Hello from Maryland! I am currently on a few-week trip back to The States to attend the weddings of a few great friends. Since I will be celebrating it quite a bit over the next couple weeks, I thought there would be no better topic to discuss than love.

If I am 100% honest, love is not a topic I dwell on often. As a typical boy growing up in the United States, my thoughts were mostly occupied by G.I. Joes, the woods, cars and sports. This changed to some degree over time as I became more interested in the opposite sex, but love still wasn’t something I discussed without being coaxed. Even with this being true, love was certainly an important part of my life and made a difference in who I became as I grew older. What I mean is the fact that I was loved – by my family, friends and a few important adults who were willing to invest in a snot-nosed kid – impacted the way I saw myself and the world around me. I believe being loved not only created more joy in my life, but among other things, gave me the confidence I needed to believe I could do great things with my life. At times, I don’t know that I was even aware of how much I was loved, but it was always an important undercurrent in my life. I don’t think this is a coincidence. In fact, I believe we were designed to love and be loved, most of all by God.

I think if we are honest, we know this intuitively. I have had the opportunity to be around many of my friend’s children shortly after their birth and, even at such a young age, the touch and love of their parents makes everything better. This desire to be loved doesn’t change as we get older. You only have to turn on pop radio for a few minutes to know that finding someone to love you and to love is something most people believe they need to feel whole. Whether it is a romantic relationship, family or just a good friend, knowing someone truly loves us for who we are changes our perspective on our value and life. The Bible speaks to this as well. In John 4 Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman who had been searching for a long time for someone who could truly love her. This had led her to marry five different men and to live with another when none of those relationships worked out. She knew that she was designed for love, but apparently hadn’t found someone who would love her unconditionally. Jesus, knowing this, tells her the only real source for the love and significance she has been looking for is a relationship with God through himself. In John 15 Jesus, in one of his last teachings to his disciples, tells them to remain in his love as he has remained in the Father’s love and commands them to love one another. When asked for the greatest commandment, Jesus says love the Lord your God with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself. In Corinthians 13 Paul tells us that without love nothing else we do really matters. Paul also says in Colossians 3 that love is what binds all other virtues together. These are just a few examples of the importance God places on love. In many ways, the Bible is the story of God’s love for His most precious creations, us. You see, ultimately, as much as the love of another does make a difference in our lives, the love we were designed for is the love of our Creator. I believe until we understand this, we will never truly comprehend what it really means to be loved. Coming to know the depth and realness of God’s love puts all other love in its right place and, therefore, allows us to experience love in all instances the way love ought to be.

Once we understand love in this way, we are able to a part of spreading God’s love. This is a big part of what is means to follow Christ. Christ calls us to love people the way he loves us and to therefore be a part of his redemption plan. This is an incredible opportunity for us as Christ Followers. In understanding love the way it was created to be, we have the ability to love people the way God designed us to. The best part about this calling is everyone was created to experience love in this way and, at the deepest level, has a desire to be loved the way God loves us. This certainly means loving people who can be hard to love at times and engaging with people we may prefer to avoid, but what it doesn’t mean is doing something that won’t make a difference in this world. When people experience the unconditional love Christ has put in our hearts, the love they were designed for, it could very well change their lives eternally. In other words, our job is just to be a picture of the very thing they are hoping to find. Do you see your life in this way? You are loved to love. If your life is anything like mine, there are plenty of people in it who don’t know what it means to truly be loved. What are we going to do about it?

Nicaragua has taught me the truth of this at a completely different level. In a place where many people are struggling to survive and the consequences of this are everywhere, it is not hard to find people who need to know they are loved. Every day I drive by people who have no idea where their next meal is coming from. As I work in orphanages and in the communities surrounding them, I interact with many people who don’t know what it is like to be loved by someone who will never fail them. The enormity of it can be quite intimidating at times. At the same time, there is a great opportunity to be a part of God’s plan. A couple of weeks ago, a group of women from Crossroads Community Church was in town and showed this kind of love to the community of El Canyon by setting up a health clinic and playing with kids. Two weeks ago, Pastor Josue, a pastor in the community, Victor, one of my partners in ministry, and I started a discipleship class to tell the young adults of El Canyon how much they are loved.  In the development programs we are partnering with churches to create around Nicaragua, VNDF hopes to be a part of showing people how loved they truly are.  One of the best pictures of this I see on a daily basis is Maria Jose and her staff at the Puente de Amistad orphanage that choose to live with and love kids who have been abandoned by almost everyone else.  Just as was true in my life, I believe when people understand how loved they are it will change their lives and, in turn, Nicaragua and maybe even the world.

The church is the hope of the world because it is loved. Let’s get out there and love someone.

-James Belt

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