As of late there has been more than enough scandalous, spurious relational wedge-driving behavior to suit my tastes between Christians (all of us, LGBTQ, straight, broad-minded, narrow-minded). This sort of tenor amongst Christians is a stench, a putrid wretched stench. So much of it is self-centered beyond all else and therein lies the crux.
Any who claim the Christ, specifically the Christ named Jesus, and who fall into the group the introductory paragraph describes has some studying to do. Pull down that Bible. Look past the agenda you love, and look to Jesus. Jesus says to love neighbor as self. If you own Jesus as savior, for you loving your neighbor is a mandate rather than an option. If you own Jesus as savior, for you the business of not judging others is a mandate rather than an option.
For those who believe that God’s intent for marriage is that it is to be lived out between one man and one woman, I ask you this, “Do you activate and throw yourself into a lather as readily over pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, marital rape—or is the only sex that irks/activates you gay sex?”
Answer carefully—-think before you answer—because at the end of the day the only issue for you ought to be ALL SEX OUTSIDE of God’s intent. What’s the deal with targeting gay sex only? You grab your proof-texts, single out cherry-picked verses, and ritually club people for gay sex, and then not club others for their other sexual behaviors—interesting behavior pattern. Go ahead and own that your issue is not sex outside of God’s intent—-the fact that the only sex you appear to rant about is gay sex—-sort of gives it away doesn’t it—so what’s that about? Really, what is that about? You’ve cherry-picked the sin to address. Consider this, “You might be prejudiced, you just might.” What did you do with that whole love neighbor as self thingee? Are you modeling love to others, even willing to die for those others? Jesus the Christ was down for it—-and you claim his name as your own, right? Claim his pattern to be yours, Christian? Well?
And for those who believe that God’s intent for marriage is that it is to be lived out between one person and another person, I ask you this, “Do you activate and throw yourself into a lather as readily over your tithing behaviors as you do your civil rights, given as much time to feeding the poor as seeking marriage equality, and would you so zealously lay down and die for that bigot over there calling you or your dear spouse names?”
Answer carefully—-think before you answer—because at the end of the day the only issue for you ought to be something more than getting what you want, and if that is/was marriage equality, as citizens of this nation, you totally merit it—and shouldn’t have had to fight to receive it. Yet if this is your pet issue (or you have any other pet issue) —in its attainment have you catapulted yourself beyond loving neighbor as self? Is it possible that in your journey you, too, might be prejudiced? You just might. What did you do with that whole love neighbor as self thingee? Are you modeling love to others, even willing to die for those others? Jesus the Christ bit the bone and died for us scallywags—-and you claim his name as yours, right? Claim his pattern to be yours? Well?
But, again, I’m not called to judge, nor are you. I will only say this—Jesus never blasted the Greeks for being the Greeks. Guess he expected the Greeks to behave like the Greeks. He never railed at the Romans for being Romans. But what he did do was—-call the religious folk on the proverbial berber carpet for hypocrisy.
God makes Christians. God calls them to love. God does not make gay Christians. God does not make straight Christians. God makes Christians.
Because I subscribe to the idea that God saves us apart from our own workings and doings, then I waste no time on questions like, “Can God save a gay person?” To answer, “yes or no” already presumes that I am somehow God’s superlative and presume myself capable to plumb the depths of deity. Seems kind of idolatrous after a certain fashion, kind of indicating that my finite understanding comprehends the infinite in its fullness. But to answer, “no” limits God—as if the finite could limit the infinite. If I answer “yes” then I purport to know the mind of God. In all of these the focus seems to be about “me” and less about God.
God saves freely, gracefully, and fully therefore we have reasonable hope that God might redeem, reconcile, and save it all. In any case, we aren’t called to place energy into judging—but rather to place our energy into loving.
So for the rest of this blog post when I say Christians, I mean Christians—even those awash in their self-chosen division bunched together as a riotous band of finger pointers spewing a cacophony of “who-does-fit or who-does-not-fit.”
People seem to assume much about this silly ole reverend. We love to make assumptions and slather others in our projections. So—-after a tremendous example of self-exposure and vulnerability made by a friend——a friend—–gay—-yet not my gay friend—-just my friend, I am going to put myself out here a bit more that usual—following the example of that pastor.
Christians are called to love neighbor as self. This is no small task. There are people that do not love me very much or very well. There are people that I do not love very much or very well. I aspire to love neighbor as self—and this is really a bitch sometimes. It was easier before I became a clergy person. Expectations are now higher for me than they once were, and this chafes my passive aggressive side almost daily. I am talking about the expectations of people, but not God’s expectations. God’s expectations are the same as ever they were—to love God with all that I am, to love neighbor as self. This means that I have to get empty of a lot of me, myself, I. And this hurts. It means that when there’s a party maybe I want to drink more alcohol than moderation would prefer (especially if it’s good scotch, a decent tobacco-ish red wine, or a martini) but I don’t imbibe in excess, at least I try not to do it, instead I empty myself of that desire because in emptying myself of that desire I stay sober for myself, for others, being soberly available to love neighbor as best as I can. It means that sometimes I take the money set aside to repair and repaint my ugly blue Honda Civic with the dent in the back and give it away to someone who has a real need —-one more real than me wanting my car to be prettier so people won’t think ill of me or say hurtful things about my roach-coach. It also means that if I am dying to have sex with some hot girl(s) that is/are not my wife, I count the cost and empty myself of that desire which if it were to have been acted upon would have produced tremendous pain for self and others.
Christians——are we emptying ourselves right now? It doesn’t seem so. Christ is our ultimate example, our mentor, pattern, savior—-yet, our pattern is not the Christ’s, is it? We’re pushing for what suits us, makes us comfy, and fulfills self rather than others. This means that we are not looking like Jesus to a world that needs to see Jesus. So what is that world seeing? Christians running anxious and scared, or all out for what we can get? This is NOT THE PATTERN OF JESUS. And we Christians know it, don’t we?
Our pattern is a self-emptying pattern. And there is our issue—We ain’t got no time for that kind of thinking—no way!
People (Christians or not) are takers. All out for what we can get. From parties, to sex, to power. It is all about what one can get. Back in Jesus’ day this was the pattern at work, too—get—get—get! And to all of this Jesus said, “NO!” Jesus, who is God, said, “NO!” When hungry in the wilderness he could’ve turned stones to bread, but he said, “No!” He could have used worldly power to establish the kingdom, but he said, “No!” When compelled to use the powers of the age, he said, “No!” Jesus was God, fully entitled with rights to it all, but he said, “Yes,” to none of it. He gave up his rights to this, that, or the other. Instead, when most compelled to claim his entitled right to say, “Yes,” he said, “No,” and gave himself up in death for others.
If you claim his name, Christian, then you are, “to think of yourselves as Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside divine privileges and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life, and then died a selfless, obedient death—the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”
This is a love that empties itself. It’s that whole self-emptying business whereby Jesus is seen in all his humanity, and that self-emptying business whereby the world sees in Christians a reflection of the Christ’s divinity. We might want to take a look at that sometime. ‘Cause it is looking like we ain’t got no time for it, ’cause from the high court to the grocery store it sure seems like it’s about what pleases us and tickles our fancy rather than what shows others the love of Jesus.
Saint Paul tells Christians to stop that whole “who-does-fit or who-does-not-fit” business. Let’s own it—none of us are saved by the good we do. We are saved by grace.
Friends, take a step back—recall our mandate—love neighbor as self. Breathe. Get a hold of yourselves. There’s no need to run cray-cray. There’s no need to crow in triumph either. You are saved by grace. Rejoice in that and cool it.
We all sin—get okay with that—-and own that it’s so much easier to point at and bark about another person’s sin because it not-so-creatively distracts us from our own. Luther says, “We are beggars.” And we truly are, each and every one.
Love one another. No matter where the other stands on whatever issue. Love them. That’s the pattern Jesus gave us. Live it. Bet loving one another is how we go forward together denying ourselves along the way, but that also means not thinking so much of ourselves. We deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow.
Let’s get past the whole blame-shame-judgment-game. Because this judging business is ruining the beauty of grace and it is creating a stench to rival the livestock arenas where cattle are corralled, tagged, lined-up, and judged. And the cattle don’t seem to like this judging business much….so I’m thinking people aren’t wild about it either. I don’t know one person who likes to be judged—-not even for their ugly blue Honda Civic. I’m not looking to be judged; I’m looking to be loved. How ‘bout you? Bet love is more fragrant than the judgment stench.