This past Sunday we finished up our Four Small Words series in which we looked at the Bible as the story of God and God’s people through just four words: Of, Between, With, and In. Understanding the Bible as a homogenous narrative, rather than disconnected parts stuck together, led to an incredible deepening of my faith several years ago.
The ways in which I was experiencing God in that season have become the motivation for how I lead today. At the time, I was reading through the entire Bible at least once every year and I began to sense a disconnect between the story of God and the experience of the local church today.
Two ways in which this disconnect play out are the lack of hospitality toward those who identify as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender and the lack of racial reconciliation. Applying the apostle Paul’s words that, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus;” to these realities is not a misapplication. Paul also wrote, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” Those of us who believe in Jesus have no right to overlay our ethic or worldview over those who do not share our beliefs.
These verses can cover how I ought to relate to two categories of people; those who believe in Jesus and those who do not. For those who don’t profess faith in Jesus, I am to love and not judge. For those who do profess faith in Jesus, we are all one. This is the filter.
As I have stated when preaching, I am a white, privileged, heterosexual American male who has little understanding of the experience of those outside of my own demographic. This conversation is complicated and cannot be summarized in a single blog post, but I strongly believe that I should view every possible way in which I relate to another human through the filter of my identity in Jesus. What if I took every thought and asked, “Does this fit the narrative of God that I have now made my story as well?”
If all of us who make up the church were able to do this well, I can imagine a world where those who do not believe in Jesus, or a god at all, would immediately look to the church for a way forward when hate and discrimination are experienced. Rather than receiving the command to “be working toward racial reconciliation and hospitably toward nontraditional families” from denominational higher-ups in the mainline traditions, these mandates would already be the palpable reality within the local church. Those who do not hold our beliefs would be looking to learn from us. We have an incredible opportunity today to model reconciliation and hospitality as followers of Jesus.
I am so excited about this coming Sunday at 801South as we welcome our friend, Kelly McRell. Using one of Jesus’ more well known parables, she will be speaking about three steps we can all take to experience authentic relationships with all people, despite any societal division that might be in place.