I love The Princess Bride. It’s just a great movie where good prevails over evil and true love wins in the end! Wesley, the commoner, wins over the heart of the princess with his startling capacity to persevere every obstacle placed in front of him.
How about you? Are you also a believer in true love? God believes in true love. He is true love. He desires his mentors to be purveyors of the same.
This rises to the surface in His message to the Apostle John found in Revelation 2:1-4: “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (NIV, italics added).
God praises the church in Ephesus because they work hard for His kingdom. He recognizes how they persevere and praises them for their pure doctrine. They have no tolerance for wicked people in their midst, and they even stand up against false teachers. The Apostle Paul, who had warned them of the coming of false teachers many years before (cf. Acts 20:29), would have been proud of their diligent guard against error. This is a good church. They work hard for God. They persevere during trials. They fight for truth and correct doctrine. Certainly, this is a great church.
Yet, God finds something wrong with this congregation. In fact, He finds something so deeply wrong, that He warns them He is on His way to close them down – to remove their lampstand. Despite all of their correct behaviors and beliefs, they have lost sight of their first love. The problem is that God values love more than anything else. Without love, Paul teaches that our prophecies and speeches are all like clanging symbols to God (1 Corinthians 13). Christianity does not exist without love at its core – for God is love (1 John 4:8).
Mentors, what this means is that we can do all of the right things and study all of the right materials. We can quote the statistics, do the screening and recruiting perfectly. We can make the matches and grow our programs. We can do all of these things and believe all of the right information, but without love it is meaningless. Love precedes service. We know that inherently mentoring is an act of love. It starts with love, and it grows as love grows. Yet, in the midst of busy schedules and innumerous obstacles, we, like the Ephesians, can lose track of our first love. According to Thom Ranier in his book, Simple Life, love gets lost in the congestion and selfishness of an over-busy lifestyle (132-133, 2009).
Here are a couple of questions to consider today. How long has it been since your mentoring community gathered to share stories of love and compassion both given and received? Directors, when was the last time you gathered your team to speak with them, not about performance, but about appreciation, love, and the reason you personally became a mentor?