The church is changing. The truth of Jesus is being disentangled from the behavior-focused, non-affirming religion that often just uses Jesus as a mascot.
And this is a major threat to the box-church that tries to stay sealed up tight – even when everyone on the outside of the box can see how different they are from the Jesus they claim to follow.
The truth of God is winning out over false interpretations and our understanding of what Christianity really should be is rapidly morphing into new directions.
Many parts of the church embrace the LGBTQ community, many parts of the church embrace women pastors, many parts of the church embrace racial equality and social justice. Many parts of the church are focusing on love and helping those in need. Much has been written and preached about this, including the three-part Huffington Post article (part 1, part 2, part 3).
I’m writing you today to ask if you are ready, and to encourage hope in all this. To encourage welcome instead of fear.
People who live a life in relationship to God have reason to be the happiest, most joyful, loving, peaceful people on earth. We are supposed to love unconditionally and have a heart for the oppressed and marginalized. If this change helps make that true in more of us, it is a change to be embraced.
We are supposed to love others as we have been loved by God. If you are having trouble doing that, if you are judging and condemning and focusing on behavior, maybe the deep issue is that you don’t really know how completely, unconditionally loved you are. The beautiful, imperfectly perfect human being you are is loved – as you are.
But as things are now, many people don’t know that, so they are afraid.
The issues surrounding people who are LGBTQ don’t really have anything to do with God or the Bible. It is all about fear.
Non-affirming Christians are afraid of making mistakes. Afraid of disappointing God. Afraid of going to hell. These are not how God motivates us. That is bad theology that has been falsely taught and wrongly used to scare faithful people and keep them in line.
Don’t be afraid of what’s ahead. Too much church teaching wrongly tells its people they must redirect people they think are off-track, as if God asked for volunteers because the job of being God is too difficult. No! God is not in trouble here! People are the ones mucking things up.
Love people, and get out of the way and let God work!
The real, true message of the good news Jesus lived and shared — that you are unconditionally loved and radically accepted and can experience God personally — is not at risk. It’s our institutionalization of those truths that are at risk. The box-church. It’s our parsing out of single ways to interpret these things, while declaring other ways wrong that’s at risk.
Remember the church has morphed many times before. Reformers (like Luther, Zwingli, Waldo) who risked their lives to speak a new paradigm into the church are the means by which we have protestant churches, instead of only Catholic mass. In Latin. Translators like Wycliffe are the reason we have Bibles in our own languages. Gandhi’s message of non-violent resistance continues to impact the world.
Fear of these changes is where the trouble comes from.
That’s when we burn people at the stake for disagreeing with the church. That’s when we imprison Galileo for saying what appears to contradict the Bible. That’s when we crucify Jesus for speaking against the religious understanding of the day. That’s when we justify holy wars. And that’s when we tell an entire group of people who are gay that they are condemned to hell and throw them out of our churches and our homes.
“Heretics” usually turned out to be right all along. Only history tells.
We don’t have to be threatened by people who believe something different, or who are different.
There is a lot of room for all viewpoints and all people – in this big world, and even in our littlest faith community. Allow people to grow and to be. Who knows? You just might discover something new!
We should all err on the side of love.
Unconditionally love others because we have been unconditionally loved. Radically include others as we have been radically included.
What a difference that would make in the world.