Happy Monday, friends! Recently, a friend and colleague sent me an essay she wrote in 2018 discussing how she became involved in advocacy with the LGBTQIA+ community after her only child came out. She and her husband were nearly textbook examples of what parents should do, but she lamented the pain and trauma her child and their family experienced at the hands of their Christian community. In her essay, my friend said, “In my opinion, the verse that really does the clobbering is John 13:34-35.” That passage reads, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
There’s an old saying that “there’s no love like Christian love.” That’s not a compliment. Christians and the church with them have gotten a reputation for being judgmental, condescending, rude, and paying too much attention to the splinters in their siblings’ eyes rather than the logs in their own eyes. Sometimes this “love” presents itself in the form of gossip or the unfortunate drama of human interactions. At other times, however, this “love” takes the form of public humiliation, dismissal from membership, and condemnation. How many times has the church “loved” LGBTQIA+ Christians by excluding them from ministry and fellowship? How many times has the church “loved” women by gaslighting them into believing that their bodies were wicked, or men’s uncontrolled sexual desires were their fault? How many times have predominantly white congregations failed to make space for people of color? How many times has the Stepford-modeled church denied entry to disabled people?
Countless authors, artists, and theologians—Christians, members of other religions, and non-theists—have reflected on the dichotomy between Christ and the faith of Christianity and how Christians as a generalized group live out that faith. Both Gandhi and Thich Nhat Hanh commented on how they resonated with Christ’s message, but not with Christians. The Catholic writer Brennan Manning stated—and the Christian band DC Talk put it in one of their songs—that, “the greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” On the one hand, Christians are humans. Our love, particularly as a group, is always going to be imperfect and tinged by sin. We’re going to struggle to love one another as we should. If we’re waiting for perfect people to become Christians, we’re going to be waiting forever. Christian love should be inclusive. It should see to embrace people rather than change them. It should be sacrificial not self-serving. Indeed, Jesus told the apostles, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13).
How do you love others? When has your “love” not been love?
Let us pray: Jesus, who gave us the model of true love, teach us how to love without condition. Show us where our love becomes less than true and where our love becomes toxic. Guide us when our love leads to harm. Correct our attempts at love so that we can love like you. Help those we love, love us rightly too. Grant us the wisdom to build a world where there is only one kind of love without exceptions. We ask this all for the sake of the world which you loved beyond death and the grave. Amen.
Blessings on your week, my friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.