Tuesday, February 25, 2014

And This Is Love...


    So often we forget that the Gospel's foundation is relationship. Even if we understand that fact, we go about our relating in such a righteous manner that the entire purpose of interaction is lost. 

     The foundation to relationship is understanding and accepting the other person. When you make friends, you do not brush people off, telling them to come back to you once they attain perfection. Instead, you interact with them at their level; knowing them is your highest goal. Only once you have relational trust  can you begin to work through the personal flaws, yours especially.
     We cannot continue to disown souls merely because they fail to agree with us.
     We need to realize that friendship is not an endorsement of that person's mistakes [nor is their friendship a conciliation to your shortcomings either], but it is instead the first step in beginning to pour out love upon someone. Love is patient, love is kind, love keeps no record of wrongs.

     When we throw out the cliché that Christ was "counter-culture," and so we must be the same, I believe we forget what culture he was counter to. Christ did not come to be religiously conceited, joining the religious leaders in their holy, pontificating disapproval, shunning  the lowlifes who pursued their own lifestyles. It was these lowlifes that Christ made his friends and eventually followers and closest disciples.  Never once did he endorse their mistakes nor approve of their misguided living, yet he stoutly defended them from the religious and social furor so often directed at "the sinners." What an example of love we  miss in the actions of Christ! In the end, it was nothing he ordered them to do or convicted them of that persuaded them of his offered salvation - it was instead his constant service and willingness to sacrifice that brought them to his side. No man hath greater love than this that he lay down his life for his friends.

     His friends were the least of these.

     So what am I driving at? My question is, why we are more likely to invite someone from a bar to church than to let an open homosexual in at the door? Where do we derive the right to befriend or maintain fellowship with someone who cheated on their spouse or involved with pornography, yet deny a gay or lesbian any semblance of relationship?  What have we done to attempt to find common ground with those whom with we disagree? Or have we forgotten that  those faces belong to people too?

     We seem to have this notion that loving a person requires overlooking their wrong. And so, homosexuality and other sins remain unlovable because they appear so offensive. But loving a person is more than ignoring their flaws; it is accepting a person despite them. If we are to even approach culture, we must live with this sort of love.

     We cannot hope to persuade the world otherwise unless the world trusts us first. As it stands, the Church is not seen as trustworthy. Instead, it is viewed as a homophobic, anti-progressive, conservative base rife with stereotypes and fried chicken. Is this what is true? Yes, we differ from popular opinion and disagree with much of secular thought; however, we have allowed our disagreements to widen the already existing rift between the Church and the Culture. We have forgotten that a similar rift - the eternal separation between God and humanity - was bridged through the love of one man, Christ. Let us minister with that self-same love and bridge this modern, ever widening gap. Let us offer more to culture than a repeated condemnation. Let us work to find common ground upon which to build relationships.

     My brother and I have had our disagreements over the years. I was more often than not the overbearing, self-righteous firstborn, burdened with the maintenance of holiness and personal image. I saw him as the wayward sibling with whom I had been tasked to bring back to the sheepfold. For every flaw he counted in me, I would count twice as many in him, and remind him  to boot. And so, we tolerated each other, suspiciously watching the other's action, each convinced the other was wrong. In all those years, we had little affect in our attempts to conform the other to our standards.

     The day came however when I was to leave for college. We loved each other dearly, brothers in battle, comrades in life to the last. Yet that same suspicion remained. The separation of our lives for the next weeks effected a change though.  The suspicion passed away and was replaced by an irrepressible sense of honor. That Christmas was the first time we ever discussed life openly or considered the other's advice.  We replaced what had been a begrudging existence of disagreement with a grateful relationship of love. We loved each other as equals who cared rather than as disapproving competition.

     As I did for so many years, so we too as Christians have forgotten who our brothers really are, and we have forgotten how to love them. When you look into the eyes of a stranger on the street, you look into the eyes of your brother. When you gaze upon a crowd, you gaze upon a gathering of brethren. When you pass by a searching soul, you pass by a soul kindred to your own. 

     But do you seek to bring these searching brothers an answer? Then you must first love. For without love, there is no life to be given.