Friday January 8, 8am
I am sitting in my favorite coffeehouse, Carino’s Coffee, sipping on a Hot Latin Latte. If you are from the southeast Denver area, you are familiar with this locally-owned gem. This is the place for meetings, for regulars, and it is a favorite for writers too. The coffee is top-notch, fair trade beans no less, which makes my heart happy. The décor is eclectic and warm, rich with local artists and the soothing tunes of local musicians they have in every Saturday. The baristas learn your name and your drink quickly. Best of all, it is not pretentious. They know they are good, the “Best Of’s” from the Aurora Sentinel line the walls in frames. But they just make coffee, with a smile. I love it. It is on the corner of Smoky Hill and Piccadilly in Aurora if you are ever in the neighborhood. And for a certain friend in Ohio, you will be happy to know I have given up Caribou for good. Eating AND drinking them, haha. ;)
Okay, now that I am done plugging my favorite coffee spot, I will get to what is on my mind this morning. I wrote a comment on a friend’s blog yesterday and the subject matter has not left my brain since. My comment did not directly follow the blog, as I figured out after re-reading the comment thread this morning. But it followed what my heart was telling me. A migraine muddled my thoughts yesterday and I did not get many of them down. Today is a new day, a headache free day, so I am plunging in.
The blog entry I commented on was an interview with a prominent former pastor, someone we have all heard of whether we go to church or not, a Mr. Ted Haggard. You can read the series of interview articles here:http://bit.ly/8NDBXk. I encourage you to subscribe to Donny’s blog if you are not already reading it. He has an amazing life story, is a great writer and believes in healthy debates about important stuff. He might respectfully disagree with your viewpoint, but he will be your friend at the end of the day, regardless of how the conversation goes.
The theme of the comments popping up yesterday on the blog focused on repentance, restoration, and love. I addressed the LOVE part. Or lack thereof from some of the other commentors.
This subject hit deep in my gut. Made me cry and want to scream at mean-spirited, legalistic, self-righteous people. Wow. That sure is showing love, isn’t it? I have read words, words by Donald Miller, by Rob Bell, by the people at XXXChurch, and by my friend Donny Pauling...words on love that have resonated in my soul. I'm not sure I can adequately form words to express how strongly I feel about this topic. But I will try.
I remember my parents loving others as I grew up. They built relationships with our neighbors, our ACTUAL living next door neighbors, and to my knowledge they did not speak negatively about “sinners”…aka…NCFs, Non-Christ Followers. There was criticism, but all aimed at fellow Christ followers, those who did wacky, non Christ-like things. But my mom and dad were good at loving people. I learned from them the world is a hurting place, and many people have the hurts they do because they do not have Jesus in their hearts. Now, I don’t think Jesus is the magic pill to take away all pain in our lives…sorry, I’m not a Joel Osteen groupie. But I got what they were saying as a young child. There was never condemnation of those who did not know Jesus, just the knowledge that we show love and tell others about Him if the chance came up. It was a beautiful thing as a child to learn this.
Then we switched churches. And denominations. We found those people that had been missing from our lives. Those self-righteous people. The ones with all the answers…the only “right” ones with God.
We found legalism.
I will not go into that story now. It is another one for another day.
But here's what I learned from them: You can’t genuinely love a person who has sin in his life. If you do not point the sin out and eventually alienate the person for unrepentant sin, you are condoning it. And then YOU go to Hell.
I am not saying my church solely taught me this, it was a combination of many attitudes and people. But I learned it just the same.
Because obviously people respond best to judgment and condemnation. Right? And we were put here on this Earth to be Spiritual Nazis for Jesus, right? Right? Wait, is that what I read in Matthew? Surely it must be in there somewhere…
I have spent the last ten years of my life digging legalism out of my heart. Ripping it up by the roots and killing the weeds that tenaciously pop back up. It is an insidious, choking thing that will suffocate all the love right out of your life.
I am a new person now. Changed by love. Transformed by the truth of LOVE, which says I am NO BETTER than anyone else and no less either. My sins are just as despicable as anyone else's on this planet, there are NO differentiations. I need Jesus daily, moment by moment, or I will turn back to my despicable sins. Jesus does not love me more or less than anyone else. I have love and hope to share of an incredible, loving, life-transforming relationship with the God of the universe. That is the only thing that makes me different from the prostitute down the street that doesn’t yet know Jesus. Or my gay friend Paul for example, since homosexuality was a topic of blog comments. The ONLY thing. Truly Jesus is the only difference. Can I say that again? JESUS IS THE ONLY DIFFERENCE. That deserved all caps.
Those of us who are Christ followers were shown love and made a choice at some point to accept that love. How does that make us superior in any way to those in our lives who haven’t yet seen or accepted that love? It is so strange the way we assess things in “religious” circles.
That’s all for now. I know, I left out Bible verses. Next time I will get to those. Or add some for me in the comments section. :) Thank you for reading. I know the topic was heavy and long, thank you for hanging in there with me. Look forward to next time.