On Freedom, Labels & One Crazy Week {In Defense of Dialogue Part 2}

IMG_9090It has been a wild, stormy week.

I wanted to have this post out 5 days ago, but it got preempted by an all-nighter to the puppy ER for Charlie followed by a potentially life-threatening reaction to Lipitor that almost sent me to the people ER.  One pill.  Then other meds I was on apparently stopped playing nicely together and in switching some out to other safer alternatives I kept having the exact opposite effects of what they are supposed to be doing.  It has been a week of heaps of pain {think 14 on a 1-10 scale}, crazy side effects, no sleep and fairly desperate moments.  I’m quitting 2 of the 3 meds and choosing natural alternatives.  This episode has only strengthened my aversion to almost all things pharmaceutical.  Then I got dive-bombed by a hornet while sitting at my desk. Seriously?

Welcome back to the front lines of ministry.  Someone must be really nervous for me to be getting all this attention. Here I finally am to continue the conversation my last post began looking at the conservative church’s response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.

Let’s start by talking about what it means to really love God.

If God were to legislate and force us to love Him, it wouldn’t actually be love.  Love cannot exist outside freedom.  We can love Him because we have a choice not to love Him.  If we did not have freedom to choose His ways, or not, love would cease to exist.

And this is what makes God’s kind of agape love SO powerful.  Its great power lies in the fact that it is dependent on the will of the one choosing to love not the behavior of the one being loved. And thus we filled with God’s love can love our enemies, we can love those who speak hatefully against us.  It is God’s love that never fails.

So church, we can choose to love those who live their lives in ways with which we fundamentally disagree.  If we do not choose to walk in love, we have no authority to say anything.  The opposite of love is not hate.  It is fear.  And fear leads to control and control to the absolute removal of freedom.

Totalitarian regimes are based on fear.  Legalism is based on fear.  God loves us so much He gives us freedom to choose even that which breaks His heart.  And He is so sovereign He knows our choices before we do and the end from the beginning and yet He still loves us and gives us freedom to make those decisions.  That is almost unfathomable to me.  The bigness of His heart.

We cannot have a true dialogue without first understanding God’s heart and His love for the person or persons with whom we are engaging.  Many things can hinder this.  One of which is the defensive use of labeling people or positions with whom we disagree.

Defensive labels are almost always rooted in fear.  It is natural to fear that which we don’t understand.  In order to understand it we seek to quantify and categorize it as quickly as possible.  Instead of truly seeking to understand more than to be understood we slap a label on it: backwards, ugly narrow-minded, liberal, crazy, intolerant, shameful, disgusting, hateful, abominable.

Labels meant to quantify behavior often wind up objectifying the people perpetrating it.  When someone is objectified, reduced to a few-word description often hastily applied with lack of understanding as well as compassion conversation and relationship cannot happen.   Labels are assigned from both sides of the table.

labelsquantifyWhen I lived in Colorado, there was a pride week on a local campus and there was a well-known group who called themselves christians who came with repugnant signs and hateful chants.  I went and stood with homosexual community.  Not because I agree with the lifestyle, but because Jesus loves them deeply and I wanted to make sure they knew these folks shouting at them in no way represented God’s heart.

Let’s talk about the label abominable. It is very often applied by portions of the church in the discussion regarding homosexuality.

A friend of mine looked up all the references of it in Scripture and after talking with her I was prompted to do the same.  Many Christians refer to homosexuality as an abomination to the Lord.  According to 2 references in Leviticus it is. But what most folks quoting these passages fail to see is pride is called an abomination (using the same exact Hebrew word) also 2x.  How many of us have ever walked in pride?  Lying is called an abomination at least 3x, using different weights and measures +4x and idolatry +5x.

So if we come against homosexuality we better come against pride, deceit, lying lips, witchcraft, idolatry, cultural syncretism, perversion of heart (having a crooked or devious heart or motive), false witness, being divisive and unjust behavior at least twice as much.  Or we just might be guilty of using unjust measures which is mentioned twice as many times as abominable to God. Hmmm. Something to think of at least.

My point in all that is defensive labels are rarely equitable and almost never helpful in creating a relational space where genuine trust can be built and respectful dialogue can be engaged. Pointing fingers are usually equally unhelpful.  It is simply not my job to be anyone’s Holy Spirit.  He is the only that can bring true and lasting change about in any of our hearts.

More thoughts to come in Part 3…

flyingflagHave a great 4th!  May it be a time we reaffirm our living in In-Dependence on God in and for all things.  Let’s celebrate with gratitude for our freedom that is anything but free.  You are loved!