About Me

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Love your neighbour as yourself... a challenge to us all

© Jules Middleton 2012

There has been a lot of talk within (and without) the church recently about homosexuality, particularly related to marriage, but also the whole Chick-fil-A debarcle, which if you are a Brit you may have missed, but you can get the gist of it via The Guardian, here. I have said before and I will say again that I will not weigh into this debate, partly because I don't really want to align myself with any particular argument and partly because I don't actually know what Jesus would think about homosexuality (and nor do any of us actually). However what I do object to is the hate and vehemance with which people attack others and even other Christians because of their sexual orientation (or other things for that matter). There have been some amazing posts recently that have inspired me to write today and a few of these are:

Digital Nun write recently about whether it is ok to hate.
Anita has written about Chick-fil-A and tells Chrisitans to stop being so oppositional
and Rachel Held Evans, brilliantly on the same issue
Lay Anglicana had a guest post this morning on the future of the church

Do you know what, frankly I don't care if someone is gay or straight, it wouldn't make a difference to how I spent my time with them, and I wouldn't treat anyone differently because of their background, nationality or skin colour so why would I with sexual orientation? Anyway, it's really none of my business. What is my business though, is to be more like Jesus. A fundamental principal of being a Christian is to love as he loves us. Our God is a God of Love, not of hate or making enemies. Yes you can say that Jesus came to challenge everyone and indeed he did - yes, he challenged those in authority in the church who were fundamentally wrong about their doctrine, those who didn't recognise him as the Messiah. But for the rest, those who were 'ordinary people', sinners like the rest of us, he hung with them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God. He may not have shied away from telling them they were in the wrong, but he did it with love, and either way he was the son of God, we are most definiately not. And aside from all of that the bible tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. 
Mark 12:29-34

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? 
Galatians 5:13-15 The Message
Love the Message, what a great line at the end there. 'If you bite and ravage each other watch out...' indeed. watch out.

It really does infuriate me when people make decisions on what is right and wrong in others lives based on their own judgement. That cannot be right. As Christians we are representing Christ and for some that seems to be a reason to berate others for their behaviour. We are ALL sinners and it is by Gods grace that we may enter his kingdom. Is it particularly graceful to condemn others because they don't fit our own - often skewed - ideal?
As Christians, as those with a voice, as those in authority or positions of public exposure, we have a responsibility to show Jesus to those around us, to those who don't know him. And if all of us who profess to share his name as Christians, if we all did that, on a daily basis, in our actions, in our words, in love, then I think people might be a bit more interested in coming to our churches.

In Wendy Dacksons post on Lay Anglicana's blog she includes this quote:
Evelyn Underhill, the great Anglican mystic of the early 20th century, said that the ‘only really interesting thing about religion is God.’ People aren’t staying away from the Church to play football or shop—they’re staying away because they aren’t finding God.

And I would add to that, to say that also, they are not finding God within us - those who say we love him. And that is really sad.

As I look to the future, and contemplate entering a life of ministry within the church that I love, I am both excited and fearful. Excited to be serving Jesus and to be sharing his message in new and challenging ways, excited to see people coming to know him, to see them released and given new found freedom. But also fearful - for the church, for its future, for the way that people see the church in our society. I want the church to completely represent my Lord and saviour, I want to be part of a church that sees people meeting him and having their eyes opened. I want to bask in His glory, in His church, in His love. And yet, to be honest sometimes I wonder if all that can happen in this church. But what I will say is this: I will die wanting and trying to see that. I will not let go of that until the day I meet him face to face...


James Burt said...

This makes me a little sad. You say "I will not weigh into this debate, partly because I don't really want to align myself with any particular argument and partly because I don't actually know what Jesus would think about homosexuality".

Yet you say you "don't care if someone is gay or straight... it's really none of my business." So you obviously have thought about this and you do have an opinion on it.

I try to accept all people because I believe it is the right thing to do. I don't rely on being told what is right or wrong by an authority. I believe any prejudice against homosexuals is as loathsome as racial or gender prejudice.

And it makes me sad that the church is trying to maintain an offensive and exclusive status quo. In forty years time, the C of E will look as ridiculous as the racist bigots in 1960s america look now.

Why not make a stand? The C of E is currently forging its way towards irrelevance by fighting to maintain petty unpopular views. And surely there are more constructive ways it could be spending its time?

Red said...

Hey Jim. Knew I could rely on you to weigh in!!
Firstly, I didn't say I hadn't thought about it, I said I refuse to weigh in to the debate, for me its going off on a tangent, away from the main event. Like you I try to accept all people, and for me that's because that's what I think Jesus would have done, not because my church or authority tells me to. And I agree, prejudice is always wrong. Look, I love my church but I know it has faults and that's what I'm saying, the church as a whole should represent Christ, but so often it doesn't.
However just to set you straight, the Church of England doesn't actually say homosexuality is wrong. There are various reports, all of which encourage us to accept ALL people into the church. The points of contention come when one is entering ministry, in which it is stated one cannot be practising as a homosexual (and that's another whole debate) and the other is over the issue of marriage within a church, which you and I have debated in the past... Also I'm not sure the church is trying to retain an exclusive status quo, there are lots of people in the church who want to see it looking to the future, me included. Those people are working hard to make changes and to help the church look forward not backwards. Sadly they aren't always the ones in the media...

James Burt said...


Hope you don't mind me diving into this - it is a red rag to me! :)

This may be a distraction from the 'main event', but then it is easy for the people who don't suffer from these exclusions to minimise the issues! And there is one simple way for the church as a whole to be allowed to 'move on' from this.

When I used the word 'authority' i meant it in the sense of an 'argument from authority'. With respect, I will always distrust someone who says they do things because a religious figure would have. Many things that have been done in the name of Jesus in the past have been shameful and horrifying. For me, it is important to do the right thing because it is right.

The prejudice of the church alarms me because it is connected with the state. The church's stance on homosexuality has an effect on human rights and the issue of the church and state is one that affects my own freedoms.

Until the church accepts homosexuals in the congregation, priesthood and marriage, it is a discriminatory organisation. Its stance is offensive in the same way as the LDS Church and their relationship with black men.

None of which affects my own love and respect for you as a person. But I cannot accept my country's national church being a discriminatory and prejudiced organisation and look forward to a day where that changes.


Red said...

no of course I dont mind! thats what the comments section is for ;)

I'm not trying to 'minimise' the issue, I just feel as a Christian that all this ongoing argument (as in the churches argument) takes away from the fact that we should represent Christs love to all. When we get stuck into heated debate it takes away from that. Clearly debate is needed but the problem is, that ends up with people getting hurt. Parts of the church feel very strongly about this issue on both sides of the debate.
Red rag to you - imagine what it's like for me going into an organisation where women are still the under dogs in many areas. I have friends who have had members of their congregation telling them they are not a 'proper' priest, and refusing to take communion from them. My own diocese even has bishops who refuse to ordain women...
That said, the church as a whole is amazing. I really believe that or I would not be going to work within it. Local churches have so much impact on their communities, individual priests show love to their parishoners in ways well beyond their job spec! Many communities are served in particularly needy areas by their churches filling the gaps. The church of this country IS great! Don't forget this is an organisation that has been going for hundreds of years, change takes a while... And usually it is the extreme views on either side that create the acceptable middle ground...

BTW I actually don't think the argument about race is the same but we can debate that when I next see you!

Thanks by the way, love and respect you too!

James Burt said...

Re-reading my previous comments, they sound somewhat pompous!

The church may be amazing but my only contact with churches in Brighton is the bigotry of people like John Sentamu in the media and occasional evangelical leaflets through the door.

The comparison between church stances on homosexuality and race was poorly made and I should have explained it better.

There is an issue with 'divinely inspired' prejudice such as that of the LDS against black men and the current C of E against homosexuals and women. Any apologetics for this are inexcusable (for a start, it makes most atheists look more more thoughtful and compassionate than the Archbishop of York!)

Red said...

lol! no you didnt sound pompous! lets chat over coffee sometime soon.whats september looking like? text/email me some dates!