By this all men will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another. John 13:35
I'm the type of person who likes lists.
My favourite types of sermons are the ones titled "5 keys to....." or "3 steps to.....".
I decide what political side people are on by a mental list of stereo-typical left-wing / right-wing traits.
I like everything to be to be neat and tidy in its own box in my head.
Or, to put it in computer terms, I like everything to have its own folder and/or sub-folder.
For most of my christian life I've managed to do this with 2 big folders. "Right" and "Wrong".
But nows there's some glitches and it appears that some of sub-folders may be in the wrong place.
So how did this happen?
I'll take the two biggest sub-folders challenging the church today. The 'LGBT issue' and the 'Gender Roles' issue.
I'm not going to debate which folder they should be in. In fact, you would have to break down the issues into lots of smaller sub-folders that could potentially end up in either main folder.
The main issue is what criteria was used to determine which folder these issues ended up in.
I believe that to a large extent we have used judgement instead of love to decide what folders go where.
I haven't read Phyllis Tickles book, The Great Emergence, but for me, part of the 500 year rummage sale within the church is the need to replace judgement with love.
For example. If a LGBT person becomes a christian, then surely, getting their life right with God is no different to a 'straight' person getting their life right. It takes time and ultimately it's between them and God.
Just as a side note. Gossip is a sin but I don't see christians picketing churches because they have gossips in their congregations. (This is probably because the gossips organize the pickets!)
My right/ability to to offer any guidance is determined by the the relationship I have with that person and the love that I show toward them (Not the judgement I show toward them).
If a mum decides she needs to go out to work to support her family shouldn't we show our love to her and her family by offering our support etc rather than judging her through our interpretation of the Bible.
Too often we go into a situation with an attitude of judgement - "I'm going to change that person no matter what."
We don't change people. God does. Yes, God uses people to speak into other peoples lives but usually it's people who've formed relationships over time.
Instead, our attitude should be - "I'm going to love that person no matter what."
In Philip Yanceys book, What's so amazing about Grace, he asks why it was, when Jesus lived on earth, that sinners flocked to him but now sinners stay well away from the church?
His conclusion was that judgement has taken the place of grace.
Love and grace go hand-in-hand. You can't have one without the other.
So, getting back to my computer folder analogy.
I've got rid of the glitch and now have one main folder called 'LOVE' and everything else is a sub-folder of that.
A note of caution though. You've got to watch out for a virus that tries to return things to the old filing system. But don't worry....."LOVE NEVER FAILS" 1 Cor 13:8
I recently attended the funeral for my Aunty (Cynthia Collier) and discovered (after being out of contact for approx 25 years) that she was a pretty amazing lady.
One of the things that stood out for me was that for almost all of her adult life she was an active member of 'Rural Women NZ'. During the funeral service a lady representing RWNZ read out their creed which is said at the beginning of every meeting.
The comment was made that my aunty lived up to this creed.
Here it is.
Keep us, O God, from pettiness; Let us be large in thought, in word, and deed. Let us be done with fault finding and leave off self-seeking. May we put away pretence and meet each other face to face without self pity and without prejudice. May we never be hasty in judgement and always generous. Let us take time for all things; make us grow calm, serene, gentle. Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straightforward and unafraid. Grant that we may realise it is the little things that create differences; that in the big things of life we are one. And may we strive to touch and to know the great human heart common to us all, and O Lord, let us not forget to be kind.
Isn't it amazing how negative our Christian thinking can be sometimes.
As an example. We come across a person or family with serious health issues, be it physical, mental or emotional, and that little voice in your head says something like 'What sin bought this illness on them?'.
There is, of course, a biblical basis for this thinking. There are continuous warnings throughout the scriptures that warn about the consequences of sin.
But I believe Jesus set the model for our response to sickness and illness.
In John 9 we see that the early disciples were just like us.
Jesus comes across a blind man and the disciples ask who sinned to bring this illness on him.
Jesus answer should be our immediate response to that little voice.
'This illness happened so that that the work of God might be displayed.'
But what does it mean '...that the work of God might be displayed'.
Does it mean that we pray for that persons healing and thats it. I'm not belittling prayer. Prayer is very important in every situation and God can miraclously heal people. But I think Jesus words go deeper than that.
The Bible declares that God is love, 1Jn 4:16, so if we go back to John 9 we can read this verse '...so that the work of love might be displayed.' or to paraphrase the verse '...so that love may be the prominent feature in that situation.'
To blame sin the the easy option. It puts the cause of the problem out of our hands, but when love is put in the equation, that puts the solution in our hands.
It's interesting that in the parable of the sheep and goats Matt 25:31-46, of all the examples Jesus could give he specifically talks about looking after the sick.
Prayer is very important but too often we leave it at that. We forget about the 'looking after' part so that the work of love might be displayed.
If we don't do the 'looking after' part then maybe the question really is 'Who sinned?'.