Allen Pirness | The Voice of Zion August 2023 - Column --
I had all but forgotten how enjoyable summer holidays away from school are, since the break between my final years of school and the first years of school for my children has been thirty years. Quickly the memories of carefree summers on the farm have returned as I observe my children cycle between boredom and adventure. Life consisted of seemingly endless days without ever leaving home, except for church on Sunday and the occasional trip to town. Throw in a few overnight stays at friends’ houses, a few days at Youth Camp and the occasional adventure to the beach or Moose Jaw’s “Wild Animal Park,” and that pretty well completed summer. They are good memories that time has polished to a warm luster.
I remember one phrase that my father told us when he was teaching a lesson at Youth Camp: “Summer vacation is not a vacation from the endeavor of faith.” In saying it he was reminding us how the enemy finds us even when we are away from the world, and we need to put sin away even in the midst of believers. It was secure to spend a summer away from the pressures of the world that found a young lad at school, yet it was true how peace of conscience could be taken away by falls into sin wherever I was. This phrase of my father’s has come to mind often when considering how we teach our young about endeavoring in faith.
At our Youth Day Camp in Rockford this summer, the theme was “Escorts,” which pertains to how we rely on each other on life’s pathway to heaven. I was given a Bible verse, John 15:12, on which to base my introduction. “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” My thoughts when preparing this were about how this teaching is applied to the relationships among the audience I was presenting to, children aged 7–13 who live in a large congregation. They came to the camp from a variety of home settings and family dynamics. Each child wanted to be there and the people who sent them wanted them to be there also. It presented a nice picture of the care and love in God’s congregation ensuring that our young would be raised in the fear of God.
It’s natural to think of presenting this topic as children begin to co-exist mostly with other believing children in the summer, away from school, attending large services, family gatherings and youth camps. It’s also important to consider at the end of summer when we’re approaching the return to school, because this instruction is for our interactions with all people in our life. I remember how the return to school always brought some anxiety and trepidation of having to resume our place in the world.
In school and often in the workplace we cannot choose our interactions, rather we are in an open environment that facilitates multiple and varied conversations. God has placed His kingdom in the midst of the world in such a way that the contact would be in everyday life. His desire is that all would be drawn to the kingdom of God, enter in through the door and make the journey of following His son in life, suffering and doctrine. This happens in the daily life around the world through the interactions with believers.
It often feels like it would be easier to face these interactions if we didn’t feel so sinful and lacking in understanding in matters of faith, but this is not true. God does His work through the ones who don’t have anything of themselves to offer. They can only offer what God gives them. The effect of the confession of faith is God’s doing. It would be tempting to try to avoid the question that others might ask: “Do you think I’m a Child of God?” Love of the undying souls of people compels God to use the mouths of His children to make known the separation from the family of God and to give simple, loving instruction to come unto repentance. When the heart is hard, this is met with defensiveness and ridicule. Then the Child of God is accused of judging and being exclusive. These are hard accusations to face because they don’t recognize the love that is being shown by speaking the truth. We’re not able to compromise with this truth. Apostle Paul wrote about the conjunction of love and truth where he stated that love “rejoices in the truth.” God doesn’t elevate the person speaking the truth above the person receiving the message of truth. Both are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God, yet God, who has created each of them, has the same hope of eternal life for each of them.
I’ve often considered what it means that God has created each person uniquely in His own image. It seems so fundamentally important to how God has intended for people to behave. This glimpse into God’s workings needs to be held dear so that it can shape us and ground us with humanity in humility. I think it means, at least in part, that God has given each person a creative spirit, that when fostered and directed in obedience to God’s will, serves all people. It’s required of us to not only do our best but to help others do their best, supporting and encouraging to serve with God-given gifts. This is consistent with Jesus’ commandment that we love one another as He loved us.
Jesus loved us so completely that He laid down His life as the sacrifice for human sin. He has left this power to forgive sins in His kingdom on earth. This gospel is carried on the feet of the believers as God’s Word tells us. We don’t discriminate where God sends us to preach the gospel. We marvel at its course in our lifetime and are thankful that it still remains with us. Jesus’ commandment to “love one another, as I have loved you,” reminds us that God has created each person with the desire that they would be with Him in eternity. He has given us His Word – His Son – who taught us in truth. This truth is yet opened securely by His Holy Spirit in the hearts and gatherings of His children. This, and only this, allows us to love one another as He has loved us: in truth.
As we return from a summer of togetherness where hopefully lasting friendships have been made and renewed, may we remember to pray that God will preserve us as His children at our workplace, our school, in the gatherings of believers and in the security of our home.
Allen Pirness, along with his wife Jessica and four children, recently moved to Minnesota. A former commodities trader in Lethbridge, Alberta, he is now full-time pastor for the Rockford congregation and also serves the LLC Communications and Mission departments.