Not to belabor the whole “they will know we are Christians by our love” thing, but it sticks in my craw that if we run around saying it, we should at least be attempting to “do” what we “say”, or in this case, sing. The lyrics are from an old song written by a priest in 1968 referencing John 13:35 that reads, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)
In context, Yeshua (Jesus) is preparing his disciples for continuing on in ministry after His crucifixion. We could get really nit-picky here and make the case for loving only fellow Jews, or moving forward into modern day, loving only those within the church, but I believe the statement was specific, and at the same time, general. In any event, giving lip-service to a key tenant of Christianity needs to be addressed.
Can we be expected to “love” everyone? No, of course not. We are woefully human, and therefore incapable of truly “loving” everyone. People’s personalities clash, life gets in the way and we are sharp with others, hurt others with our words and actions, become self-absorbed and forget the world is bigger than our tiny sphere of existence. All we are expected to do is draw close enough to God that He can love thru us, but that is a challenge unto itself.
Love starts with acceptance of the differences in others. My preferences are not going to be the same as yours, but isn’t that what makes our relationships interesting? How boring would it be if we all thought alike, looked alike, and believed alike? Being different from others needn’t be feared, rather it needs to be embraced. What if we just opened our minds to learn about others who were different from us? Who knows, we might find common ground! At the core of our being we all want the same things; acceptance, to be heard, loved, a sense of belonging in community.
Man has always struggled with the acceptance of others; if history has taught us anything it is that there will forever be those who believe themselves better and more entitled than others. The majority of the world’s evils originate with this one undeniable fact; I don’t know you, understand you, and therefore I believe in my superiority over yours. Wars are fought over conflicting ideologies, one group of people is enslaved by another, and on and on it goes. Women in our country have fought for the right to vote, the right to equality in the workplace, African Americans have fought for equal status within the human race, and that battle still flares and rages more and more frequently. Now the final frontier of equality seems to be that of the homosexual population. I really do get it; when we don’t understand a group of people different from us we tend to make general assumptions about them that often are not based in truth or reality. It’s human nature to assign characteristics to others to help us fill in the blanks of our limited understanding.
I could overlook that mindset in the world at large, but not within the church; not within an entity that preaches “love” on a nearly weekly basis in some way, shape, or form. Churches are segregated into like-minded cliques when it comes right down to it. One particular brand follows Martin Luther, another modified the Lutheran tenets, still others claim origination with John the Baptist, or Jesus Himself. The modern church had its origins in the Jesus Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s; it’s predecessor being the Charismatic Movement practicing the spiritual gifts thru tongues and prophesy. Now many churches offer contemporary services with full bands and worship teams who sing, clap, dance, and in general celebrate Jesus each time the doors are open. Gone are the stuffy services of yesteryear having been replaced with relaxed orders of service, coffee bars and casual dress in many churches. Many of these contemporary churches tout their acceptance of gays and lesbians, welcoming them into the fold. The lip service paid them seemingly stops there, however.
Don’t think the attitudes of exclusion exist within today’s body of believers? Think again. I recently found out that a friend of mine who was part of a music ministry in one of the modern “box” churches was asked to sign a statement that said the members of the worship team would not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, use illegal substances and would not participate in homosexual relationships. Huh?? On the surface this is likely explained away citing the need to provide leadership to those in the congregation; what I see is a need to control those who come thru the front door. Why are we only singling out those “sins”? Why aren’t gossip, judgment, gluttony and other “sins” listed among the unacceptable “sins” for the music ministry? Doesn’t God see “sin” as “sin”?
She wasn’t able to honestly sign the paper since she does occasionally drink beer, smoke cigarettes, and happens to be a lesbian. She also has a beautiful voice. She understands love and accepts others for who they are without judgment, welcoming all people into her circle of friends; black, white, rich, poor, male, female, “normal”, developmentally disabled, tattooed, non-tattooed, straight, gay or transgender. If you happen to attend church, that’s cool; if not, that’s cool too. Does she get along with everyone? No, of course not. At the end of the day she is as human as you or I, but she gives everyone a chance. She was raised in the church, but she discovered that the church was no longer willing to accept her when they found out she no longer fit into their “box” of acceptable “Christians”.
Could she still attend the church if she chose to ? Sure, but not as part of the music ministry. What does praise and worship have to do with any of the things that precluded her from being part of the worship team?
Here’s my question; could everyone on that worship team honestly and legitimately sign that statement, or did some choose to sign knowing that they smoked, drank, partied occasionally with illicit substances, or God-forbid, loved a person of the same gender? In terms of “sin” who is the bigger “sinner”; the one who signs knowing he/she is being dishonest, or the one who does not sign choosing to be honest? I despise more than just about anything not being able to be who we are so that we can fit into the “Christianity box”. Imagine the dilemma of many forced to go underground and lie about who they are or what they may do in their personal lives just to be included in the “box”. Chew on that for a moment. How do you think God views that attitude; a willingness to lie just to be included with a group of other “sinful” people? Messed up priorities in my mind………