Love is the measure

We have a problem in this country that goes way beyond some of the issues that have been raised lately. I have been struggling myself to figure out what to speak about, either for or against, and the reason is that I do not know exactly where I stand. “Black churches” being burned down by arson after the shooting in Charleston. All of the hate over the idea of the government stepping in concerning gay marriage. These are just two examples that seem to be filling the news. I have to admit there was a time when I would have been outraged at the idea of the government stepping in and making it legal across all fifty states to allow and recognize same sex marriages. I don’t think there is a time in my life where it would have ever been ok to burn a building down simply because “black” people used it as a place to worship. I know I have been grateful and lifted it up as a praise to God that we live in a place where we can gather “safely” and worship without worrying about someone coming in and taking us hostage for worshipping or arresting us. I still feel that it is an unlikely ordeal in the church I serve as pastor, that either the becoming hostages or being arrested will take place here. I believe I would be shocked if it did happen in any of the numerous local church gatherings where I am currently living.

While the first example of taking lives and destroying property, whether it belongs to a church or private person, is a no brainer at least for me. There is no reason that this is acceptable in any society in my mind.

The second is the one I tremble at while my fingers are typing away. I have often been able to see arguments from multiple points of view. Sometimes this allows me some great clarity, while other times I end up on the fence unsure of how to respond. Growing up in the United Methodist Church and being appointed as a Licensed Local Pastor a little over 10 years ago, what has shaped my thoughts the most is what has been called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Simply put there are four lenses we look through to understand the world as best we can and the redemptive work of God in the midst of our brokenness. Scripture is the biggest lens, or it could also be referred to as the main lens. The other three lenses are experience, tradition, and reason. For Wesley we never check our brain at the door. I have spoken with some people and they can spit out the “party line” answers, even if they do not believe them. To me this seems like the blind leading the blind. (Gee, I hope I didn’t offend anyone with that statement. SMH)

Here is where I want to say something truly profound, but I am not sure if I can. There is a part of me that wants to put the rainbow color shield on my profile picture in support of this decision. My stance on gay marriage has changed, but not on a whim by any stretch of the imagination. It has come through talking with LBGTQ people, living life and seeking the same privileges I have as a married “straight” guy. It has come through time spent reading scientific studies and reports, not just psychological reports. It has come through seeing people question what is in their DNA, and trying to figure out how to fulfill a longing from deep inside of them. Tears have been shed as some have contemplated suicide over this struggle.

I believe in a God bigger than this issue. All of the LGBTQ people I have talked with know they also deal with sin in their lives. In my closet there are plenty of things in my past and likely in my future that will be classified as not only sins, but sins related to my sexuality. When Jesus came to fulfill the law, he turned the understanding of those laws upside down, COMPLETELY! Read and re-read Matthew 5-7. What was the message of Christ? John 13:34, “34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.[1] Why is it a new command compared to Leviticus 19:18? “…you must love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”

The issue is not the destruction of traditional marriage, heterosexual marriage does that all too well with the divorce rate nearly 50% for first marriages. I believe it is fear. We are afraid of this taking us down the proverbial slippery slope to who knows where. The world is changing and I believe God is still in control. I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I believe we are on the brink of a new day where the love of Christ will be lived out. I do think we are over sensitive to some things, but the more I think about that, I realize it is more a personal heart condition.

May God’s peace and love fill you and your response to this blog if you choose to do so. May God’s peace and love grant the opportunities for us to see the other as a beloved child of God.

[1] Common English Bible. (2011). (Jn 13:34). Nashville, TN: Common English Bible.