“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
I grew up in a small, conservative church in New England. It’s been many years since I’ve gone to that particular denomination with any regularity, but the hymns we sang every Sunday are forever burned into my consciousness. I remember one song, the touchy-feely emotional type that I outwardly avoided – but secretly loved – that had a chorus that went like this:
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we our Christians by our love…
I’ve been thinking about that lyric a lot the past couple of days, partly because once something gets stuck in your head it’s there until it’s replaced by something else… but mostly because my social media newsfeeds have been inundated with opinions on this asinine new bill being considered in Arizona; a bill that makes it expressly legal for a business to discriminate against someone – without the fear of a lawsuit – if you feel that not doing so would threaten your religious freedom in some way.
I’m incapable of mincing words at this point, so forgive my bluntness when I say:
What the hell are we doing?
Everyone who’s defending this bill has made essentially the same argument. We have to protect our religious rights! We have to defend what’s right and pure! We have to stand by our biblical principles!
And you know what? I agree. Religious rights are important, and I’m thankful that we have them. I can go to church whenever I want. I can read a Bible while I’m riding on the light rail. I can wear a cross around my neck, and a Jesus fish on my car. I can talk about, or write about, my faith wherever I go. I can accept and respect other people’s religions, and I can appreciate and embrace our differences.
If I stand for anything, it’s for what’s right and pure.
And as for biblical principles – real biblical principles of goodness, kindness, compassion and love – you will not find a bigger supporter. I love the Bible. I love what it’s taught me, and continues to teach me. I love what it’s revealed to me over the past 40 years. I love its story. I love its message of a God who so “loved the world that He gave his only begotten son.” But here’s what I’m wondering…
I’m wondering what part of, “Love your neighbor” is getting confused as, “Love your neighbor unless you disagree with his lifestyle. Love your neighbor unless he’s a liberal. Love your neighbor unless he’s gay.” And before you can say it, I’m not talking about, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” either. I’m talking about JUST LOVING, period, and leaving everything else up to the individual and to God.
I think of Jesus in the Bible and I think of the person “in the trenches.” I think of the guy who was hanging out with the people that no one else would give the time of day. I think of the soul who was spending timing with the tax collectors, breaking bread with the lepers, and conversing with the prostitutes. I think of someone who was healing the sick, helping the poor, and raising the dead.
I do not think of a person who would refuse to serve someone, based on creed or religion or skin color or sexuality. I do not think of a person who would walk away from someone – from anyone – when He had an opportunity to be kind to them, to love them, to minister to them.
I think of Jesus in the Bible, and I wonder how we’ve strayed so far. So far that we’ve forgotten what we were supposed to be doing in the first place. So far that when I think of people who actually emulate Jesus that His followers are the very last people who come to mind.
When did being a Christian become synonymous with using the Bible to brow-beat everyone? When did being a Christian become synonymous with arrogant grandstanding, a tit-for-tat war of words and actions to prove that you’re more Godly, more virtuous than everyone around you? When did being a Christian become about defending conservative reality TV stars, no matter how inflammatory and vulgar their message?
When did being a Christian become about standing behind a ridiculous, intolerant bill that celebrates turning people away, playing judge and jury on others’ lives, and isolating and separating yourself from the very people (ie: ALL people) that you’re asked – commanded really – to love.
Somewhere along the way, this is exactly what happened.
I see the comments from my non-Christian friends… comments about how judgmental Christians are. How arrogant. How intolerant. How cruel. I see the comments and I cringe. Cringe because the comments are hurtful, and cringe because I know they’re right. I’m no stranger to cruel comments on my blog, and the worst – by far – are from my fellow Christians. Often under the guise of “saving” me of course, but cruel nonetheless. And each time… EVERY time… I can’t help but wonder, if I, a fellow believer, am so disappointed and disillusioned with God’s people and their actions, how on earth can they be reaching and encouraging others?
Spoiler: They can’t. They’re not.
We’re missing the boat here, in a big big way.
Christians, we can do better than this. We have to do better than this. I want that old hymn to be true. I so badly want it to be true. Right now, I just don’t think it is. And bills like Senate bill 1062? They’re a giant step in the wrong direction.
I write this to you as a very flawed, imperfect follower of Christ. Lord knows I have my own work to do in the department of loving others. But it seems to me if we can all – all of us – do a little less quoting of cherry picked scriptures like Leviticus 18:22, and a little more living of scriptures like Matthew 7:3, the world would be a much better place.