Monday, March 8, 2010
What's love got to do with it . . .
I have been wrestling lately with the idea of God's unconditional love . . . yes, I can affirm that God's love is unconditional . . . I have no problem with this. Where my problem comes is when we translate this into believing that we are to love unconditionally . . . I just can't buy into this from a practical standpoint and more importantly from a theologically standpoint.
Although not a parent myself, I don't think parents love unconditionally . . . successful parenting calls for the parent provide structure for their child(ren) . . . limits/boundaries -- things that are acceptable and things that are not acceptable. Might I suggest that some of the problems are culture faces today are caused that at some point parents -- for a variety of reasons, have been unable to set clear boundaries or if these have been set the parents have been unable to follow through on consequences when a child crosses those boundaries.
Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will do as I command. Then I will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of the world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don't see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep living in you. John 14: 15 - 17
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Now we know that Jesus gave a Reader's Digest version of the 10 Commandments: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all of your might. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. So stealing from Bill Clinton infamous statement that it depends on how one defines the word "is" the question arises how do we define the word "love" . . . is love as Jesus talks about it an emotion or is it action, a way of being . . . perhaps the best definitions of the love that I believe God is calling us to show one another -- apart from Scripture, is written by M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled: "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."
I think when we look at the love that Jesus demonstrated Peck's definition encompasses how we as mere humans, although empowered by the Holy Spirit, can best live the love that Jesus calls us to live. Part of this love is to hold one another accountable to God's commands. Can we truly love people if we allow them to live in ways that are not in keeping with how God calls us to live.
Now, I know that this is the case made by those who are opposed to full inclusion of folks who are homosexual, lesbian and transgendered . . . and while the Church is focused on this we have men and women who are heterosexual involved in a variety of sexual relationships outside the bounds of marriage . . . too often we, and here I mean the Church, turn a blind eye. My first semester in seminary we had a man and women living together openly in the dorm . . . no one said anything. They broke up the following semester. Several years ago I was told by a staff member of a regional church group that if anyone brought "charges" against any one in our regional church groups based on a same sex relationship he has a file of which of our clergy and key leaders were having extramarital affairs.
In the last congregation I served we has several couples who lived together without benefit of marriage . . . no one said anything about these couples . . . interestingly, each came to me to tell me the reasons . . . each had to do with money (each of the women would lost the pensions they were receiving on their deceased husbands) . . . but they were welcomed in the church . . . after all, we are all sinners . . . when one of the men was asked to be a spiritual leader in the church, he came to talk to me -- to tell me why he would have to decline -- he knew that he was living in a way that was not pleasing to God and although he would continue to be an active member (as he tried to convince his live-in girlfriend that they didn't need the pension) of the church, but could not serve in a position of leadership.
Does the Church show their love when they turn a blind eye to bad behavior . . . behavior that is blatantly against God's will . . . or does the Church show their love when they are willing to say, 'we love you, but we do not believe your behavior is in line with what God desires as revealed in the Word.'