I have been discussing the development of my theological identity. How I became who I am today. There was the Church Lady. Then there was the Hater.
One Sunday morning following the exchange with the Church Lady, I made the comment while leading class that if I were given just five minutes with someone, I believed it would be far more powerful to spend those five minutes loving that person rather than trying to convince him that he was going to hell. And I still stand firmly behind this statement.
As I will discuss more later, it is our job to show people what they are missing rather than trying to convince them by arguing with them that they are lacking anything. A person willing to accept Christ’s love is one who feels her emptiness. So demonstrate Love and the thirst for Love will be strengthened. But come at a person with judgment and condemnation, the emptiness grows and the shell around that person hardens.
When I made that statement, the topic of personal sexuality was no where remotely near my mind. The topic was certainly not in my notes or on my lips. Yet one man at the back of the room spoke up quickly, and with horrible conviction, saying that if he had five minutes to spend with a gay person, he would spend it recounting all the Bible verses he could find to support his belief this person was going to hell.
The Hater then accused me of taking this class in the direction of “excusing the sin of homosexuality,” and as evidence of this, pointed to my use of a book written by a man he claimed was pushing the “homosexual agenda.”
I had no response to this. None would have mattered. And there is that old saying about not mud wrestling with pigs because the pigs enjoy it . . .
But the interruption raised a significant question for me that, while it encompasses GLBT issues and Christianity, goes so much farther than this, indeed. That is the issue of the role Love plays in our faith, our relationships with God, and our relationships with everyone in the world around us.
Do we really Love? Are we really following the commands of God to Love?
Or, perhaps more soberly, is God really the good and loving Creator we believe Him to be?
No matter how you read the Bible and which rules you apply and to whom, the one and most important rule, Jesus says, is to Love. Love God. Love everyone.
But we don’t.
We can follow the other rules we believe are imposed upon us. We must not forsake the assembly. For some, we must not use instruments in worship service and must take the Lord’s supper each Sunday. For others, the communion is literally the actual transmutation of bread and wine to Christ’s body and blood. Some read the Bible as baptism be necessarily a complete dunking while others believe it allows a sprinkling, as well. To some, the Bible appoints a continuous central governing figure or body of the church on earth while others believe in the absolute autonomy of the local church. At one time, many churches believed American slavery was condoned–and, to some, even ordained. Today, most still believe you cannot be a homosexual and a Christian, too.
The point is not what the rules say; what you believe about them or what rules you choose to follow. The point is simply this: every church believes in some basic rules by which they operate. And most all tend to do a fairly good job at successfully observing their own rules.
Here is the problem, though . . . We have been given a very clear and concise mandate on the most important rule.
So, if by observing all these other rules, we fail in following the one, most important, rule then who are we? Are we still to be called followers of Christ?
Does any rule give us the authority to judge with condemnation? Does any rule give us the right and authority to treat anyone with anything but Christ’s Love and respect?
I hope, at least to this last question, your answer is “no.” Otherwise, this may be where we part ways. I love you, but it is obvious we are following two very different versions of God.