Thursday, April 23, 2015

#tbt

So, for some time now, I have wanted to start posting a regular feature (and by 'regular' I mean - 'every so often,' which may or may not be an accurate rendering of the word 'regular' but is nevertheless precisely what I mean by it) on the site in which I take the ever popular "Throwback Thursday" theme and go back to past posts, papers, opinions, theological understandings, and see how, or if, my own thoughts, or the realities of life, have changed over time. 

I think this is a useful exercise for everyone.  If you haven't changed your mind about anything in the last year...or fifteen years...or fifty years...you are probably either extraordinarily stubborn, or dead.  Or both.

We are meant to be beings who grow, mature, change, evolve, and transform.  That is how our Creator God created us.  We're not supposed to be the same at 79 as we were at 59...or 39...or 19...or 9...

The author of Hebrews says that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).  I think she's right.  But that doesn't mean we are supposed to be the same.  We must, as Paul writes, "grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). 

It is the same reason why we are not called to "just be faithful" as one pastor I know used to say with somewhat irritating frequency, but instead we are called to be faithful and fruitful.  As Jesus said, "I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (John 15:16).

We can't bear fruit - much less fruit that will last - if we are not ourselves alive and growing.  As another pastor I know used to say with somewhat irritating frequency, "anything that's alive will grow, and anything that doesn't grow is dead."

Faith is not supposed to be a 'constant' in our lives.  It is precisely the opposite - faith is the edges at which we grow, stretch, learn, and are transformed.  Anti-learning, anti-educational faith is an oxymoron.  True faith bears fruit; if everything you think is exactly the same as it was a decade ago, you aren't bearing fruit in your own life, let alone in anyone else's.

I reflect on this because today I found myself looking back to 1999 and my undergraduate work during my one on ground term at Northwest NazareneUniversity.  Yes, I did attend NNU on ground.  There are many stories about that but they aren't the subject for today.

I decided to dig around in my file folders to see what I classes I took and what I learned during my time at NNU.  I was particularly interested in the folder labeled "PT 321 - Spiritual Formation."  This was a class I had with Professor Gary Waller.  Great guy.  And this was long before I really understood "spiritual formation," much less had an M.Div. in which I specialized in it!

So I opened up my first reflection paper to see what I had written.

Wow.

I do not think the same ways as I used to think, 16 years ago.

And I am so thankful for that!

I found myself asking, "who is this guy?"

And you know why I think differently now?  Because all these years, I have been continually learning and educated.

It has come to my attention in recent days that some people cannot understand the difference between education and indoctrination.  Some feel that some of our universities are improperly indoctrinating our kids.  But it is not that they want our universities to educate instead of indoctrinate.  It is instead that they want our universities to indoctrinate their way.  But that is not  what education and higher learning (or any learning) are about. 

Education isn't supposed to teach you what to think, but instead it is supposed to teach you how to think.  This is true at even the youngest, most basic and elementary levels of learning.  Of course, we do, and should, learn content along the way.  But the content (what we learn) is not usually the main point.  The context (how we think, how it changes us) is what ultimately matters.

Back in 1999, I was reading and reflecting on a text, and I was totally obsessed with the rightness or wrongness of the content, and never for a second took into consideration the context in which it was offered. 

It's not that it was bad to have concern for the rightness or wrongness of the content.  On the contrary, we very much ought to evaluate content and make decisions about whether we agree or disagree with it.

But without context, without allowing myself to learn and be shaped by the experience in terms of how I think and how I should (or shouldn't) be changed as a result, I wasn't going to ever learn, change, or grow.

It's a good thing I stuck with it.  I looked at my final project for that class next.  And while I kind of chuckle now at the simplicity of it (I imagine myself attempting to turn is something like that today - scary!), I also recognized some growing edges as well as some talent and ability that had come to the forefront over a semester's time (after 3-1/2 years away from college).  I was learning how to think, learning to understand context, and learning how to use my words to better articulate what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. 

And I am still learning today.  Sadly, many Christians are not.  Some even, as I suggested earlier, actively campaign against education and learning.  But that is not what God calls us to.

God calls us to learn.

God calls us to think.

God calls us to process.

God calls us to change.

God calls us to be transformed.

In future editions of #tbt, I will dig up and post specific content and allow younger me to hash it out with older me.  I hope you will join me on the journey and hash it out with me. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hoping Against Hope



"What a roller coaster ride this has been!"

I probably could write dozens of posts by beginning with that same phrase.  And perhaps one day I will.  But I just have one post in mind for today.

A 'favorite' line of Scripture of mine comes from the first part of this verse: "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed..." (Romans 4:18, NIV)

The NRSV says "Hoping against hope, he believed..."

That's where I find myself today.  Truthfully, it is where I have found myself for much of my life.  I suspect you have found yourself in that place a time or two as well.

But specifically today I think of the ongoing situation at Northwest NazareneUniversity in particular, and in the Church of the Nazarene in general.

Yesterday the Board of Trustees released a response to the actions taken by both administration and faculty in recent days.  I am not going to hash out or dissect every last detail of that response.

If you've been reading, you know precisely what I think and how I feel.  And it is not as though I am alone in this.  There are thousands who are standing together including those much more highly respected and well known than I could ever hope to be. 

Passionate calls for justice are critical.  Those who would like us to stand by and do nothing are either naive, fearful, or would prefer the status quo. 

Reasoned responses of support are equally critical.  Those who would like us to simply accept whatever is said in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary are also either naive, fearful, or would prefer the status quo.

And hopeful words of faith are critical as well.  And it is to those that I turn today, because today, honestly, they are all I have.

In my life I have had many things take place that were not just, nor reasonable.  My family and I have suffered tremendously.  I would love to say those days are totally behind us, but the truth is, they are not.  Perhaps they never will be, because injustice and unreasonableness will never go away in full until Jesus sets all things fully right one day when the fullness of Gods Kingdom comes to this earth.

I have made mistakes, too, just to clarify.  I certainly have not lived a perfect life.  There are a good many things I could have done better in a good many places with a good many people.  My heart, I think, has mostly been in the right place.  When it hasn't been, where I have sinned, I have confessed to God and to others.  When it has been, where I have not sinned, I have confessed to others anyway and cried out to God for help.

As a prophetic voice, it pains me when God's people do not live out God's truth in God's ways.  It has certainly pained me personally, and it pains me in general.  But it is even worse when I see it causing pain to others, which I have witnessed so many times.

But even the prophet must submit to something greater than the truth:  Faith, hope, and love.  Consider the Apostle Paul's words in I Corinthians 13:

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

The Church, and the Church of the Nazarene in particular, must embrace the primacy of love.  God is love, says the Apostle John in one of his letters.

We will not always agree. 

But we must always love.

Unity is not about agreement (uniformity is...but not unity...).  Unity is about love.

Today, I am hoping against hope for unity.  I am hoping against hope for love. 

I am hoping against hope that the Board of Trustees will do what is in the best interest not of any individual, but of love.  It is "hope against hope" because we so rarely see love win (for now...in the end, love always wins...) in these situations.  My family and I know and have experienced this firsthand, at points in the past and even to this day.

I am appreciative of the actions the Board of Trustees has taken.  I believe in the interest of love they need to take two additional steps: 

1.) Rescinding all layoffs until the review/investigation has been completed and actions have been recommended/taken,

and

2.) Radically shifting their proposed timelines to a much quicker timeframe, within reason and still allowing for the necessary work of a thorough review to be completed.

I can think of many times in my life and the lives of others where a suspension of a decision until a thorough review/investigation was completed, and a radical shifting of proposed timelines, would have been the most loving action that could have been taken.  And it would have made a huge difference in many lives.

As Jesus disciples, we are responsible to always take the most loving action we can.  When we don't, we are responsible to go back and fix it as far as it is possible and depends upon us.  Failure to do so is a failure to love.

Love never fails us.  Today, I am praying...and I am hoping against hope that we will not fail love. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tripling Down

I'm not sure exactly what I expected.  Well...no, I am:  I expected either something bad that would clear the way for redemption and reconciliation, or something bad that would further inhibit redemption and reconciliation. 

Instead, we got...nothing.

Which, as I think about it, is pretty much the same thing as the latter (although less destructive, but only in the short term).

Word broke Wednesday morning that Dr. David Alexander, President of Northwest Nazarene University, and Dr. Randy Craker, Chair of the Board of Trustees, would be making a 'special announcement' in NNU's Chapel Service.  A scheduled Faculty Meeting that was to take place not long after chapel was cancelled.  The student Question & Answer session with Dr. Alexander, planned for Wednesday night, remained on the schedule.

And with that, "#thesocialmedia" became a flurry of activity.  I issued a call to prayer for 12:10 PM EST to all of my Facebook friends.  I do that sort of thing very rarely, precisely because I take prayer so seriously.  We ought not to flippantly make serious calls for serious prayer because we stubbed our toe.  God cares when we stub our toe, and God wants us to talk to God about it when we do.  But it's not the kind of thing for which I usually solicit the prayers of hundreds of other people.

What continues to unfold at NNU in these days is of much greater gravity than stubbing one's toe - although you would not know it based on what we heard was said from those who were at the chapel (which is all we could do, since NNU made the decision to not Live Stream today's chapel service, even though that is standard procedure, thus making the announcement much less accessible and transparent to alumni, online students, families, members of the Church of the Nazarene around the world, and other rightfully interested parties).

Instead, what is at stake, among thousands of as yet unforeseen unintended consequences, is academic freedom and integrity in Nazarene institutions of higher learning, the future of ministry training in the Church of the Nazarene, and quite frankly, the future trajectory and viability of the entire denomination...and oh, yes, "by the way," the lives and livelihood of one very brave and incredible family, the Oord's (and many other brave and incredible families, as well).

One week ago today I sent a letter to the President of NNU and the entire Board of Trustees, and posted such openly here on my website along with sharing in many locations in "#thesocialmedia."  While they are admittedly no doubt overwhelmed with communication, I am disappointed to report that this two-time graduate/alumni has not received a single response to my letter from the President or a Board of Trustee member.

Not.  One.

In these days when more and more of us are being faced again and again with the question, "Is there a place for me in the Church of the Nazarene?," the silence is loud and clear: 

No.  There is not. 

We value you so little (though seemingly so much at the time you were pouring in tens of thousands of dollars to the university's coffers) that we don't even think what you have to say on this, or any, subject merits even so much as a one line response.

This is unacceptable.  But, this is not about me.  It's about us, and about who the Church of the Nazarene wants to be going forward:

Do we want to be the Wesleyan-Arminian fellowship of believers we have always claimed to be?  Do we want to be the "big tent" that we always were meant to be?  Do we want to be people who are known for their love and their welcoming and their openness to all?  Or something else?

The reports we hear coming out of today's chapel announcement suggest that all of these questions and many more are not important to the leadership of Northwest Nazarene University and the Church of the Nazarene.  We are not valued.

The faculty of NNU presented a "Framework for Collaborative Governance" on Friday of last week, expressing grievances over how this situation and many others have been handled at NNU, and charting a course forward for reconciliation. 

Over the weekend, released late on Saturday night and early on Sunday, were statements in which Dr. Alexander apologized for the manner in which Dr. Oord was notified of being 'laid off.'  I appreciate those apologies, because being notified at the last possible moment, while on vacation with your family, in an email, was inappropriate, to put it mildly.  However, this is the only mistake that has been admitted, and the rest of what was written was merely a doubling down on being justified in this 'lay off.'

Yesterday, the Faculty of NNU met, voting 77% to 23% in favor of a "vote of no confidence" in President Dr. David Alexander. 

Today, in a chapel for which all calendars and schedules were asked to be cleared for a 'special announcement,' Dr. David Alexander and Dr. Randy Craker replied with, essentially, "I'm sorry you've lost confidence in Dr. Alexander, and we do intend to 'try harder' to 'hear' your concerns, but we are going to keep doing what we have been doing, because God has a new day for us all, so let's all smile, work together, and move along - there's nothing to see here."

The problem is, there is something to see here.  And we all see it very clearly unless another rational explanation can be given. 

The problem is, among all the myriad of problems I have already made mention of, you have failed, brothers, to answer the following question, in the following context (because as a great professor at NNU so often says, "context matters"):

Given that you have publicly stated that the 'laying off' of Dr. Tom Oord...

a.)      is NOT for any academic reason,
b.)      is NOT for any theological reason,
c.)      is NOT "for cause" in any way,
d.)      IS due to financial/budget limitations/reallocations/restructuring

...then WHY was Dr. Oord the one chosen to be laid off?  WHO selected Dr. Oord to be laid off, and what was the process/rationale that led to his being chosen, as opposed to any other person in the department in question?  In short, "why TOM?"

Whatever else has happened, whatever else has been said, whatever other actions are taken, whatever other questions we may have (and we have many), and whatever other wide-ranging implications this episode has for the Church of the Nazarene (and it most certainly does), you MUST answer this question. 

Your failure to do so is unacceptable and you will be held accountable to give a satisfactory answer to this question.  We will not go away until this question has been satisfactorily answered.

And if there is no satisfactory answer to this question, then Dr. Tom Oord must be reinstated, immediately.  Whatever other actions must necessarily go along with that are the consequences of your past decisions and actions over many weeks, and many years.

We are not asking for much, really:

1.)      Truthfully and transparently answer the question above,

and

2.)      Reinstate Dr. Tom Oord

Doing nothing is not a response.  Tripling down is not a response.  Waiting it out until the on campus students are largely gone for the summer is not a response.  Full #transparencynow and truthfully answering the question above, whatever the outcomes of answering such a question may be, is the only response.

Those of us who Support Tom Oord and support Northwest Nazarene University will settle for nothing less.  And we will remain active in pursuing this goal until it has been achieved. 

We will not be deterred.  We will not be dissuaded.  We will not go away. 

We will continue to pray.  We will continue to mercifully seek justice.  We will continue to speak the truth in love. 

What will you do?

#NNU #Oord #SupportTomOord

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

An Open Letter to the President and Trustees of NNU...


This is the text of a letter I am sending today to the President and the Board of Trustees of my alma mater, Northwest Nazarene University.  I am additionally posting this as an 'open letter' because our stories need to be - yes, they must be - told; and these issues run much deeper than a single event that has come to pass during this last week.

Whether you are a Nazarene or not, a Jesus disciple or not, any injustice always affects all of us, and therefore we all have a responsibility in this.  As Martin Luther King so famously said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  If you care about justice, or about the Kingdom of God, or about the Church of the Nazarene in particular, I encourage you to read this letter and think about the implications of not only what is taking place on a relatively small Nazarene university campus in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but what has been taking place in far too many places for far too long.  In addition, I encourage you to join the Facebook group, "Support Tom Oord". 


Blessings,

Phil

*         *         *         *         *         *         *    

April 8th, 2015

To Dr. David Alexander, President of Northwest Nazarene University, and to the NNU Board Of Trustees:

My name is Phil Michaels.  I am an alumnus of NNU - in fact, a two time graduate of Northwest Nazarene University's School of Theology and Christian Ministry in the Graduate Theological Online Education program. 

I have been a part of the Church of the Nazarene since I was a child, and a member of and minister in the Church of the Nazarene for 21 years.  I am also a graduate of Nazarene Bible College and attended NNU on campus as part of my undergraduate work.  I have invested tens of thousands of dollars into my education through NNU.

I returned to NNU to begin my graduate level education in the spring of 2006.  At that time, my life was in total upheaval and I was full of despair, suffering from high levels of depression and wandering aimlessly in search of hope, yet all seemed hopeless.  Why?  Because of how my family and I had been treated by the Church of the Nazarene during four years of associate pastoral ministry from 2002-2005.

It was in this darkest hour of my life, grasping at straws, looking for something, anything, that could rescue me from despair, that I enrolled in the Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation program through GTOE at NNU.

It saved my life.

Or put much more accurately, the people saved my life!  My amazing cohort, the "MARSF Learning Community 08," and the incredible professors of NNU, working together with and through Holy Spirit, quite literally saved my life.

I'll never forget when I was communicating the details of my family's four year journey in a class with professor George Lyons, and he said to me the following:  "That is the worst story I have ever heard...and I've heard some really bad ones!"  Dr. Lyons prayed for me.  As did all of my professors at NNU.  But they did more than that.  They had compassion on me.  They empathized with me.  They validated me.  They showed me that I was valuable, that my thoughts and ideas mattered not only to them but to God and to the Church - that I had something to offer this world because of the creative spark of Holy Spirit within me.  And after all of that incredibly spiritually formative life giving love they poured out on me, they also gave me the absolutely finest theological education one could ever hope for on this side of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.  In short, they healed me - as great a miracle of healing as you will ever find.

I know it is true, what Dr. Lyons said, if for no other reason than he was a friend and professor of my dearest friend and mentor, Pete Mangum.  Pete was a NNC graduate, too, and called Nampa home for the final years of his life before he passed away on Father's Day this past June at too young an age.  Pete at times had a rough life.  He too was mistreated and abused by the church and the people he did nothing but love.  And it cost him dearly.  More dearly than what it has even cost me, and it has cost me a lot.

Pete Mangum would be horrified by what has taken place with the removal of Dr. Tom Oord from the faculty of NNU.  I am horrified by what has taken place.  Thousands are horrified by what has taken place.

Pete did, and Tom does, represent a spirit of compassion, direction, guidance, openness, freedom, and a safe place to explore the depths of one's soul and their relationship with the Creator God.  A safe place.  That is what matters, and this is what you are losing by taking these kinds of actions cloaked in 'budget' excuses, political expediency, and a complete lack of transparency, authenticity, and integrity - the very things for which we, as Jesus disciples, should be known. 

Let there be no doubt that every one of my professors at NNU has been incredible.  I have not agreed with every professor on every point, nor should I have.  But every single one fostered an environment that was a safe place for learning and growing in Christ, not by indoctrination, but by education.  Tom Oord was and is no exception to this during the classes I have taken with him as professor.  In fact, in one class I took with him, because my own views aligned with his so closely on a particular topic, he had to repeatedly tell me, "you don't have to agree with me!"  That's just who Tom is.  A guy who loves.

Just one month ago I completed my final class at Northwest Nazarene University as I completed my degree requirements for the M.A. in Missional Leadership.  My final class was "Theology of Leadership," taught by none other than Dr. Tom Oord.  You would have done well to have taken this class along with me and learned what I did during those incredible 8 final weeks.  Perhaps if you had I would not be writing this letter today.

Tom Oord embodies the spirit of all of the great professors of NNU, of our Nazarene Schools everywhere, of the great leaders and heroes of the Christian faith throughout the centuries, and most of all, and most importantly, of Jesus Christ.

We need more people like Tom Oord, and Pete Mangum, and so many others who have been mistreated because...they loved.  We need more like these teaching in our schools and pastoring in our churches and leading in every office at every level of our beloved denomination, not less.  I am very, to turn a word around, concerned, about what this situation along with recent problems at NPH and MNU, (to name only those egregious issues that have taken place in the last 12 months), taken together with what I have witnessed all of my life at every level of the church, represents.  It is long past time for a change.  Let it begin with us.  Because this is most definitely not about you, or me, or Tom.  It is about us.  It is about who we are as a Church - who we have been and who we intend to be in the future. 

I am furious.  And I can assure you that this is a righteous and holy anger, and I do not apologize for it. 

Let me conclude with one more story:

I came to the campus of NNU for my graduation for my M.Div. degree in May of 2011, the first time I had been on campus in 11 years.  It was a wonderful, incredible experience.  I met most of the faculty who had so skillfully taught me, including the delightful Tom Oord and incredible George Lyons ("toughest professor ever!").  My mentor, Pete, was there.  Everything was coming together in my life, graduation representing the storybook ending of a miracle of healing and grace.

As I walked across the stage, I reached out to shake your hand, Dr. Alexander, and you said four short words that will be burned into my memory forever:

"I'm proud of you."

I had never met you before.  I have never met you since.  Maybe those are the same words you say to every graduate - I have no idea.  But they meant something powerful to me.  No one - no one - had ever said those words to me before.  They were incredibly life giving, affirming, and powerful in my life.  I will never forget those words.  Thank you so much for those words.  They sustained me in the next phase of my life.

Now, I do not know what pressures, from where and from whom, you may be under, or what made you feel this decision had to be made, so I will refrain from casting blame on you, personally, at this time. 

However, I want you to know that today, although it greatly pains me to say this, I feel that I must:

I am decidedly not proud of my university and the actions you have taken.

I want to be proud of you and of my university the same way you were proud of me.

Step up to the plate. 

And do whatever it takes to fix this.

Speaking the Truth in Love,


Pastor Phil Michaels
Associate Pastor, Durand Church of the Nazarene, Durand, MI
NNU Alumnus
M.Div., Spiritual Formation & Pastoral Leadership (2011)
M.A., Missional Leadership (2015)
philmichaels.org
#NNU #Oord #SupportTomOord

Monday, April 6, 2015

Denial Of Service



Jesus Christ calls us, as humans - all of us - to love one another.  Jesus does not set any limits on his love for humankind - Jesus fully loves every person who has been created, ever.  This love is the very basis of faith in Jesus Christ:  God's essence, the heart of who God is, is love, and God's love is so full, so complete, so all-encompassing, that God sends Jesus, God incarnate in human flesh, to give God's own life for the sake of God's creation - all of it, and all of us.  Simply put, there is no one and no thing in all creation that God does not love.  To spin a famous marketing campaign:

There are some things God can't do.  For everything else, there's love.

And the love God calls us to express, to live, to become, is no less than the full and complete love of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And so as a Nazarene in particular, and a Jesus disciple in general, what am I to make of the ongoing controversies over providing services to people who identify as LGBT?

If you are asking me to have read every last detail of every last law on the books or proposed to be on the books, I'll readily admit right now:  I have not.  And I do not plan to.  My role in life is not as a legal expert, but rather is apostolic and prophetic.  I've read enough to know what is going on.

If you are asking me to affirm the actions of people who choose to be in a sexual relationship that is not between one man and one woman, 'for as long as they both shall live,' the answer is simple:  No.  I will not affirm those actions.  Those actions are sinful.  This applies equally to all people regardless of the sexuality with which they identify.

But to leave my thinking there is to both oversimplify the issues involved and to let a lot of people off the hook.  We all have a responsibility in this.

So let me be quite clear in my position, which has two components: 

1.)      Any denial of service by a public business to anyone based upon their gender or sexuality with which they identify, their race, color, or national origin, their age or familial status, a disability, or their religious beliefs is morally reprehensible, sinful, and not acceptable for those who claim to be Jesus disciples.  Such denial of service should also be illegal.

2.)      Any person or governmental agency attempting to force the owner or employees of a public business to participate in an activity that would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs is morally reprehensible, and such an attempt is not acceptable for those who claim to be Jesus disciples.  Such forced participation should also be illegal.
 
In both cases I use the word 'also' because as a Jesus disciple, I always want to begin with what I believe Jesus thinks about these things.  The matter of the legality or illegality in the particular country (or state!) one lives in (the kingdoms of this world), for the Jesus disciple, is always secondary and subservient to the matter of what is the loving or unloving action in the Kingdom of God.  Let me say it again: 

For the Jesus disciple, the politics of the world are to be subservient to the politics of the Kingdom of God. 

Every.  Time.

And the politic of the Kingdom is love.

Jesus is the imago dei, a pure reflection of the fullness and completeness of God's love.  Jesus loves fully, and I am to be like Jesus.  Therefore, I am to love fully.  Loving fully means not affirming sin.  We are, as the apostle Paul told the Ekklesia in Ephesus, to "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). 

I do not affirm the sin of those who choose to be in sexual relationships that are not between one man and one woman, 'for as long as they both shall live.' 

I do not affirm the sin of those who discriminate against, persecute, and deny service to people based upon who they are.  

In short, I just don't affirm sin, period.  My own, or anyone else's.  That's the way it is supposed to be for Jesus disciples.

But think about this:  A Jesus disciple saying: "I will not serve you because of who you are."  How can that be construed as anything other than the precise opposite of the very kind of life Jesus calls us to?

Luke's gospel tells us this story that took place at the Last Supper:

"A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:24-27).

Jesus is among us as one who serves.  Is there anyone who thinks that if Jesus was among us in physical form today, that he would somehow change his mind about this?  No, if Jesus were here today, Jesus would serve, just as Jesus has always served:  The lost...the least of these...everyone.  Because that is love.  And in the kingdom of God, love wins.  Every.  Time.

There is a difference, though, between serving who someone is and participating in what someone does. If you sincerely believe that what someone does is wrong, then it is wrong for someone to force you to help them to do it or to participate in their doing it, if that violates your conscience and conviction due to that sincerely held, and religious, belief.  Love never violates conscience or conviction; love is never coercive, never forces itself upon another.

So I will let others argue about the merits and perils of particular laws in particular places, even places I've called home.  My concern is that the approach of Jesus disciples to these issues is theologically sound, and reflects the loving character and essence of God as seen most clearly in Jesus Christ.

Jesus disciples should be encouraging the kingdoms of this world to act increasingly in line with the Kingdom of God.  That's why we are here:  To let God use us to bring about transformation as God builds God's Kingdom. That means encouraging whatever laws and whatever politics will bring about the most increase in genuinely loving actions for all people, both those who serve and those who are served.  Love is the answer.  For everything - and everyone - there is love.  May the Ekklesia, and all of us, speak the truth in that love.