beloved communityAt Wild Goose this year, one of the things I made a point of doing is something I always do when I get the chance and that’s hang out with my pal, Hugh Hollowell. Now, if you’re around Hugh more than 5 minutes, the conversation will inevitably turn to his work and the people there. That’s not out of the ordinary, we all do it. The only difference is that, instead of sales and marketing or something equally mundane, when Hugh talks about work, it involves people who are at-risk, people who are homeless, people who are coming to the end of their rope. Because what he and the crowd at Love Wins do is to try to provide a little support for those folks.

Hugh and his friends go about that in a different way than most ministries or mission groups. You won’t really hear the ministry around them very much and, if you do, it’s probably not one of them saying it. The word you will hear them use is community, as in “This isn’t a ministry, it’s a community”. In other words, Love Wins isn’t a bunch well-to-do people giving handouts to poor folks, they’re a group of people from all walks of life working together to make each other’s lives a little bit better.

All too often, churches and faith groups don’t get this. They spend a lot of time and effort on the practical part of helping others and no effort at all on getting to know those others. When I moved back to Greensboro, the first church I attended was a Methodist one with a congregation that was pretty affluent. Whenever they talked about the various ministries they were involved in, I felt a vague sense of unease. It took me a while to figure out why, but I finally realized that they weren’t doing this work with the people they were assisting, they were doing it to them. It was really pretty impersonal.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment, he responded “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,and with all your mind. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” The first step to loving your neighbor is getting to know them because, as a smart man once told me, “You can’t really love someone you don’t know”. Look, I know it’s a lot easier to write a check or take a day and work in a soup kitchen. And, if that’s all you’re capable of right now, that’s okay. But, don’t stop there. Because the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t about one group slumming to help those who have less than them. It’s a community where we all share everything we have with each other. It’s a place where love wins.