Recently an evangelical Christian personality publicly announced that she was leaving her Southern Baptist tradition because she could no longer stomach the way in which it lived and defined the Christian life (my words, not hers). She would go on to cite things like the role of women, the support of public officials who degraded women, and silence on the abuse women face. It was not a journey she took instantly; she had been speaking up about these issues for about four years or so.
What you don’t see on the surface of her story is that in those four years of speaking up, evangelical circles of people have been targeting her with hateful messages, questioning her faith, speaking ill of her and pushing her further and further outside of the evangelical circle. Unfortunately, that’s not the first time we have seen that in the evangelical movement. I remember when Rob Bell came out with his book Love Wins that spoke a new and not evangelical message about heaven and hell. The evangelical world turned on him with hateful and harmful messages, dehumanizing him for his views.
Now, this isn’t to pick on the evangelicals. I have seen it in liberal Christian circles as well. When someone seems to have stepped out in faith in a direction not in keeping with the majority’s ideologies and theology, the majority tends to undermine, denigrate, disparage and dismiss that voice. And it’s been happening in the political arena as well. You may have even experienced in your family.
What if instead of demonizing a different point of view, we who call ourselves followers of Jesus try to live within the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. We know from Galatians 5 that those who live within the power and influence of the Holy Spirit pour out “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) What if we commit ourselves to language, interaction, and attitudes that pour out the fruits of the Spirit into the lives of those who agree with us and those who do not? What if that happened in our interactions with our family? What if that happened in our posting and sharing on social media platforms? What if that happened as we listen to the news? What if that’s the standard for how we will have political conversation?
When we treat people with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, it’s hard to think of them as anything less than a beloved child of God. It makes it possible for us to listen to their points of view, even when we disagree. It allows us to hold strongly to our own ideologies and theology while allowing someone we have come to love to hold different ones. That’s what the kingdom of God looks like. That is, in part, what it means to live out our pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” May it be so!
On another note, some people have already received or will receive a stimulus payment from the COVID relief bill. I know that there are those of you for whom this will be a needed blessing to your lives, and for that, I am grateful. Please let me know if the church can help further in your lives.
Some of you may be in my financial position. I have been paid well by my employer (you!) straight through the pandemic and have not suffered financially in the past year. If you are in a similar financial position, I want to encourage you to pay it forward by giving a tithe (10%) or more of your stimulus check to a charity of your choice or a person or family in need. This week two friends of the church already came in with “pay it forward” kinds of gifts that we will use to bless others. Be that kind of positive force in the world!
Outdoor Live Easter Worship:
I have heard many of you say you plan to join us for Easter Outdoor Worship. Please remember to register for that service HERE, so that we can manage the size of the gathering for everyone’s safety. We will have a brief (Bring a chair only if you are unable to stand for 15-20 minutes) outdoor Easter Worship Service at 10:30 a.m. April 4 on the front sidewalk and driveway of the church. We will sing and hear the resurrection good news. We will share communion (safely!) and find the blessing of looking into one another’s eyes (masks and safe distancing still required). As always, a worship service will be online and available Easter Sunday as well. Parents of school age children will want to make plans to worship with your children on Easter Sunday with the special worship experience designed for children. It will also be located on our webpage Easter morning.
Pastor Becky Jo