Hunter: ‘If love is to be effective, it has to be exclusive’

Column by Mary Lee Talbot.

The Rev. Joel Hunter continued his series on “Odd Couples” at the Wednesday morning 9:15 a.m. Devotional Hour.

“These odd couples hold our lives in dynamic tension as we grow into the creatures God made us to be,” Hunter said.

His title was “Odd Couples: Believers and Unbelievers” and his text was John 17:13-20.

“Unbelievers are people who don’t believe like you do,” he said. The congregation laughed. “Becky, my wife, sat next to a rabbi on Sunday who said we need to be more radical about our own faith. By radical he meant rooted so that we become more the kind of person we are.”

“Believers and unbelievers need to look to themselves first and to be rooted in their own faith, otherwise, they don’t do anyone any good. Love doesn’t become most impactful by agreeing with everyone. It requires exclusivity and precision,” Hunter said.

He told a story from his youth about wanting a squirt gun. His father died when he was 4 and his mother could not afford to give him the 29 cents it cost for a squirt gun.

“I tried the dramatic bottom-lip protrusion and she told me to put my lip back; we just could not afford those things,” Hunter said. “So I went to the court of appeals: my grandparents. My grandfather said the one thing you don’t ever want to hear: ‘I will make you one.’ When you are a kid, you want one just like everyone else. My grandfather was a large animal veterinarian, and he came back from his workshop with a large syringe with the needle cut off and a steel tube that had such pressure that I could hit any kid in the neighborhood at 50 feet.

“What made for such power? The narrowness of the opening. If love is to be effective, it has to be exclusive. I love my wife, and that knowledge frees me to hug a lot of people in a way that will never be misunderstood.”

He continued: “I have one Lord and Savior. My whole spiritual life is paid for, therefore I am free to love those who don’t believe like I believe. The power of that relationship comes from the narrow exclusivity of that relationship.”

In the morning’s Scripture from the Gospel of John, Jesus asks God to protect his followers from the evil who is the author of confusion, Hunter said. But Jesus prays for more than just his followers.

“With Jesus, there is always a ‘so that.’ Think about it. If you are a believer, why are you still here? If it was all about getting to heaven, why didn’t God kill you as soon as you became a believer?” he said.

Or, if we were just made for fellowship with other believers, why didn’t God kill us when we joined a church?

“Yes, we need the fellowship of one another. We were not made to do it alone. If God’s purpose was simply Christian fellowship, wouldn’t we be dead by now?” he asked.

“There must be a larger purpose,” Hunter continued. “Christ sends us into the world to love those who don’t believe as we believe, not so that they believe like us, but to witness to the grace we have found in Jesus Christ. We serve them so they understand how valued they are. There is a whole world of people struggling with shame, their own worth. They need someone who does not need to be loved, but has love to share, is free to serve with no questions and no return expected. We are here to pass on the grace that can never be repaid.”

Hunter described a scene with a sidewalk artist who was displaying portraits of clowns.

“I would walk by, and I would look, and I might look at the price, $35 to $50,” he said. “Then, and this is a fantasy so anything can happen, Rembrandt appears. We all know it is Rembrandt, and a crowd starts to gather. He looks at the portraits and says ‘Look at the use of light; I did something like that.’ Or he says, ‘Look at the minute detail; I did something like that. These are wonderful.’ ”

Hunter asked, “What just happened to the price, the value? They jumped. Why? Because the master esteemed them. Everyone is made in the image of the master. The master values everyone. The master died on the cross, potentially, for everyone. We show love and appreciation of the master when we love and appreciate those who don’t believe as we do.”

Pastor Scott Maxwell served as liturgist. Nancy Waasdorp read the Scripture. She has spent most of her married life in the Rochester, N.Y., area. She and her husband, Peter, were members of the 12 Corners Presbyterian Church, where Nancy served as chair of the outreach committee for many years. Besides teaching vocal and instrumental music, she was active in prison ministry at Attica Prison for about 25 years. At Chautauqua, Nancy plays in the Thursday Morning Brass. The Waasdorps are now enthusiastic year-round residents of Chautauqua who attend Hurlbut Church.

The Motet Choir sang “Festival Anthem on Ellacombe,” arranged by David Lantz III with text by Jennette Threlfall. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, led the choir.