Tag Archives: love

Why I Choose To Side With Progressives

Progressive 31If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

Christianity seems to be eating itself from within. People accuse one another of not being “Christian” enough, the rich and the poor take opposite stances, and denominations splinter over the interpretation of verses. I’m so sick of the division. I’m sick of the gay bashing, the thinly veiled racism, and the very unchristian attempts to demonize the poor.

I don’t like labels that divide us from within. I would like to simply call myself “Christian” and accept other Christians as part of my family. Sadly, I’ve been accused of being less Christian for quoting verses such as “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” (John 8:1-11) So I’ve reluctantly taken a side. I’ve tacked on the word “progressive” to identify myself as something other than fundamentalist or evangelical or right-wing.

I don’t agree with everything said by progressive Christians—it’s a grab-bag of beliefs and ideas, still largely under construction—but I agree with the essence. (I especially love Red Letter Christianity. It’s closest to what I believe, and I like the concept: an emphasis on Jesus’ words.) I do like the term progressive because the world is changing and moving. We don’t live in the world of our childhoods, (for many of us, simpler times seemed like better times. We’d recently won a world war, television had only a few channels, jobs were plentiful, and everyone knew their roles), but pretending we can return to Camelot won’t make it so.

I don’t think my fundamentalist friends are evil. I believe they’ve been misguided by powerful political forces and a desire for simple black-and-white answers to difficult questions. But I think fundamentalism has gone far away from God’s message by using a lot of clever word manipulation. (Think of easy-to-repeat catch phrases such as “family values” and “God, guns, and glory.”) They’ve also cobbled together a lot of long arguments to say that gay Christians cannot be Christians, (although all other sinners can.) Fundamentalism has forgotten grace. It’s forgotten the Good News:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

Most important to me, progressive Christians welcome people who are hurt and broken. (I am one of the broken.) They don’t require us to be perfect before setting foot in church. (I am far from perfect.) I’ve chosen it because it reflects the teachings of Jesus more closely. Jesus emphasized love and acceptance over slavish adherence to rules. Am I wrong? I don’t think so. But  if I err, I will err on the side of love.

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Freedom of Speech and Respect for Authority

Progressive 29

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17

I am really glad we live in a democracy. It’s not perfect, but we no longer have to deal with slavery or other barbaric practices, and we can vote—something the writers of the Bible couldn’t do. (And best of all, we don’t have an emperor.)

And yes, we have freedom of speech. But have we taken that freedom too far? For the last few years, I’ve seen and heard incredible disrespect coming from all sorts of people, including Christians. Especially Christians.

Think the system is unjust? It is, as is every human-made system. (Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Colossians 3:22) I don’t believe the Bible ever condoned slavery; I believe God wants us to do the right thing even in an unfair world. (Fortunately for us, we have rights that allow us to change what is wrong, albeit slowly.)

In my country, we can say practically anything we want. We can insult other people, even our leaders, without fear of being thrown in jail. Sadly, discussions in social media usually turn into insult-swaps. Apparently the person who comes up with the most colorful (and often disgusting) affront declares him or herself the winner when the other backs down (or gets tired of it). Hence, everyone is talking but no one is listening. The “contenders” in an on-line conversation are always thinking of their next put-down.

How lucky we are to be able to say almost anything without fear. But by exercising their right to free speech in this way, I think people are ruining it–we’re a nation of self-styled satirists. How many problems are solved by one person calling another a “dipshit” for believing as they do? (Do you really think the insulted person will change their mind?) Next time you’re in an escalating insult-swap, think of that.

Here’s an alternative:  1 Peter 2:12 says “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Let’s educate ourselves before we vote, then accept and respect our authorities, even if they’re not the ones we voted for. If we want change, let’s bring about change. Respectfully.

Discussion, yes… Satire, okay… Insults, no. It’s just not Christian.

Against Such Things There is No Law

Progressive 25

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

What about contempt, anger, discord, impatience, ridicule, meanness, dishonesty, rudeness and sarcasm? Where do they fit into a Christian’s life?

What about judgement? What about HATE?

Do these words fit your “witness” in any way? Sometimes they fit mine. I get so frustrated, and I think of some really clever comeback, and BOOM, out it comes. The perfect way to “heap coals on the enemy’s head” right? And I gloat for a few seconds, (until the person I’m sparring with comes up with an equally withering remark). And we keep going, an endless back-and-forth of clever comebacks.

That’s not from God. That’s the devil. That’s me, filled with pride.

I’ve heard people say, many times, “It’s not hate; it’s honesty.” Oh, come on. If it involves an escalation of anger and name-calling, it’s hate. At best, it’s honest hate.

But kindness… “Against such things there is no law.” God will not strike you down for talking kindly to a nonbeliever, or to someone who believes differently than you do. You have an opportunity to gently guide them toward God. And He forgives them, even as they sin.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34

Before you open your mouth (or commit your words to a comment box), pray. Ask God to put kind thoughts in your soul, so only kind words will come out. Remember, He died for the person you’re arguing with.

This is How We Know What Love is…

Progressive 22This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

I’ve seen many posters on social media that say to love yourself. (That’s good. You must love yourself to love others.) And I’ve seen posters that say to let go of people who hurt you. (Of course. You shouldn’t allow yourself to be hurt.) Lately, I’ve seen more that say to get rid of people who don’t make you happy. (Wait, what? Am I supposed to evaluate all my friendships and keep only the feel-good ones? I’ve talked some friends through suicidal times. Should I give them the boot? Some of my friends are poor. Some lost their houses. Some are in poor health and can’t find viable jobs. Should I reject them because they don’t make me happy?)

Love is an action. We must reach out to others. If you have something good, don’t just tell people about it; share it with them. (Yes, this includes material possessions!) If you see people lovingly, and you look at a poor person without a home or healthcare, you won’t think “What a loser;” you’ll think “How can I help?”

But does the Bible really mean “lay down your life”? Most people don’t have to do that literally, (though some have–just this week a firefighter gave up his life to save houses in California). I think the answer varies with each person according to their wealth—not only physical wealth, but spiritual and emotional wealth. I think giving my life means giving time to listen to people’s problems, and being open to help in little ways if I can. It means being a friend. (I don’t help to the point that I burn out, because that helps no one.) It means tithing. It means helping at church. It means voting to help those who are in need. I always ask myself, “Can I give more? Can I do more?”

If you really have God’s love, you won’t be able to do anything else.

Who Does God Want to Save?

Progressive 21I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1-6

There was a time when I was really messed up.

I’ve been a Christian forever it seems–I grew up going to Sunday school–but religion didn’t insulate me from the world’s problems. When I went down, I went down hard. (I’ll spare you the details, but it involved a lot of alcohol.) I haven’t forgotten it, and I haven’t forgotten what it felt like: lost, lonely, rudderless. I stopped going to church after sitting, week after week, next to people who appeared to be happy. Why? Because I thought I wasn’t “good enough.” Instead I turned to twelve step groups, support groups, and counseling. I found God in rag-tag groups of broken people who clung together for sanity. Now I know that I was always good enough for God, even if I wasn’t good enough for some Christians.

I think many Christians have divided the world into two camps: Christians, and those who will never be Christians. And they’ve constricted the definition of Christian to “those who believe exactly the same things I do.”

Some people love the passage about the narrow gate (“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matthew 7:13) even as they ignore the first line of the same chapter (Do not judge… Matthew 7:1) and the verses leading up to it.

It’s up to each person if they want to walk through the narrow gate. But let’s not push people off the road. Let’s invite them on, even if they seem beyond hope to our myopic vision. God knows their hearts and, for all we know, He might have great plans for them.

Every Christian has a before: a time when they weren’t Christians, or they weren’t walking with God, or they just didn’t understand. Every person has hope.

Will God save everyone? I don’t know. But I won’t stop Him if He tries.

Who is my Neighbor?

Progressive 20And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. Genesis 17:20

If you need a refresher, Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son. His mother was Hagar, maid of Sarai; she was sent into the desert. The story in the Quran is similar, only with an emphasis on the branch of the family that led to Islam.

Hagar was clearly a godly woman: Genesis 21:17-21 says

“God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up.

If God blessed the originators of Islam, who are we to curse it? And why must we close our hearts to the many kind, peaceful Muslims?

I believe we should see Muslims as Jesus told us to see the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Who is my neighbor? Anyone who is loved by God!

Are Christians Different from the World?

Progressive 19

Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Luke 6:31-35

These are Jesus’ own words. Sadly, this sounds like the opposite of what is being preached in churches today. To hear them, all rich people are virtuous saints and all poor people are greedy freeloaders. Maybe some are. But I just don’t know how to align “lend to them without expecting to get anything back” with our current philosophy of contempt for the poor and adulation of the ultra-rich.

If Christians only respect those who are “worthy” of respect, how are they different from the rest of the world?