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."