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Love without an IF
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While Paul Knight, a pastor was visiting Fiche, Ethiopia, he had the chance to meet the little girl his family had been sponsoring through Compassion International.

He wanted to bring gifts to the girl and her mother, a single mom who lived and worked in a one-room home that also basically functioned as the local bar.

During Paul's visit, the place slowly started filling with rowdy men from the community. Suddenly, Paul's guide and translator took him by the arm and said, "We have to go now."

Paul looked back at his sponsor child, a ten-year-old girl, and asked for more time. The crowd was getting louder, and his guide firmly said, "It's not safe for you. You must leave now." Paul started to move, but then he pointed to his sponsor child and said, "But what about my little girl?"

"Well, this is her home," the guide said.

Reluctantly moving to the street, Paul asked, "But will she be safe?"

"It's not really safe, but this is her home," the guide said.

Paul was indignant. "What does that mean," he asked, "that 'it's not really safe'?"

"Most likely everything you think it means," the guide said.

Paul fought back tears. "What can she do?"

Scream and Run to the Church

Gently grabbing his arm, the guide said, "We teach the girls to do this: scream and run to the church. When you get to the church, you will find love and safety. The church will shelter you. So when they feel threatened or vulnerable, they scream and run to the church."*

When I read this story, I wondered to myself if there are people in the United States who would love to find a safe haven, but have not found churches to be places of shelter for them. Or perhaps, they have gone to a church to find love and acceptance, only to find division and indifference.

If we attend a church, the responsibility lies with each of us to make sure that hurting people who cross the threshold of our spiritual communities find warmth, decency, and acceptance...no matter what their station in life....love without an IF.

I once had a conversation with a man who was absolutely convinced that the church that he attended had "doctrinal truth" all sewn up. I asked him, "What would cause anyone to desire to have a relationship with the congregation that you are a part of?"

His answer was simple and combative: "We have the truth, and people are attracted to that. If they don't like the truth, I guess they can just stay out!" His words were almost "spit" at me, and I wondered to myself as I walked away, just how many people could possibly be attracted to that mindset.

If love is not the answer....what is? The Bible says,  "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).

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By Michael Temple. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

* Matt Woodley, "Church2Church," Leadership Journal (Spring 2011)

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