He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
—1 John 4:8
When I was a kid, I would go to church with my family every Sunday. I loved singing hymns, but once it got to the sermon I was, quite frankly, bored. We rarely had dynamic preachers, and they never kept my attention . When church was over, I couldn’t have told you what it was about. I was just a kid, though I know now that I absorbed a lot of the information. I tried to perfect looking interested , but not much held my attention back then. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about God or the Bible and honestly it wasn’t even that the preachers were bad at speaking, they just didn’t open up the stories in a way that made any sense to me. They didn’t make it practical. Everything felt distant and cold, when it wasn’t the usual fire and brimstone warnings about Hell.
That changed in my early teens, but not because I suddenly became interested in the message, but because of a new young preacher we got from Faulkner University, the nearby Church of Christ college. He was there because we were between preachers. He was a very handsome young man in his senior year of college. (I looked him up while I was writing this, and he’s still a nice looking man, though he must be in his early 50s by now. All of the women and me had a crush on him, though of course, I never let on, nor did I probably the at it was a crush.I just new I was mesmerized. Not only was he good looking, he was also a good preacher, but sadly, he did not stay long and we eventually got another preacher.
Eventually, we got a new preacher who was more of a teacher than a preacher. He would teach us about being a better person by emulating Christ. I began to pay closer attention to the meaning of the sermons, and it laid the basis for my current faith. As I came to terms with my sexuality, I turned to the Bible to better understand myself. As I read the Bible and commentaries by more progressive Christian’s, I came to realize that being gay was not the sin I was taught it was. The real sinners were those judging others and playing God by claiming that their piety made them better than others. For many of those pious individuals, there are two major problems with them claiming to be Christians. First, their “faith” is fueled not by the love Christ preached about, but the hatred of those they deem immoral because they base their belief in a Christianity that is not backed by the Bible. Second, they come to their way of thinking by claiming they are following the Bible, when in fact if they do quote scripture, they take it out of context no they ignore passages that condemn their hateful and judgmental and hateful behavior .
If you really want to follow Jesus, then there are some questions you need to ask yourself. How do we love one another well, even when we disagree? What does it mean to follow your calling? How can God be called good when there is so much suffering in the world? (This is one I have particularly struggled with for many years.) What does it look like to fight back against oppression? How is God all powerful and yet people still die? These are the ultimate questions. hen I started to read the Bible in this way, I began to more fully understand Christ teachings of faith, hope, love, and charity. I’m a researcher by training, and I have spent years trying to understand my faith.
I saw that in Luke 4, Jesus set out a radical vision for his ministry of healing sick folks, cancelling debts, and setting prisoners free. That’s a political mission as much as it as a theological one. One sabbath day the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” If our actions, even in the name of God, cause harm then we’re doing something wrong.
We must endeavor, not just to do no harm, but to stop harm from happening, not cause it as so many modern day Christians do.