Loving Without an Agenda

A difficult year found me frustrated with those who claimed allegiance to the faith that I followed. Three years of constant life change found me tired and in need of a good friend. Jacob and I met when I was in middle school, and we had attended the same church during our teenage years. The river of time carried us to different geographical locations. He lived in New York while I lived about four hundred miles from where we grew up. We were both home for the holidays. It is a funny thing how we used to sit in church together each Sunday, and on this particular night we sat together in a bar. The next morning, I was to be ordained.

Wordsworth wrote of “spots of time” in his work The Prelude. Spots of time are snap shots that our minds store away as if they were great photo albums and our eyes were cameras. Sitting next to Jacob at Molly’s Pub the night before my ordination into a denomination that detests alcohol is a spot of time that definitely sticks out in my memory.

Time carries us away in manners other than physical distance. We can also be moved apart ideologically. Jacob now questions his faith to the point that he denies Christianity. I am a minister going to Bible College. Yet, despite differences of faith and distance of location, there is something that still connects us.

The tradition I am a part of teaches that any relationship with a doubter or non-believer must have an agenda. The way evangelism is often done looks so much like a sales pitch that people who do not know Christ see it as just one more marketing scheme aimed to get into their wallet. The idea of having an agenda in a relationship comes from a desire to serve God. While the idea is well intentioned, sometimes good intentions are rooted in misconceptions.

The Master taught us to love God and love people. The kind of love that He taught is a love that transforms. Transformation that takes place as a result of unconditional love has a more lasting effect than a quick sales pitch could ever have.

If time is a river, then humans are all traveling on it and separately experiencing their own journeys. We come into the world alone, surrounded by people who God gives us the chance to experience “spots of time” with. We leave the world alone, wandering into the afterlife with no full understanding as to what lies ahead. Spots of time are important and can be more than just photographs stored away in our mind. When we love unconditionally as the Master taught us, there can be those points at which two individuals traveling down their own journey meet and connect in the most meaningful of human experiences.

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Unconditional love happens in the strangest of places. Sometimes as believers we forget that some of the most significant spots of time in the life of Jesus took place with prostitutes, drunks, tax-collectors, and lepers. To the Pharisees, these moments seemed unimportant and unnecessary. Panning away from the table Jesus sat at, it would seem as if he were just eating dinner with friends of questionable character, and yet Jesus made even the most common of experiences with others count for something more.

My spot of time with Jacob in a bar on the night before my ordination as a full-fledged minister would raise eyebrows among believers within my tradition. Panning away from our table, it would look as if we were just a couple of old friends talking over a beer. Make no mistake, our shared experience involved some good brew; however, our connection point had nothing to do with alcohol. Our connection point was deep and honest conversation about faith.

Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved.

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