I was recently told a favorite Bible teacher, from my past, had begun podcasting new sermons and I felt a surge of excitement. As I dug into these new sermons I realized something; this particular pastor fed me spiritual at a time when I was broken, when I was in need of the type of healing only Jesus can bring, and at a place where I felt too unworthy to accept His love. I am no longer in that place spiritual (Praise God). I was also made acutely aware of how just two years has drastically changed the lens in which I choose to see – and live out – my faith in Christ.
This teacher is a conservative evangelical pastor, and something he said struck me while listening, a comment regarding the emerging church. This is not an exact quote, but the comment was along the lines of this: that people today (those involved in the emerging church) are being led astray, being caught up in theological debates, and forgetting what we are here to do … which is love. This irritated me so much because part of the reason I’m so drawn to ideals of the emerging church is precisely because of the way they love. But as I thought on this some more I realized every conversation I become involved in, when positioning myself across from mainstream evangelical beliefs, I inevitably end up in a theological debate …
Women in the church, homosexuality, the existence of hell, denominational divides, Biblical inerrancy, creation vs science, and on and on and on.
This is because [part of] what the emerging church would like to do is set aside ‘core beliefs’ and replace it with ‘love your neighbor’. And, of course, the conservative/orthodox/ modern-era believer insists, ‘I do love my neighbor, but I would rather be honest then be the reason someone goes to hell’ (Or some other crap reason like that). The opposing side would then remind that person what love tangibly looks like, and – in fact – their ‘core beliefs’ are exactly what is separating people from the Jesus we know and love. But just at this moment a specific issue is thrown on the table, a challenge is made to take a stance/defend the issue, and a theological conversation has begun.
I believe God wants us to turn to Him when these conflicts arise, either within ourselves or with others. And here is the reason I believe this to be true … The more I challenge what I’ve been taught to believe, the closer God draws me to Him. The more I question who and what is ‘accepted’ by our earthly idea of ‘church’ the more God reveals truth to me. The more I doubt, not God – but my assumptions about God (a thought taken from Pete Rollins), the more He brings me peace and teaches me what true grace is.
There is a saying they make you learn in rehab that goes like this, “If you always do, what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get, what you’ve always gotten.” This reminds me of the Christians frozen in fear of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe the wolf isn’t the post-modern idea that church should be whole, loving, and available to ALL, but actually is the box that Satan has you trapped inside … the box that takes you only so far in your relationship with God. The box that keeps some from loving all in the same way Christ would if He were still walking this earth.
My heart condition, discernment, core beliefs, determination of what is [or isn’t] sin, and doctrine is between the Holy Spirit that dwells in me and no one else. This doesn’t mean I don’t hold to a certain doctrine or take a side on a theological issue, it means it holds no weight in what my Christian calling is on this earth. I have been called to love people. People who feel too ashamed, too unworthy, too messed up. In my life … I was ashamed. I was unworthy. I was [really] messed up. But the God that I serve was a God of love, grace, and forgiveness. He wanted me then – just as I was. And He wants me now. The same as He does each hurting person.
So today, I pray God will give me the heart to love others in the same way He has loved me and give me eyes to see when my love for others is not truly love at all.