Known by our love

What I'm about to talk about is something very close to my heart. And like all closely held beliefs, it is one filled with thought and emotion. It is something I have thought long and hard about over the years.

Let me start with a little background about me and where my beliefs came from...after all, all of us are products (or reactions) of our environment. I was born into a pastor's family and raised in the church. I would consider my childhood a great one, filled with many life defining memories. As a teenager, my dad's job within his denomination changed and he became "a pastor to the pastors". Then, after college, I went to work for the same denomination as my dad. By my mid 20's, I found myself second guessing everything my childhood taught me about the church, about christians. I had been exposed to so many double lives. And the double standards so many had about drove me crazy. I felt about done with the church, but not done with Jesus. It was a very strange place to find myself  for a girl that was literally raised within the walls of the church. 

I was burnt out on church when we moved to Scotland. I actually consider our time at our church in Aberdeen one of great healing for me. From the first time we set foot in that church, everyone was genuinely welcoming, nice and incorporating. And that's how they were with every single person. That time really helped remind me what it means to be like Jesus. That we should incorporate others and not separate. That we should open our homes and churches, not create barriers. 

Unfortunately, my experience of inclusion hasn't been one many in mainstream American christianity have gone through. Mainstream christianity today in America is defined by what we don't believe in, or don't agree with. It's defined by exclusion. It's defined by hate. It's defined by us persecuting others. Isn't that ironic? The church has become known for the very things is should be against? I get that every church isn't out doing crazy things like the Westboro Baptist Church, but we do love to stand against certain causes/sins/walks of life much more angrily and hostile than we do towards others. 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  
John 13:35

We as a church don't even have the loving one another part down. We love watching an overly inflated preacher fail. Gossip and backstabbing are just normal parts of the church. Instead of helping everyone, many churches now only help those they deem worthy. Jesus must look at us and wonder where we got so far off track. 

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. 
Galatians 5:22-23

We, as followers of Christ, should be oozing the fruit of the spirit. Now, do we always get it right? Certainly not. But this is what we should be striving toward instead of taking mantras like "love the sinner, hate the sin" and making them part of our core values as a church. Which, how does one love and hate the same thing anyway? I even thought of it in the context of us not being able to love ourselves when we hate our belly/thighs/hair/nose/etc. How then would we ever be able to love another person yet HATE something they are doing? Hate is such a strong word. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary had a couple definitions of hate that are quite eye opening. "Intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger or a sense of injury." Or there's this one, "extreme dislike or disgust." Neither of those definitions go hand in hand with love, do they? And when did Christ call us to do something other than love others? I'm finding it hard to find where we are told to stand in hate toward people's sins...but not our own, of course, because the church is great at deciding who we will and won't forgive or accept in with open arms. 

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck our of your brother's eye. 
Matthew 7:5

I'm not claiming I get it right all the time, not even close. I certainly mess up. I am a sinner, saved by grace. But I do try to come in love. I try to put myself in the other person's shoes. I try to stand up for injustice. I remind myself that Jesus loves to give people second chances. And third. And fourth. And fifth. My beliefs are never a reason to cut someone out of my life. They aren't a reason to turn my back on someone. In fact, my beliefs should have just the opposite effect on me. 

I get that I am over simplifying a hugely complicated issue. Anything with humans and feelings and emotions involved is complicated. But I do know love wins every time. And I also know that my belief in Jesus Christ and my decision to walk in his image should never, never, never be a reason for division between me and someone else. 

Please know that I am aware there are legitimate reasons that we have to sever relationships with people. I get that. We should never allow physical abuse and emotional abuse to go on. Please don't think I am saying that. What I am saying is that as Christians, we should not allow our beliefs to get in the way of loving and accepting another person just because their beliefs are different than ours. 

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