Who’s allowed in church, who’s allowed to have an opinion? Why does it matter.
These questions have been knocking around in my head for a while now. In my estimation the church is supposed to be a place that anyone can come to and find rest, a listening ear, and tolerance. The town square has been a place where people are allowed to go with their viewpoints and are given the ability to express them how they want.
In our country we are given so many freedoms that we forget the responsibility that comes with those freedoms. People on either side of the political, religious, whatever it is spectrum forget that with freedom of anything comes, out of necessity tolerance. I find though that neither side in any of the most recent debates is willing to extend much in the way of tolerance.
I would love to be able to say I have friends, but that’s really not the case. I have friends on all sides. I have liberal and conservative friends, I have friends who are different nationalities, friends who are gay, friends who are strait. I have Christian and non-christian friends. I have friends of different faiths. I wish it were possible to just say I have friends but it’s not. I also wish it were possible to be allowed to have the friends I have, but it seems that all the different sides find it difficult to handle the fact that it’s possible to have friends that you don’t agree with all the time. It’s hard to have friends that allow for different opinions, different interpretations, different readings of rules, and laws and religious texts.
Everyone wants to be right, everyone wants to be validated, everyone wants to be accepted but they don’t call it that, we don’t call it that, we call it tolerance. We all want to be tolerated.
It’s sad really, in it’s desire to hold a line on sin, the church has forgotten that all have sinned, all are sinners, all are lost. In it’s need to be accepted humanity at large dares anyone that has a different opinion than their own to share it, and if for whatever reason, be it political, religious or just personal feeling that opinion differs, suddenly oppression is happening, or a denial of freedom. It becomes important to completely shred the person, their beliefs, their convictions, whatever it is. This is when things really heat up. People start to dig for historical evidence, they start to look at the way things always were, suddenly armchair theologians look for ammunition and start shooting at anyone and everyone in their line of site. Back yard scientists start looking for proofs of the oppositions idiocy. I am ashamed to say that there have been times I have done the same thing.
The last few weeks and on through Easter Sunday we are in the middle of a series at the Church I pastor, still something I am wrapping my brain around, called From Carpenter to Christ. We are looking a bit deeper at the life of Jesus. It goes without saying that I am doing some serious digging in for all of this and what I’m finding is a Jesus who was tolerant of a lot, who accepted people wherever they were, in whatever state with whatever issues they have. He tolerates them, he accepts them, the person. He doesn’t condone sin, he doesn’t say it’s no big deal, but he doesn’t make the person into their sin, that’s a modern day evangelical thing. People say love the sinner hate the sin, but if people were honest, if they would sit down and really be honest, it’s hard to separate the two in our minds. Christians as a whole forget this..
Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
So God created human beings* in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Being created in God’s image is hard to believe and well, because of the fall of man, that did break the relationship with God there is that nasty little problem of sin that has to be dealt with, still if Jesus chose to not define people based on their sin, why do Christians? John 8:1-11 offers one of many pictures of Jesus refusing to define people by their issues. I love the last part of this set of verses. I don’t condemn you, now go and stop doing the thing that brought you here in the first place. He didn’t even focus on what the issue was, he just said stop. A far cry from what the church as a whole does.
But wait there’s more…I also have an issue with my friends on the left,or with any group of people that is all about tolerance and acceptance as long as it’s on their terms. Daring to have a different opinion than some people is grounds for being called a bigot, or intolerant. It’s amazing how easy it is to label a person as intolerant or un-accepting, or bigoted if they don’t agree with you a hundred percent.
Back around Christmas a Redneck Christian dared say that he believed a literal translation of scripture, now in a nod to all my liberal/left friends, I get it, I understand the argument that if people are going to espouse a literal interpretation of Scripture, that they can’t pick and choose, but lets face it we all pick and choose what we want to accept or reject when it comes to any number of things. People on both sides of this whole thing do it all the time. As annoyed as I get at my fellow Christians who keep entire people groups out of church and away from God, I get equally annoyed at my fellow liberals for crying foul every time someone doesn’t just agree with whatever they have chosen to believe. It’s really not possible to tell an entire group of people that they have to accept you and all that you bring to the table but the minute they question some of those things they are unenlightened bigots who need to have their rights and freedoms guaranteed under the constitution stripped away.
What makes your pursuit of happiness more acceptable than theirs?
Years ago my great grandmother said something that has stuck with me, and I am coming to realize that it has a lot to do with more than just God stuff. We were sitting around the table one Sunday afternoon after a great dinner of pasta and her home made sauce. We were talking about church and preachers and how sometimes they say things that don’t make sense or don’t seem right. She looked at me and said. “Aaron no one is always right. When we listen to people who are teaching about God we have to be smart enough to chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” This means more than what it first appears to mean, at least now it does. In my dealing with people I need to do the same things. There are things I will agree with and things I won’t. I have a choice to make do I maintain relationship, agree that there are going to be areas we are not going to agree with and spots that we will. Is relationship with others worth looking past the parts that I don’t like or understand?
As I move through life, as I get older, and as I pastor a church on the brink, I am realizing more and more that Jesus was more concerned with the person than he was with their mess. Mess can be cleaned up, mess can be changed, mess can be made into something new and beautiful. Lets face it as a whole humanity is a mess, and whatever side of the idiotic debates we fall on, we need each other.