Thursday, July 16, 2015

What it means to love instead of shame

I received an interesting but very veiled email from an author I highly respect. It was veiled as one could read it and think he was either for gay marriage or against it. It was a well-crafted email, however I suspect it was against gay marriage. Everything he stated I agreed with and I see I am doing. I am not bowing to culture in my stand for gay rights as I view gay people as fellow humans-- and see this issue as a human rights issue.

Now, I can back up my view from scripture though I know many will not get it at all, as they can only see passages as they have been taught -- and they have not been taught well how to read and understand the overall context of these passages. I will be posting more in a synchroblog coming soon as to my view on gay marriage. Suffice it to say; at this point, I am at peace in my view as I have followed Jesus's lead in this. I see that Jesus is more inclusive than many want Him to be. In fact, it appears many believers desire Jesus to believe and see things how they want instead of asking Jesus to see the world how He does and follow Him as He does His work in and through us.

I will say this though. I noticed that many of us who understand grace seem to be on the side of gay marriage. I find that interesting as it reveals that just maybe God's grace goes beyond mere human understanding and must come from humble revelation of truth from He Who is The Truth. Grace is not just defined as, “unmerited favor from God” or “not getting what we deserve”, but also God’s emotions towards us. [1]Yes, God has emotions – where to you think we get them from?

Love is what drives this emotion of Grace. Often we confuse justice and love. We want justice in the form of revenge instead of having things set right. What justice truly is, as God originally created us to be is – good. In fact, true justice is the realization that we are not just good but very good as God called us when He created humans. Now, we either believe God loves us as He still sees the goodness in us or we believe the lie and rush to find new fig leaves to cover ourselves in shame.

Shame is a noun and a verb. First, it is the “painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” [2] However, shame as a verb connotes the idea of one shaming another. [3] We most often impose this definition on God. Jesus instead reveals that this is a lie. Instead of shaming humanity, Jesus takes our shame to the Cross. Jesus shows us that God’s love is greater than our shame.

When we shame others, we are walking in the lie that God sees us the way we are seeing others. We are not walking in the light of truth of love. Yes, at times people do shameful things, but it is not our job to further shame them. Rather our job is to do all we can to restore them to the God-given dignity they have lost. This is The Way of Jesus – to love and not judge or shame. It is not, as some think, some gooey lovey-dovey, caramel centered version of grace ala “cheap grace.” In fact, those of us who discover this way find it a much harder path. Loving others as inclusive as Jesus is radical. It is having the realization of the truth when Paul writes in Romans 5:10, “10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Do we truly believe this? Do you understand that while you were still God’s adversary God reconciled you unto Himself through Jesus?

Take that thought with this verse, Matthew 5:43 – 45a “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…”

One cannot separate the ideas presented in these two verses. First, you were once an enemy of God and yet, God still reconciled you to Himself. Secondly, Jesus clearly states to love all, even those you consider your enemy. By the way, one cannot judge another and love them; likewise, one cannot love another and judge them. Love is full acceptance of the person. This does not mean we accept say one who murders another in a way the murder was acceptable as it harmed another. However, we forgive the murderer, as hard as that is, and allow God to work that forgiveness into the heart of the murderer.

The definition of sin is tricky. My definition of sin is simply "anything that is adversarial in your life between you and God". This could be good things as well as bad things. In addition, as Paul states, "everything that does not come from faith is sin”. [4] Meaning this; that often we are sinning and do not even realize it for our actions toward others, as well as our own self is not coming from faith.

The Bible states, that sin in sinful humanity, is clearly judged, and condemned, with Christ Jesus on the Cross. Our sins were taken away as Jesus who had no sin, became sin and the sin offering for us.[5] However, for some reason, instead of returning this love and grace to those we see still lost in spiritual darkness we desire to judge and condemn others. Love is a valid choice to extend to others. Grace is a valid choice to extend to others. It may be hard to do this but here is the secret. Look for what God is already doing and not for what you think God should do. It is not our place to decide what God is to do or is already doing. Judging and condemning perpetuates the lie of shame. People are trapped in this lie of shame and as believers; our job is to help them see Christ in them, their only hope of Glory. [6]

[1] Zimmerli. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. IV. 7th. Edited by Gerhard Kittel, & Gerhard Friedrich. Grand Rapids: Eerdman, 1981. I do go into this more in my book Regarding Logos

[4] Romans 14:23
[5] Romans 8:2-4  1; John 2:1-2
[6] Romans 5:1-2

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