us all the time, trying to convince us that some people are more loveable than others, we have to hear loudly and clearly that we are loved. We need to know that the One who made everything, including us, loves us. He loves us exactly as we are, as boys and girls with hair that is just the right texture and color, with eyes and noses that are perfectly shaped, and with skin that can’t be improved upon. Look at yourself in the mirror and know that God loves you.
I hope you will spend the rest of your lives exploring God’s love for you. And as you do, as you experience God’s love as the particular person you are, I pray that you will make sure that everyone around you knows that God loves them too. Because the lies are strong and constant and most people you meet will believe them at least some of the time. But, as you will find out, the lies have nothing on the truth. And the truest thing in the universe is that God loves. God loves you.