When the Catholics were fighting the Cathars in the thirteenth century, the French city of Beziers was under Cathar control — but after a siege, fell to the Catholics. About to enter the city, the commander wondered about how he could distinguish the true heretics from others who may have been faithful to the pope. Apparently the papal representative responded to this question with the now legendary phrase, “Kill them all, God will recognize his own.” Over the years it has morphed into the snappier “Kill them all; let God sort them out,” now a kind of wisecrack aimed at lampooning the take-no-prisoners approach to fighting (whether in a military, political, or some other setting).
Okay, so it’s funny in a sick sort of way. But that’s about all it’s good for. Today, this medieval sensibility is not only bad military policy, it’s just plain bad policy in general — but it’s surprising how many people have a “kill ‘em all” approach to life. But for those of us who seek to live God-infused lives, I think we need to get in the habit of turning this line inside out.
I’m amused when I encounter Christians who are uncomfortable forming friendships with people whose theology they find questionable (liberal ex-pagan mystic-lover that I am, my theology gets questioned a lot). Yeah, there are lots of people whose theology or values or ethics I have problems with, too. But I think the Christian’s motto ought to be “Love them all; let God sort them out.” In Christ we have been liberated from the awful burden of having to judge others. In this freedom beyond judgment, we are at liberty to simply love, joyfully, lavishly, unconditionally. In doing so, will we love some folks who may not share our values? Most assuredly. Will we love people whom others see as scandalous or even wicked? Perhaps, if not probably. Will our prodigal love make us appear foolish to others? I suspect as much. Is it even possible that we will (gasp) love people whose faith is entirely different from our own, or (double gasp) who engage in sexual behavior radically unlike our own? In this world, you bet. But just as we have been directed not to judge other people, so too we have been set free from the burden of judging ourselves. We are simply called to love as Christ loved us. Whether the person we love is our best friend, our theological soul mate, or even someone who subtly (or not so subtly) tries to undermine everything we stand for, it doesn’t matter. Judge not. Cast out the fear. Just love — simply love. Take delight, accept, celebrate, enjoy. Love them all — and let God sort them out.