Last week I was thrilled to attend two record-setting events right here in Maine. We may be a rapidly aging state with looming economic challenges and growing rates of drug addiction, but we also have the opportunity to participate in a fresh outpouring of divine truth and love that can transform lives across all demographic groups.
The first event was a fundraising banquet for Young Life, a non-denominational Christian outreach focused on encouraging teenagers, having fun and sharing the good news that God loves them. Supported by more than 25 local businesses, schools, individuals and churches – including Bath’s Life Church and the Bath United Methodist Church, which were benefactors – the dinner drew nearly 150 people to raise money for Mid-coast Young Life in Bath – the country’s northernmost outpost for the global organization.
The second was the Why Jesus? 2016 Northern New England Conference on Evidence for Christian Faith, which drew 6,700 people to Bangor for what speaker Lee Strobel said was the largest apologetics conference in the country. Organized by the AIIA Institute in Monson, the event featured globally recognized lecturer Ravi Zacharias and a handful of others, who described why embracing an unseen God still makes sense in a modern society.
Both occasions promoted a radical, life-altering commitment to loving others. Because when you grasp the depth of God’s love for you and you surrender your life to him, his love will naturally flow out to everyone around you. Not just people who look like you. Or talk like you. Or worship like you. Or dress like you. Or live in the same neighborhood as you. Or vote like you. You’ll love because that’s what love does.
While Young Life’s leaders shared stories of kids whose lives have been transformed by that kind of love, I was haunted by the ones our community has recently lost: young people at the beginning of their lives who made the drastic decision to end it because they couldn’t find a way or a reason to go on. You probably know others, kids who might still be here if they truly knew who much they mattered and how deeply they were loved.
Sitting near me at the Bangor conference were seven teenagers from Chop Point school in Woolwich and one recent graduate – all carrying their own struggles and questions and dreams. On their behalf, I was privileged to ask Zacharias how today’s young people might hold onto and share their faith while embracing an uncertain future. He challenged them to pursue two things: unarmed truth and unarmed love.
“Make your daily life a life of devotion to God and always look at your fellow human being as one God gave his son to save,” Zacharias said. “Manifest the greatest commandment.”
What is that? To love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 26:33-40). That kind of love changes not only individual lives, it changes history. To help change lives right here in Maine, send an email to Mid-Coast Young Life at YLMidcoast@gmail.com