The Love Your Neighbor Coalition recently announced the launch of a new website which contains a joint statement, “A Vision for The United Methodist Church” designed to guide our denomination as we begin to prepare for General Conference in 2016. Please read and consider signing on! http://www.lyncoalition.org/vision-for-umc/
LYNC's vision re-emphasizes traditional Wesleyan and Methodist values of standing up for, and improving the conditions of, the "least" in our world. Jesus stood up for the oppressed and stood beside the sinners with love and guidance on how to live. He intentionally sought out the marginalized, to bring them the Good News of God’s redeeming love and grace.
Theses past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of praying and soul searching regarding the nature of justice, and the nature of sin. I've watched my friends taking opposing sides on the issues of racism, rights, economic justice, and war.
This week, during a moment of deep prayer, I was struck with this thought ... when Jesus healed the sick or protected the adulteress from being stoned, he is quoted in the Bible telling them to “go and sin no more” John 8:1-11. But, what does that mean? Was Jesus telling these people to live perfectly – to be super-human – or else ...? Is sin simply strict adherence to the Bible's Law? Even Jesus defied the Law by healing the sick on the Sabbath!
We in the United Methodist Church believe in the grace given freely to us by God. Are we not all human? Don’t we all mess up and sin sometimes? Can any of us say that once we took Jesus into our hearts, and claimed Him as our Lord and Savior, that we have never sinned again?
Here’s a challenging thought - the Bible is not clear if the people Jesus healed and saved remained sinless after being freed from suffering by Jesus. The Bible only has FOUR characters that are explicitly sinless – God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Mary the mother of God. All the other characters in the Bible are human and sinned – many even after being sanctified directly by God (David, I’m talking about you!)
It is freeing to remember that the Bible is a book full of stories of humans living, struggling, and triumphing in the presence of God. God created us as humans, and we are not condemned because we are human. God loves us, continually. God wants us to live purposeful lives. God wants us to Love our Neighbors without Judgement.
Let me put it in a current context: I married young and divorced young. In the biblical sense, I’m an adulteress – even more explicitly so because I’ve since remarried. But it’s my current mother-in-law who brought me to the UMC. And it’s my current husband who taught me about love and forgiveness and supports me in all my work I do within our church. Would the God of Love have preferred that I remain celibate and never be as happy as I am in these relationships? Would the God of Love have wished my husband to have never met me? And what about the love my husband brings to my son, my family, and I bring to his family and friends? God has blessed us, this I know!
So I take you back to the adulteress that Jesus saved from being stoned. We don't know anything more about her life. What if, when Jesus said, “Go and sin no more”, he was encouraging her to live a holier life. And what if, she met someone who loved her and taught her and supported her in a holier life. Do you think Jesus really meant for her to refuse a chance at happiness in her holiness and in her humanness?
Jesus loved all of us sinners. And thinking these thoughts through, I am compelled to love Jesus even more as I realize his love for us.
I think it’s time we embrace our beliefs in grace freely given and in Jesus’ teachings, as well as our humanity. It is time to stop taking sides, and to work together as God's children. God created us – flaws and all. And God loves us – flaws and all. We are simply asked by Jesus to Love our Neighbors– John 13:34-35. We are warned Not to Judge - Matthew 7. And we are all challenged to believe that God’s loving Grace, freely given to us, is also given to all God’s children. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-wesleyan-heritage
I continue to ask that you pray for me in the role of Public Theology Advocate, as I struggle to live as sinlessly as possible, as a faith based individual, blessed with God’s grace; and as I take a stand for Justice. Respond to this blog, or contact me directly, with your thoughts, ideas, and concerns about social justice in the Pascack Valley region.
In Christ's Peace, Lisa