Today I am beginning a four-part series explaining my theology, which is based on God’s unconditional and never-ending love for us. This is theology, so it uses a lot of scripture passages, and I realize there are many passages I do not use that create questions of interpretation. This is always the case in any theology. My intention with using scriptures is merely to show that my theology has deep Biblical roots. Then I will use other analogies, comparisons, illustrations, and arguments to show that it is compelling, common-sense, and — further — the only theology that will not leave us practicing love in a confused and half-hearted way.
I believe God is love.Scripture is clear on this point, and Jesus was clearer on this point than almost anything else he said. That is where I begin. It is not that the rest of scripture is irrelevant to me, it’s just that — if God is indeed a God of love — the rest of the Bible must be interpreted in the light of God’s love. Of course one may ask, “Why do you choose the parts of scripture that mention God’s love over all the other parts? What about the God’s wrath, anger, and vengeance?” My reply to that question is worked out in the rest of this post. This is my theology of love.
My theology of love is very much centered in what we can already know about love as parents. If you were to say to your children, “Repent, for your mother/father is near,” what would this mean? Would your love be dependent on their repentance? Would you love them any less if they did NOT repent? Of course not. Your love is the constant in this equation. You ask them to repent so they can know, experience, and live in this love connection with you. I believe that spiritual repentance is the same — God asks us to repent so we can know, experience, and live in this love connection between God and us. As I sat next to my daughter in the hospital last summer after her attempted suicide, the greatest source of pain in all of it was the chaos and pain she had been living in, despite how deeply loved she was. Her lack of understanding of this love had nearly catastrophic consequences in her life, and ours too.
Here are core assumptions I am working under for this post:
- The church has generally done a pretty lousy job being a force of love in the world (not that there are not some exceptions, thank God).
- Though some individuals are unloving on purpose, most individuals are doing the best they can.
- Christian leaders are the cause of much of the problem with not loving. They can also be the solution.
The church’s history as a witness of love in the world is not good. Millions of Christians who have ended up being on the wrong side of history — big time — were sincere in their beliefs, no matter how toxic. I believe that we Christian leaders are the cause of many of the church’s problems with not loving. If church congregations today are full of people who are hateful, or even simply dismissive, toward gays, for example, it is almost certainly either because their leaders are the same way, or at least do not aggressively teach that lack of love is unacceptable, and fundamentally incompatible with the Lord we claim to serve.
My title stems from centuries of inexcusable failure of those who call themselves “the people of God” to love, or even to simply refrain from committing and supporting atrocities — things that directly and dramatically contradict the teachings of our Lord. This failure continues to this day, when we are genuinely, sincerely confused over whether or not we should refrain from openly wounding the gay community further, after they have told us for a least a generation that we are deeply hurting and alienating even those gays who would like to pursue a connection with God through a local Christian church. It continues when Christians defend people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who consistently say idiotic and hurtful things. It continues when our Christian leaders teach that yes, God is loving BUT…(and then whatever comes after).
If you are feeling defensive and upset because of what you have heard so far, I invite you to stop reading. Because,
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People supporting Chick-fil-A
Well, support-Chick-fil-A-day has come and gone. It is being reported as a huge success. I view it as a huge missed opportunity.
We talk so much about sacrificial love in the church, but when the biggest moments come to do it — the ones that would make the biggest impact and go the furthest towards healing the wounds between the Christian and LGBT communities — we lose the love talk and lapse into political cliches about free speech.
This reminds me so much of what I wrote in my last post about how men and women are constantly missing opportunities to love each other, and then complaining that their spouse does not really love them.
The whole post is here, but the point is that both say they want to be loved, but actually only want to be loved when it’s convenient for them.
When the man is up late at night on the computer and she asks, “Are you coming to bed?” it’s very easy for him to say, “Nah — I’m doing this thing right now.” She invited him to bed, and he missed the invitation — the opportunity to love her and be loved by her.
She does the same thing, ignoring him in favor of cleaning or laundry or whatever else she has going on.
At Chick-fil-A this week, millions of Christians had a chance to love the LGBT community in a way that mattered hugely to them, and instead many of us said, “No thanks — I’m doing this other thing right now.”
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Image public domain
Church people and everyone else aren’t as different as you might think. Both groups tend toward black and white thinking — that things are all good or all bad. In truth, everything is touched both with sacredness and profanity. We are shocked and mystified when we see profane acts and words proceeding from supposedly sacred people and institutions, and we are skeptical when we see sacred things coming from a person or institution we had written off as completely profane.
The church — this institution that is supposedly the living body of Christ on earth — is no different. One needn’t study much history, or even look very far today, to see plenty of examples of profanity issuing forth from the church and those who claim to belong to it. It must have been this reality St. Augustine was thinking about when he famously said, “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother.” That whore is my mother too. She is, despite her shortcomings, one who raised and nurtured me and taught me right from wrong. I owe a huge debt to her. To this day it seems most of my life is either lived in service to her or in reaction against her. We can never fully escape the influence of our parents. Today I wish to pay tribute to this whore who, for better of for worse, I love so deeply. Here are the things I like most about the church.
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Image courtesy of kalexanderson via Flickr under Creative Commons License
My clients often report that they don’t feel loved by their spouse. People from abusive or neglectful homes may grow up with a deep sense of emptiness, of being unloved. They will invariably get married pinning all their hopes of love on their partner. When the partner ends up being imperfect, they will be disillusioned and left feeling unloved. The real problem, of course, is not being unloved, but feeling unlovable. This is a much deeper problem that will take serious time and effort to resolve. This post assumes you are married to a kind, caring, well-intentioned person who deeply desires your happiness. If your spouse is not such a person, perhaps they truly do not love you. I will deal in another post with ways to tell if you are truly unloved. Assuming you are married to a person with good intentions, here are five ways to fight the feeling of not being loved.
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