Saturday, March 14, 2015

Radical Love

It sounds like something John Lennon would've talked about in the 70's after smoking too much weed, but in reality, Christianity is supposed to be all about love.  We have problems with this.  It sounds too much like the focus of a hippy commune.  It doesn't align with the values of our 21st century western ideals that promote capitalism which has no room for love.  Only success.  It sounds feminine.    It sounds weak.  It sounds too airy-fairy.  It sounds too hard.  It doesn't really look successful.  There's no obvious reward in it.  But if we declare ourselves a follower of Christ, it's what we're called to.  It's virtually all that we're called to.

You can't get around it.  You can try if you want to.  You can focus on living a life of purity - treating the Bible like a rule-book and attempting to do Everything Right.  Everything Perfect.  You can scrutinize the Bible and become a mini-theologian working out the Rights and Wrongs of a Perfect Christian Life.  You can get super busy at being super Nice.  You can spend a lot of time being Nice.  It probably makes you feel that perhaps you are Loving because you are Nice.  You smile at the checkout operator, you might even let cars go ahead of you in the traffic queue, you work on being pleasant to your neighbour.  But this is not Love.  This is Nice.  Nothing wrong with it - quite a good way to live really - less stressful, good for your blood pressure and you feel better about yourself.  But we're called to something bigger and deeper and more radical than this.  The love Jesus offers us is is radical - revolutionary in the movement it started.  If you're not aware of that kind of love from Jesus then chances are you're in a relationship with religion - not Jesus.  Coz Jesus fuels you with love for other people - and if you're not demonstrating that love in a meaningful way, then you don't understand Jesus' values at all.

Without love, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or a clashing symbol states 1st Corinthians 13:  a big, loud, irritating noise.  Without love, the author says, I am nothing.  Even if I gave everything I had to the poor or sacrificed myself as a martyr - it would be pointless if it is not motivated out of love.  That whole "remain in me" stuff Jesus talks about with the vine and all that is all to do with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit.  Not the fruits of My Effort.  Or fruits of Church Attendance.  It doesn't come from us.  That kind of love comes from God.  Is it possible to really know God or be truly abiding in Him if we don't show love to others?  No, I don't think it is.

For most of us we wrestle with a whole bunch of things about ourselves that get in the way of God's love transforming us to be better - to change.  But for some of us, we avoid love on purpose.  We justify it - because love isn't easy, it's not glamorous and it is extremely genuine.  It demands that we face some of those things about ourselves we'd rather not wrestle with.  Things like sexism, racism, prejudice, hate, unforgiveness, our precious ego, our sense of entitlement, our sense of superiority which we cling to because of our insecurities.  Above all, it demands that we deal with our fear that motivates us to exclude others, ignore others, even reject other people AND it demands that we risk being excluded, ignored and rejected.

In his day, Jesus embraced and prioritised his time with those that were marginalized and looked down upon by the religious leaders of his day.  Women, prostitutes, tax collectors, people with disabilities, children, uneducated people.  His association and preference for these people, embracing them as his friends was so utterly offensive to religious leaders.  Consider the members of your church today.  Who are welcomed there?  Who are ignored?  Who would feel awkward in your church?  Who would you feel awkward having there?  Who is despised?

To Marginalize (definition):  To treat a person, group or concept as insignificant or peripheral.

People I believe are attending Western Churches that are marginalized/ignored:

Those with a Mental Illness

Single/Sole Parents
A Divorcee (or Separated)

Christians that Struggle
(with anything - the more struggles the lower your status
eg. anger, alcoholism or addiction, domestic violence, abuse)

Is it any wonder that homeless people, prostitutes, gang members, ex-prisoners don't walk into our churches when we are marginalizing people in our congregations with very real problems?

Love treats them with respect and equality.
Love doesn't Smile Nicely and then walk away.
Love asks "what can I do to help?"
Love gives time.
Love doesn't avoid.
Love genuinely welcomes.

I reckon if Jesus were here on earth selecting his crew of disciples they'd be solo mums, people with mental illness, with disabilities, people who had divorced or separated, people who had struggled with addiction, with low self-esteem, with sexual abuse as a kid, as a victim of domestic violence as an adult.  And I think he'd love them and they would be transformed by that kind of love and start a revolution - but the religious leaders would be unimpressed.  Maybe even embarrassed.

 "Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners"  - Jesus (Mark 2:17)