“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us." (I John 4:7-12)
The United Methodist Church is a loving church. From time to time we may question this; and indeed there are occasions when United Methodists act in less-than-loving ways, but as a scripturally based Christian fellowship, we deeply believe in the words from John’s first epistle. We are a church of love.
Who do we love? We love those whom God loves. Who does God love? God loves God’s creation and all those created in the image of God. God loves God’s children. God loves the whole world. So much does God love the world that God sent Jesus to save and redeem us all. We cannot fully conceive of God’s love, but we BELIEVE.
God’s love is why we do all that we do. Our ministries are motivated by God’s love. Our plans are motivated by God’s love. And Launch Out! — our conference faith-raising campaign — is an affirmation of God’s love. How can this be?
Launch Out! will enable us to reach new people in new places with the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will reach thousands of people with the love of God. We will extend God’s grace to many who have never known acceptance and forgiveness. We will revitalize, reenergize, and resurrect congregations too long complacent, bringing a new day of meaningful ministry to churches long struggling and lacking direction. We will engage in transformative servant ministry, living the fullness of Matthew 25 — feeding the hungry, giving drink to those who thirst, clothes to the naked, comfort to the sick, care to the imprisoned and welcome to the stranger — as well as housing for the homeless, education for those deprived, economic justice to those unfairly treated, and a host of other ministries of comfort and care.
We will use the material resources of our time and place to faithfully honor and glorify God. We will take the concept of love and make it concrete. We will transform the inward and spiritual feelings of kindness, compassion, and generosity into the outward and visible signs of aid, service, and action.
We will not ask the question, “Who is deserving of God’s love?” Instead, we commit to the pursuit and achievement of unconditional love — love for all, freely given by the God who loves the whole world.
As we Launch Out! into deep waters of ministry possibilities, let us remember that we Launch Out! in love. We may do many wonderful things, but unless we do them in love they are meaningless. When our United Methodist Church formed, the delegates sang “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” May we join together that this sentiment be much more than a desire for the future, but a lived reality today.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).