Bono is known to have uttered a phrase that has challenged church-like folk to be less about opposing and more about embracing the good. It was something like this, “For too long the world has heard about what we are against, but it’s time we let them know what we are for!” In essence we need to stop parading a God that is against us. He’s always for life! We don’t need to shout that He is against divorce and adultery; we speak up to say that God is for passion, fidelity, intimacy, and love. Instead of yelling on deaf ears that God is against this and that, we whisper that God is for beauty, justice, peace, and joy! There much less need to aim the bow of judgement and letting go arrows targeting sinful behaviour than we think. An approach that begins with God’s fingerprints and beauty in others can initiate a transformative conversation better than starting with an original sin conversation.
Don’t you think it strange that we missed this possibility and instead developed divisive brands of Christianity each one being ruled by rules of exclusivity? Of course, ahem, my brand is better than yours because we are, ahem, more biblical than you! You know it, most religious groups have the carrying-card of inclusion, the shakers and movers of their group, must correctly answer pages of well-formed questions to have this card to belong. I wonder if its time to unlearn some of our exclusive ways and begin with the beauty and not the beast!
When I wrote the first paragraph above I wanted to test it out on the Facebook market. Immediately the feedback was immensely popular. It resonated; however not with all. One took offence that I had quoted Bono and with great length stated that the Ten Commandments were not an invention of Evangelicals. Another was quick to remind me that Jesus called out the evil deeds of his generation and proceeded to quote verse and chapter. But was Jesus always condemning and quoting Old Testament ‘Thou shalt nots’? Or was the pattern of Jesus conversations more about the true heart of God than the wrath of God?
Now please think about how Jesus’ life corroborates with life and not death. He was more for acceptance than rejection. Furthermore the thing that got Jesus in trouble more than anything else was his life of inclusion. He was a friend of sinners. He allowed a woman of dubious reputation wash his feet. He engages in a life-changing conversation with a loose Samaritan woman with whom even the women of her village would not speak. He was called a winebibber and the implications of that are shocking. Could this be because He rarely lived up to the expectations of the rigorous exclusive religious systems of the day? Surely he was a disappointment to the sacred stereotype of a messiah, of a prophet-like condemner of sin and sinners à la John Baptist?
It is hard to for us imagine that Jesus never lived in the position of defending morals, nor took on the snarly role of ‘the official opposition’. With a keen sensibility to the rhythms of Jesus’ life we cannot help but to notice he is always for life. He is for relationships. He is for reconciliation. He is less judgment and more grace! Jesus provided the people a better alternative than the Kingdom of religion, He pointed them to the Kingdom of God!
I see Jesus as a bridge builder more than a boundary marker. Wouldn’t that be an honest barometer of His life? I am writing these words from a humble heart, from the position of a learner. Each day I walk in a secular world where God seemingly isn’t included. But it is hard to go through a day, any of us, without wondering about God. I want to be ready to show my Turkish friends, my Algerian butcher, my friends at the Bistro that God is for them, for freedom and offers them a wonderful possibility, the Reign of His Love in their lives. Like a good chef, I want to offer the best presentation of God’s ingredients that whet an appetite for grace. This is an important discussion that opens to us a fresh approach when speaking to the stranger or our enemy and most important of all, loving our friends like God would.