Unity and Love

22 12 2015

It’s no secret that I am someone who both loves and despises the church from the both double-edged sword.  It’s no secret that I have been hurt by remarks that those people of the church have made.  It’s also no secret that I surround myself with people who also have been hurt by statements that the church has made.  It’s no secret that the church has personally metaphorically stabbed and wounded those that I love.  I see images like this…..

Westboro

and this….

CSA 2

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and it is upsetting.  (Just for the record, I did a public google image search and found these images.)  I see so much hate spewing out of the american church, and I see so much violence being advocated for, and it is hurtful.  I hear and see my friends struggle to be loving and accepting of these awful words.  I talk to people who have been force-fed the doctrine of Christianity by people who are not living a relationship with Christ.  I watch videos and hear things on the news of people proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ but in the same breath, condemning those who don’t look like or act like they do.

For so long, I’v64e1a24e6e9dedca1656322d1b0fd754e used this image, to bring to mind the core tenants of the faith, to justify my feeling of superiority to those who aren’t able to follow this command.  This image portrays the message that Jesus gave, when he gave the command to love thy neighbor.  And the modern American Christian will give all of these objections as reasons not to love “thy neighbor.”  For so long, it seems like we like to define who our neighbor is.  I imagine many times, that Jesus wants to look at us like this:

56868885And the reality is, that he is truly qualified to do so.

I get so angry with people when they don’t follow this simple command that Jesus gave us, and I get so angry when they try to make up all of these excuses for not loving someone, instead of just following the command, because that implies two things:

  1.  That it is perfectly valid that people have to meet certain standards in order to receive grace.
  2. We have the power to decide who is worthy of being loved.

Neither of which is true.

When I entered into a relationship with God, he didn’t require me to change.  He didn’t give me a three point improvement plan.  He didn’t tell me about the ways that my life would have to be gotten in order.  He simply said “I accept you as you are.”  He called to me, wanting a relationship with me, and I responded likewise.  It is through consistent contact and communication, that he makes me more like him.  The things he has changed are not typical.  The glaringly obvious things that you would think he would work on…he hasn’t.  This isn’t to say that he won’t…but he just hasn’t yet.  In that same sense, that is the way in which I should love people.  If I am to embody the love of God, then I love people as they are, and accept them as best as I can, not demanding that they change.  Not pouting and screaming til the tears come down, until someone finally molds to my will and desires.  If I am to be the love of God, the hands and feet and arms and ears of God on this earth, then I am to do just that.  Serve wholeheartedly, go where needed, embrace in love and listen without reserve.  That’s it.  I don’t get to decide who I do and don’t serve.  I don’t get to decide where I do and don’t go.  I don’t get to decide who I do and don’t hug.  I don’t get to decide whose words are worth listening to and whose words aren’t worth listening to.  That decision is not up to me.

But where does that leave me with the American church, as a whole?  It’s very obvious.  My job is to love.  Even when I don’t believe that those beliefs are right, my job is to love.  I am to serve those, even when I disagree with them, I am to serve without reserve, as unto the Lord.  My job is to love.  I am to go, where and when I am needed, no matter what, and be present where I am placed, even if the person I am being present for, has made derogatory remarks that place my friends in a category.  I am to hug, and spread love, and make sure that all I encounter know of the love of God through me, even when I don’t want to do so.  I am to listen, without reserve, and allow their opinion’s value, as an individual to override any of my own beliefs.  If I want to see the American church changed, then I have to be changed myself.  I have to cast aside my self-righteous opinion of being better than the above pictures, and I have to love them.  My job is not to change them but to love them.

And that goes along with the second lie that we try to convince ourselves which is true, the lie that we have the decision to make and decide who is worthy of being loved.  The problem is, it’s not our job.  It’s not my job to decide who I am supposed to love.  I’m supposed to love everybody, no conditions.  I am supposed to love my gay friend who hates when her family speaks words from the Bible at her, condemning her to hell.  I am supposed to love the family that speaks those words at her.  I am supposed to love both the victim and the oppressor.  Does that mean that I allow the oppressor to continue to be oppressing?  No.  That means that I love the victim enough to make the oppressor think of their actions.  Does that mean that I allow the victim to lash out at their oppressor?  No, that means I encourage the victim to step outside of their frame of perspective and into the oppressor, and seek for understanding.

But where does that leave me in the church?  Where does that leave me when I see the majority not conforming to my perspective?  maxresdefault

There’s an old chorus that my church sings quite often, and the words are pictured to the right.  The thing is, we all have the creepy uncle.  We all have the aunt we’d rather not talk about.  We all have the black sheep of our family, and I happen to mostly be the weird one in mine.  But the thing about family is, I cannot change the fact that I have the biological characteristics of my father’s demeanor.  I cannot change that I walk like my grandfather.  I cannot change that my body is shaped like my mother’s   I cannot change that I have blonde hair like her.  Fair skin like my grandfather.  I cannot eliminate the impact that my family has had upon the shaping of who I am.  And, I cannot just simply ignore them, I don’t get to choose who my family is.

And if the church of God is my family.  If all Christians are my brothers and sisters, then even Westboro Baptist Church is my brother and sister.  Even the fearmongerers who hate Obama, they’re my brother and sister.  I can’t decide that they have not received Grace.  I can’t decide that they’re not going to heaven.  That’s not my job.  That’s God’s job.  My job is to love them, and to do so in the best way that I know how.  Does this mean that I unite with them?  Yes.  Does it mean that I agree with them?  No.

What does this mean?

I’ve been revealed that unity is more important than my self-righteous opinions.  Unity is more important than my pride.  Holding back my tongue for the sake of unity is more important than sounding my beliefs like a big brass cymbal.

Instead of making sure that I am heard, and that my opinion is out there, right now, my instruction is to wait, love and expect God to change what needs to be changed.  And lately?  It’s been me more than others.

 

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