2016 9 14 Abby KingAbby King is a first-year at Goshen College, studying journalism with a minor in Bible and Religion. She is a part of the Youth Worship Planning Committee for Orlando 2017. She is a member at Ridgeview Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

When I was in middle school I had a phenomenal math teacher. He was the type of teacher that not only made math comprehensible, but he also cared about whether or not his students were good people. My Algebra 1 class was constantly interrupted by devotions, allegorical books and YouTube videos.

I specifically remember one video he showed us. It was a stop motion music video for The Michael Gungor Band’s song, White Man. The beginning of the song focuses on who God is not, “God is not a man, God is not a white man … God does not belong to Republicans … God is not even American.” The chorus then declares who God is: love, “God is love and He loves everyone.” And then the bridge lists who everyone entails: “Atheists and charlatans and communists and lesbians…” and the list goes on.

That music video was a turning point in my life. I began to identify God as love. My prayers began with “Dear Love,” instead of “Dear God.” I began to understand that when we love each other, we are loving each other in the name of God.

There’s something incredibly liberating about identifying God as Love. No longer is God a large deity in the sky, but this loving, comforting being who wants to get to know you and hold you in times of trouble.

When the worship planning committee for convention met up in February we all agreed that before we could declare that love is a verb, we had to establish what love is, or better yet, who love is.

If we don’t identify God as love, then we don’t understand what Christianity is truly about. First John 4 says “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” This verse is the purpose of the Christianity — love  everyone in the name of Jesus Christ. In one sentence, our whole existence as Christ-followers is summed up. If we, as Christians, don’t love wholeheartedly then we’re doing something wrong.

My hope for Orlando 2017 is that we can focus on the important parts of what it means to be a Mennonite – loving each other and bringing peace into this world of hate.

It’s not the rules or the potlucks or the hymns that define our denomination, but it’s the peace we spread, the love we share and the service we provide.

And I think next summer’s convention might just be all that I have hoped. Through the leadership of the planning committee — a group of people wholeheartedly dedicated to loving our broken church — I’m positive that many will leave with a different perspective of what love looks like and who Love is.

I encourage you to refer to God as Love, if you haven’t before. Embrace the knowledge that God is love and God loves everyone. And so should we.