In her book I Am Enough, speaker and therapist Marissa Peer states that everyone has two core human needs, “to find connection” and “to avoid rejection.” As I read this, I was struck by how Jesus’ ministry is centered on these core needs.
Consider the fascinating stories of those who encounter Jesus. Whether it was the disciples, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, the women at the well, or the thief dying on the cross next to him in Jesus' last hours, each encounter reveals those who have felt the pain of being disconnected, devalued, or disowned by others. Yet their lives were forever changed through an experience through the person of Christ, whose very nature was to offer connection and acceptance. In Christ, they found the kind of love, forgiveness, and grace they had longed for. In Christ, their minds, bodies, souls, and very lives found the home they were dreaming of.
While much in the world has changed, and much in the world will continue to change, the human need to love and belong will be a constant. So, what does that mean for the Church? It means the core tenets of Christ’s mission and ministry will always be relevant and needed in the world.
Unfortunately, these core human needs are also why many have and will become discouraged, disillusioned, and eventually disassociate with the Church when the Church is not a place of love and belonging. Instead of finding connection in the Church, people can often find what they were trying to escape--divisions and discord. Instead of finding a place where they would be accepted for who they were, many find in the Church exactly what they have been trying to avoid—rejection.
Many have walked away from the Church because they were hoping for something better, something kinder, something more authentic than what they could experience everywhere else in their lives; they were hoping to find the love and acceptance Christ promises.
And so, we have our work cut out for us. The work might be more challenging, but the assignment is still the same. Jesus is calling us to continue to carry out his mission of sharing his love, forgiveness, and grace with the world. During his time on earth, Jesus extended radical love to those seeking to find worth, a sense of belonging, and acceptance, and we can too. Love is the answer.
Making a place for all love.
Breaking down barriers love.
Walking humbly with our God love.
Extending ourselves to others love.
It is that simple.
Love is what is needed. Love is what the Church can offer.
May it be so in our churches and our lives.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister