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Called to Love: No Disclaimers

I just finished an assembly program with 400 junior high students. There are some days when I feel the pain of the kids that I speak to more than others. Today is one of those days. I can’t stop crying. I can’t stop hurting. It’s like I feel what they’re feeling, and I sense the hopelessness of their questions, “Why not just die? Why not just end it all?”

In my assembly program I talked about bullying and showing respect.  A boy that is in a special needs class came up to me afterwards and started sharing about how others call him retarded and make fun of him. He shared about a class that he said would probably be his favorite, but he hates going because he feels so bad about himself when people make fun of him and put him down.

Then a sharp-looking red-headed kid with freckles all over his face came up to me.  I imagined that he should have had the bubbly joy of my daughter Joyel, but instead I saw pain in his eyes. The pain reminded me of a victim of war, which wasn’t far from reality for him.  People ridiculed and laughed at him, calling him a faggot bastard.  While waiting at the bus stop, kids would throw rocks and make fun of him. He feels like he’s all alone. “What do I do,” he asked? “How do I deal with it when they call me these names?”

All I could wonder is, “Where are the followers of Jesus that will stand up for the least of these? Who is there to love, encourage, and tell him he’s been made in the image of God? Who is there to give him hope?”

Then a senior in high school came up to me. I was surprised to see a high school student among all these junior high kids.  It turned out he was there because he was tutoring a photography class for 6th graders. He began crying. “I didn’t expect to come to an assembly program today,” he said, “but it’s what I needed so bad.” Tears streamed down his face as he began crying uncontrollably with snot coming from his nose. “I had a horrible weekend,” he continued. “Six of the jocks in school followed me to my car and called me names and kept saying I was gay, and they beat me up.” My heart sank as I watched his pain-filled face. “But the worst thing was when no one would even stop the junior high kid from spitting on me.”

No one. No one. No one deserves to be treated like this! May the people of faith be the ones that are leading the way to seek out opportunities to love, to understand, to invite, to care, to defend, and to stand for justice. Real righteousness is found when you care for the dignity of every person, even the person you disagree with.

The principal came up after witnessing those three kids talking with me. “I can’t believe the impact you just had on 400 kids, and you held their attention for 45 minutes,” he said. “They laughed and cried and absorbed every word you said. But to have them trust you so much to share these deep stories – that says a lot. This is a gift back to you, showing the difference you’re making. Thank you. This is exactly what our school needed.”

He continued to tell me there are three things the school is trying to teach students: respect for themselves, respect for others, and respect for property. “You hit every single one,” he said. “It’s like you designed this talk for our school, and we want to get you in every school possible.”

Honestly, it pains my heart that we have allowed some of the struggles that these kids are dealing with to become an issue to debate, instead of loving people. No matter what stance you feel you need to take on an issue, God has commanded us to love others. There are no disclaimers. God forbid that we allow some of the struggles that these kids are facing to become a political platform, a theological issue to be debated, or something that we want to protest and picket. Because in the mean time, kids are struggling with their value and worth as others who are fueled by self-righteousness treat them as sub-human. And we silently stand by.

God help us to stand up for the value of every person.

This is what we’re called to do – to bring hope to the kids who are ready to end it all, and to challenge people to treat each other with love and respect. We get to tell people they’re valuable no matter how people rip on them, beat on them, or put them down.  Thank you for supporting this ministry, and those kids, through your prayers and support. Thank you for standing with us and being another voice that wants to not only proclaim the love of Jesus, but show it.

For the Kingdom,

Bob Lenz

Founder & President
Life Promotions, Inc.

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