Who We Can Love

Who We Can Love April 7, 2024

You Can’t Say That

When I was attempting to be a pastor in several Protestant denominations, I found that I always hit a brick wall when it came to what I preached on. To further compound the problem, I was also often told that I needed to conform to a certain standard while I was in the various formation processes. I was to that only after I made it to ordination, then I could have a bit more liberty in what I preached and taught. I can say I have been successfully asked to leave most if not all the churches I have served in, mostly due to my teachings.  

In this essay, I want to address one of the topics I was asked not to talk about. If you are in a place in your faith formation where you are questioning your experience; whether you can have your own beliefs outside the denominational structure, this essay is for you. I give you permission to ask dangerous questions. As a therapist, I know developmentally, questions are part of the growth process.  

Let’s ask some dangerous questions.  

Love is a Strange Word 

Love is a strange word. As an English word, I have always found it to be a lazy attempt to capture something the Greeks need eight words to describe (see https://www.dictionary.com/e/greek-words-for-love/ ). For sake of simplicity, let us consider philias and agape love.  Philia is friendship love. It is affectionate but not erotic. Agape or Agapic love is a love that is unconditional and sacrificial. This is the kind of love one has who will do anything for someone with nothing in return. It is the basis of grace in the Christian tradition.  

 Does the Bible Say Anything About Love? 

While this is a silly heading, and one that should go without saying.  I think when we talk about biblical love, I feel like we are in the scene of Princess Bride where Inigo tells his boss Vizzini, “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”. The problem with love in the Western context is that we culturally appropriated the word and lost the essence of the word along the way.  

One of the many things I take issue with the Church or well-meaning Christians when they say that the “Bible clearly says”. The bible clearly tells us nothing because the form we have at the moment is a modification of many other modifications over several thousands of years.  

The bible does tell us something about love, but only in the context about the people, place and time it was used. From this, then we can extrapolate a correlation to modern times.  

What the bible is consistent about is this: God is love. God’s love extends to all of creation. God said it was very good. 

Christness and Universal Love 

The only literal thing I take the bible seriously about is God’s love. As a contemplative that practices the Benedictine tradition, praying the Psalter has been a habit of mine. While there are Psalms of lament, there are Psalms that describe God’s abundant love for all of creation.  

God is love, God desires to share this love with all of creation. (Consider this phenomenal piece by Henry Karlson: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/henrykarlson/2024/01/gods-universal-love/ ).  

Over the last few years, I have been deeply engaged in the practice of studying open theism and Open and Relational Theology. Here, God is seen as forever changing.  The future is not determined and that God is a co suffer with all of creation.  

If God can love anyone universally, so can you.  

You Can Love Whoever You Want and Still Be a Christian 

If you have been struggling with your faith, your affiliation with the Christian tradition, don’t run away. God still wants you around. Jesus stood up for your place in the kindom. You are wanted, you are loved. And if you are a girl who loves a girl or a guy who loves a guy, or a guy whose body said you were a girl and you love a guy or a girl or vice versa, God still wants you to follow God. I take seriously Galatians 3:38: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ( https://biblehub.com/galatians/3-28.htm).  

The early church was a bunch of loosely gathered house churches and wandering mendicants. They all served the same purpose: living in love with their communities under oppression from the Roman government.  

Love who you want and know you are loved.  

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