These days, I get out of bed around 7AM and after the typical "chores" most of us are accustomed to, I switch on my TV and normally, I discover my "friends" on NBC are hard at "work". Of course, it's work, it's the routine of their lives. Most of the time, I get a little bored at the chatter and decide there are better things to do and I move on.
This morning, however, I was moved to tears after watching the lives of two young girls in a city I forget, as they dealt with a circumstance involving their individual lives. One has cancer and according to the regimen prescribed by her doctors, her head was shaved. It had to be embarrassing for her, but she was obviously dealing with it and then her best friend realized that others were teasing her, so she decided to have her head shaved as well, hoping to help others understand, they were bff's. "best friends forever".
There was a difference, they went to different schools and the school where the other girl attended chose to enforce their "no head shaving" rule and were about to refuse her admittance, until some of the "wiser" heads prevailed. They chose to suspend this rule in this occasion.
As I reflected on this situation, I could not help but think of articles I received yesterday from those who have chosen to raise their voices in the ongoing debate as to whether Christians are supposed to love those among us who have admitted their sexual preferences are different from others.
One voice, a significant one, as he carries a substantial title as a "leader" of a leading denomination, referred to the "flawed moral vision" of those who those who chose to love others, regardless of their sexual preferences. Of course, he would be referring to the Apostle Paul's words in I Corinthians to the effect that "..do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" There was more of that verse to follow, but his point is obvious. It must follow that those who disagree with his point of view are lost forever, there is no hope for their salvation.
Then, there was another point of view, this from a mere Professor of the Old Testament, at a renowned seminary, and an ordained minister in another Denomination. She refers us to the gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, wherein Jesus condemns "leaders" who ...."tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them."
Her point moved me as almost from the beginning of my own church life. Over my many, many years I have known of people with "deviant" sexual preferences and have been known to be fellow members, but there was little of the antagonism that ought to be recognized in the previous leader's condemnation.
The other "voice" that I heard through my e-mails belonged to widely known - in this area, a religious teacher who refers to the constantly decreasing numbers of American Protestants. In the '60s, they made up two thirds of the population, but today, they make up less than half.
There has to be a significant reason for this trend and I believe the answer does not come from the pulpit, but from the pew. After a half century of serious church attendance, my response has to be centered on a simple verse that has been the back bone of Christian thought down through the centuries.
Jesus teaches in John, chapter 13, verses 34-35: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. But this all will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
We must always remember, there were no "churches" then as we know them. There were synagogues for those of the Jewish faith, but the Christian faith was developed in the hearts of those we know a the disciples and carried from home to home in all of "Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth" as was the Lord's commandment in Acts 1:8.
Those who came before us appear to have been more interested in the economies involved by calling people to the church - typically the denomination, rather than to the message of the One whose name we bear.
And proof of this takes me back to the relationship developed in the hearts of the two little girls I cited in beginning this blog. It doesn't require a church, nor the leaders of the church, to extend the kingdom on earth of which Jesus spoke. It merely requires that we hear of the love between the two mentioned earlier and extend that same kind of love to all others.