Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why we Must Question When People of Faith Admonish Others in Love

When church leaders purport to love others with an admonishing hand, we must call their worldview into question, contrasting it with the loving example of Jesus Christ.

"Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NRSV)

Throughout the letter, Paul prompts the first century church at Corinth to follow the many reminders to love others and be faithful to Christ. Chapter 13, especially, instructs on selfless love that builds up others, and this theme is dominant throughout all 16 chapters.

Why, then, do many church leaders, both lay and ordained, cherry-pick this verse and use it as an excuse to hide their condemnation and hate of others? Paul is not giving license to leaders who want to admonish the marginalized. Paul is not providing a springboard for the church to hate on the LGBTQ community because they do not perfectly live within the confining walls of doctrine. Paul is not encouraging the church to "lovingly admonish" others to conform to its rules and dogmas. Instead, the opposite is at work in Paul. He says that we need to be faithful, loving servants of Christ, and he emphatically iterates that our lives should reflect this in all that we do. In that service, moreover, we are to build up others, not tear them down, even when their broken lives are something we cannot understand. After all, when we examine our own lives, we are equally broken and in need of Christ's loving repair.

Let us follow the plain words of Scripture: "Let all that you do be done in love."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When We realize that Our Position on an Issue is not the Only One: A Lesson in Humility

When we realize that our position is not the only one, we must take a bite of humble pie. #Apology is a step toward #humility.

Let me first apologize for voicing my prior concern, and I thank you for taking the time to write me back.  Words' emphases matter and make a significant difference in the message they convey. And you are right: In faith, we can't say heaven is a sure thing. This is a presumptive statement that imagines God’s forgiveness without our cooperation, repentance, and response in love.
Believe it or not, I have spent a significant amount of time in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, studying it from cover-to-cover over the past year. This does not, however, make me an expert or even a novice, and it is a document, as you suggest, that needs constant re-reading. Thanks for the reminder. Currently, I am studying the YOUCAT, which is a clear, youth-focused version of the catechism penned by Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn, and I am loving it.
My perspective on the doctrine of grace comes from the Church’s teaching and is rooted in a fresh ecumenical perspective outlined in a document called Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.” This document states the following ecumenical agreement between Lutherans and Catholics regarding justification:
In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works. (15)
The document was written and agreed upon in 1999 by the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation. I love its ecumenical scope and how it reconciles Catholic and Lutheran perspectives on grace without changing our teachings. It only presents a new attitude and fresh perspective.

Please accept my apology for taking too much time and typing too many words on this issue. And I am sorry for questioning your message, especially since I misheard several key words. As you know, I love the Lord and his church and take matters of faith to heart. Thank you for making us all laugh and think about our role as witnesses to Christ.