I am a Christian.
To me that means 2 things. First, it means that I believe in God. That doesn’t mean that I think there’s some old white man who looks like Santa sitting on a cloud shaking his finger at us. When I think of God, I always think back to The Secret Garden and Mrs. Sowerby’s description of “the big good thing,” something or someone that encourages goodness and gives us strength through troubled times. Second, it means that I try to live my live the way that Jesus taught, and that also boils down to 2 things (I don’t know; is there something about the number 2?): Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10: 27).
A very wise man, now gone from us, once preached a powerful sermon on the topic of the former commandment that has stuck with me. He spoke first about loving God with all your heart and soul, and said that that’s fairly self-explanatory. You let that love show in all that you do. You revel in that love, and you see God in everything and everyone around you and love them too.
He then spoke about loving God with all your mind, saying that that is the part that people often have trouble with. Using the example of evolution, he said that he had heard people talk about how believing in the concept of evolution is totally at odds with what the Bible says and is the “greatest danger the church has ever faced.” He paused for a moment and then said, essentially, that that was hogwash. If you love God with all your mind, you honour the mind that God has given you and you think with it. And if science, or society, has made new discoveries and come to new understandings about topics that the Bible, in its historical and geographical context, once described differently, you think about those concepts in relation to those new discoveries and understandings using your God-given brains, and you maybe realize that what the Bible says, outside of that historical and geographical context, doesn’t make sense. So in order to love God with all your mind, you recognize that God wants you to come to realization, that the times, they are a-changin’, and that your beliefs need to change along with them.
An extremely thoughtful and articulate young man, Matthew Vines, gave a sermon recently that has been now been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people and has been changing minds all over the world.
He makes a compelling argument that if you look at what the Bible has to say about homosexuality, taking into account historical and geographical context and nuances of language and translations, not only should the Bible not be seen as condemning same-sex relationships, but in fact that 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul says, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” should be interpreted as encouraging marriage between two people of any gender who love each other. He also points out that Jesus himself has given us a litmus test to weed out false teachers and false teachings: In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit – therefore, good teachings will have good consequences and should certainly not lead to the destruction of human dignity and tearing down of self-esteem.
Very soon, my church will be embarking on a journey that I really hope will lead to a new understanding of how to love our neighbours. We will be making a decision about whether or not to change our marriage policy, which currently prohibits marriages between same-sex couples in our church building. The people at my church who wish to keep the policy as it stands do not consider themselves homophobic. Their understanding of the Bible is that it prohibits same-sex marriage, and they feel that they can accept and welcome gay people as neighbours and church members while still being true to their belief that the Bible dictates that marriage is between a man and a woman. I disagree — strongly — but I also have to acknowledge that for many of them, even coming to that point has been a journey in a positive direction. I just hope that over the next few months, with thoughtful discussion, they will come even farther on that journey and we will become a truly accepting and welcoming community.
To me this situation epitomizes the question of “What Would Jesus Do?” If two consenting adults are in love and wish to have God be a part of their marriage, would the Jesus who told his disciples to “Let the children come unto me,” really say, “Nope, not on my watch!”? I believe that my church could be a good tree, but right now the fruit we are bearing is a little hard and underripe. I hope that in the next few months we will plant some seeds that will flourish and grow and soon come to bear plump, juicy, satisfying and life-sustaining fruit.