By Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story, © 2000, pp. 44-46
The love generated by the Holy Spirit extends not only to people we know, but even to people we don’t. This was made very clear to me some years ago when I was the speaker for an evangelistic crusade held at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. The first night of the evangelistic crusade was a brilliant success. Thousands of people came to the meeting. There was good music and the Spirit of God moved among people, leading many of them to make decisions for Christ.
The following morning there was a meeting of the planning committee. I was surprised when I realized they were upset. Not with me or anything I had done; they were upset with the media. They complained about the fact that even though thousands of people had come to hear the Word of God the night before, the television stations and newspapers paid no attention to what was going on. I listened for a while, then gave them my opinion. I pointed out that Mick Jagger had been there the previous week, filled every seat in the place, and had gotten no media coverage. It wasn’t any big deal to the media, I explained, to fill a stadium or arena with thousands of people. Then I made a suggestion. “This is World AIDS Week. Let’s do something about that. If you want news coverage, just put out a press release that the offering from tonight’s meeting will go to programs throughout the Sacramento area that minister to people suffering from AIDS. If you want news coverage, you’ve got to make news! I want to tell you it’s news when a bunch of evangelicals are willing to express love in a tangible way for people suffering from AIDS. We say we love those people, but it’s usually a lot of words. Lets put our money where our mouths are and see what happens.”
This was several years back, when the fear of AIDS was at a fevered pitch and contempt for those who had this dreaded disease was omnipresent. Radio preachers constantly told the Christian community that AIDS was sent by God to punish homosexuals. The rhetoric about people with AIDS was absolutely horrible. However, the people running this crusade were godly folks and thought that even apart from any news coverage we might get, such an offering would be a good thing. After all, they reflected, the bills for running the arena had been paid, and most of the other expenses had already been covered.
That night the media coverage was extensive. All three major TV stations were there with camera crews, and the two newspapers were represented by reporters.
The mass choir sang, but the television cameras were not turned on. I preached, and they paid no attention. They were waiting for the offering at the end of the service. As the buckets were passed to collect the contributions that would go for people with AIDS, television cameras were turned on and newspaper photographers were snapping pictures. This was what they wanted to see. Evangelicals sacrificially giving to meet the needs of people with AIDS, most of whom at that time were homosexuals.
Later that night, I was in my hotel room watching the evening news to see how the whole thing was covered. They not only showed the offering being taken, but they interviewed people as they were leaving the arena. One old grandmother was moved to tears as she said, “My grandson has AIDS, and this is the first time that I’ve been able to talk about it, because up until now I was made to feel so ashamed of him. I feel he was affirmed tonight.” There were a few other comments that were made, but the best one of the evening was from a tough-looking guy who was grossly overweight. His hair was a mess and it looked as though he needed a shave, but they stuck a microphone under his mouth and asked him, “Well, what did you think of the offering tonight?” The guy answered in a gruff voice, “What about it?” The interviewer said, “Well, people with AIDS are usually homosexuals, and you evangelical Christians haven’t been very kindly disposed to them, have you? How do you feel about your money going to people who are probably gay?”
The guy’s answer was splendid. He said, “I don’t know anything about this homo stuff. All I know is that when people are sick, we’re supposed to take care of them. And that’s because Christians love everybody.”
I stood up in the hotel room, shot my fists into the air, and yelled, “YES!” In the end, they will know that we are Christians, not because we perform miracles, or demonstrate signs and wonders. They will know we are Christians by our love.
I John 3:11…18…23 — This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another… Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth… And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
I John 4:7-9…11 — Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him… Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
O God, we who are bound together in the tender ties of love, pray for a day of unclouded love. May no passing irritation rob us of our joy in one another. Forgive us if we have often been keen to see the human failings, and slow to feel the preciousness of those who are still the dearest comfort of our life. May there be no sharp words that wound and scar, and no rift that may grow into estrangement. Suffer us not to grieve those whom you have sent to us to love and be loved by. May our eyes not be so blinded by selfishness that we come to appreciate our loved ones only when it is too late and they return to you… Amen. –Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918)