This missive will be a bit of a rant (about love).
As we try to stick with the topics of divorce and the church on the New Lepers blog, feel free to use that paradigm as your filter as you take in this post. I hope you will find some application for dealing with divorce as we look at how we treat each other in the church family during difficult circumstances, as well as how some traditional church rhetoric and positioning can be hurtful to many of the people we are called to love.
I recently received a request from a dear friend and asking me to sign a document called the Manhattan Declaration. The Manhattan Declaration is a public proclamation, seemingly politically motivated, rehashing some strongly held conservative religious views.
Whether or not one subscribes to these particular religious views in whole or in part, what I found worrisome is that often, the nature of the “official Christian” discourse with the rest of the world tends to be condemning. In spite of the truth that Jesus came to teach us about being loving.
Why are we being told it’s ok to approach our neighbors with a thrust finger to the chest while spelling out in detail the error of their ways? The church world calls this “speaking the Truth In love.” Frankly, I call it out of character with Jesus, and usually quite damaging.
It can take years of conversation, personal interaction, service and proximity to build the kind of mutually caring relationship that allows one to speak into the life of another. Always it’s more effective if our forays into the touchy territory of another person’s behavior are invited. Hard truths are just that: hard. They are especially hard to hear from people we don’t know well, or whom we suspect don’t really know us or love us.
I believe that public speech and approaches like the Manhattan Declaration must be largely politically motivated. Like the Pharisees before them, many of our modern church leaders wish they could legislate the morality of others. (We know how well that worked in Old Testament times!) The overly “religious” approach usually proves to be counterproductive, hiding from people the most important message of the Gospels: that God really does love THEM as He loves us all, irrespective of our circumstance.
I have gay friends, family and coworkers. I am commanded to love them, not condemn them. Civil marriage is not the issue. God’s love for the individual is the issue.
I have friends and family who have had to make the tough decision about abortion. Some said “yes.” Some said “no.” Do I love one and hate the other? I can’t do that, and I really don’t hear God asking me to do that. What I hear is that I need to be committed to loving, serving and protecting those whom God places in my path.
It is clear to me that Jesus gave me two choices. I am instructed to love people. I am forbidden to judge people. In between those two instructions, it seems I’m stuck in a complicated world where people are messy and mess up. People are born with defects, physical and/or mental. People are born with attractions to the same gender. People can have really crappy dispositions. Sometimes people get into tight spots of their own doing or of circumstances thrust upon them. In those situations they are forced to make very hard decisions. Some of those decisions may go contrary to what’s best for them or what’s taught in the Bible. However, nothing changes for me (or you). We are still commanded to love them. We are still forbidden to judge them.
I do believe if our religious leaders focused more on connecting people with God’s love and less on political efforts to legislate morality, we would all have a better environment in which to encourage better productive choices and facilitate quicker recovery from the face-plant failures that come into everyone’s life.
In this blog, we encourage the “love not condemn” paradigm first and foremost when dealing with divorce in the church— before, during and after!
PS: Do you detect any irony in the naming of the Manhattan Declaration and the famous Manhattan Project that brought us atomic weaponry?