Hispanic/Latino ministries: 'You had one job'

By the Rev. Michael Hood

I once had the opportunity to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Chips were being handed out to people who’d reached milestones in abstinence. Some received chips for having kept free from alcohol for several years or months, to cheers and shouts of joy.

Finally, the leader asked if anyone was there who had abstained for that one day. When a man came to the front to get his one-day chip, the meeting answered, erupting into uproarious support for that man. It was an exciting moment of commitment to a new life, and it felt empowering to be a part of a group so dedicated to the singular cause of supporting one another.

Afterward, as we were leaving, I mentioned to the friend who’d invited me how great it was to see the support given to the man who stood for his first chip. I learned, however, that this guy had unsuccessfully made a decision for sobriety at least 15 or 20 times before! In the way he was received by the AA group, though, you’d have never known. There was no questioning of his sincerity, no evaluation of his circumstances and no derision or judgment at all. Instead, the whole meeting realized their one job was to support one another, so that’s what they did. Whatever path he took to that meeting was irrelevant when he entered that church’s doors. They had one job, and they did it beautifully.

There is a meme floating around the Internet about simple tasks. It says that when you have a simple job to do, it shouldn’t be that hard. For example, if the job is to paint the word STOP on the pavement, and you paint the word SOTP instead, this meme mocks the unforgivable failure with: “You had one job.”

If the church has only one job, what would it be? In John 13, just after washing the disciples’ feet and sending Judas on his mission of betrayal, Jesus gives the remaining disciples a new commandment: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The church’s first job is to love one another, and Jesus even prophesies the church will be known by its love. Everything we do should be bathed in, soaked and running over with love.

In many of our congregations, ministry with Hispanic-Latino communities has been a divisive issue. Because we have different political leanings, factions in our denomination have wanted to respond to immigration issues in different ways. Efforts at reaching these communities often reduce to fights with each other, as we argue policy and politics, and inevitably get stymied and avoid action on a messy issue.

But truthfully, and thankfully, regardless of our political leanings, we have one job! The job of the Church is to share the availability of the Holy Spirit, to help others to know Jesus, to share the Grace that we have so freely received. In short, the job of the church is to love, and to love everyone, without question.

As part of the Body of Christ, we can certainly weigh in with our opinions and engage in discussions about current events. We can wield political power through votes, petitions and phone calls. We sometimes hold office in our government, and we all participate in the political process.

But the one job of the Body of Christ is to continue Christ’s mission, to share the Good News of God’s Grace. We are called to include our Hispanic brothers and sisters in that knowledge and rejoice that they are worshipping with us regardless of the path they took to get here.

The church of Jesus Christ, who died for all and was resurrected for all, is called to get to work. We have one job. That job is to love everyone, to include everyone and to open the doors of God’s grace to everyone.

We have one job. We can do it better.

Hood is pastor of Platt Springs United Methodist Church, West Columbia.

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