"And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all" (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
A friend of mine pastors a church in a small mountain community not far from Boise. The community is nestled in a wooded valley through which a pleasant little trout stream meanders. Behind the church and alongside the stream, there is a grove of willows, a length of grass and a sandy beach. It's an idyllic spot that has long been a place where members of the community gather to picnic and enjoy the beauty of that place.
One day, a man in the church congregation expressed concern over the legal implications of "outsiders" using the property. "Suppose someone is injured," he said. "The church might be sued." Though the elders were reluctant to take this stand, he convinced them that they should post a sign on the site informing visitors that this was private property and warning them away.
The pastor did post a sign. It read: "Warning! Anyone using this beach may, at any moment, be surrounded by people who love you."
I read his sign the week after he put it up and was charmed. "Exactly," I thought. "Once again grace has trumped the law!" This is the message we want "outsiders" to hear: "You're loved here!"
This is love for one's neighbor that springs from the riches of God's kindness, forbearance and patience. Paul was very clear: It is not the Law, but the goodness of God that draws men and women to repentance (Romans 2:4).