There, I've said it
I've been struggling to say this for a while, and finally got it mostly said in a FB reply today. I get tired of people assuming that my support for our established beliefs and practices and my agreement with those who want to see our rules upheld is somehow evidence that I am ignorant or bigoted or mean-spirited in how I go about doing ministry.
I've said before, I could easily make up a religion that would be more fun (at least, for a while) than the one we've got: one that would baptize all my personal preferences and give a break to everyone I like. The only problem is, it wouldn't be true. And so it wouldn't deliver what we need it to.
I post that FB reply here so I can think about it some more.
Believe it or not, I, too, know, like, and minister to gay people; however, I do not consider myself at liberty to change our beliefs or disobey our rules in order to avoid the embarrassment of telling someone I like (and don’t want to lose) that his or her sins cannot be condoned in the kingdom of God. I mean, I have to put up with the embarrassment of telling other people I like (and don’t want to lose) that their sins cannot be condoned in the kingdom of God, too. And I have to be honest and admit that my favorite sins cannot be condoned in the kingdom of God, either. It’s all part of the job.
And it’s not just about sex. I have people who are near and dear to me who are not believers. And I don’t mean they don’t just have a faulty Christology or something. I have people in my family who are into spiritualism and the occult. There are Mormons and Christian Scientists and Seventh-Day Adventists among my friends and family. And while I’m not going to say, unequivocally, that God will damn everyone who doesn’t believe and belong in just the way I think they should, surely these are not matters of indifference. If it matters what you believe and how you approach God at all, then I worry over the spiritual state of people who have chosen to follow other religions or to reject the religion we grew up in together. I still love them, but I wouldn’t come to the family reunion with a basket of hosts and start distributing communion to all and sundry. That would merely demonstrate my own lack of integrity and invite them to violate their own.
Love and Truth go together. I have to love people enough to tell them the truth, which includes God’s call to a) repent of our sins and b) believe in Jesus Christ. I am not at liberty to modify either of those things just because I want them to feel included. Our example should be that of Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus loved that man, and wanted him to follow. But he respected him enough to let him go when he wasn’t willing to do what was asked. Most of us would have run after him and offered him a 50% Off Today Only deal. Which is why our commitment level in The UMC is so low: we have asked for little, and cut what few demands we have as a special concession to those we love, and they have responded with just exactly how little we’ve asked for.