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.

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