We Are About Relationships
This past Sunday our “Beyond the Argument” class came to an end. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you (somewhere between 120-140 who came over the course of the four weeks!) who took part in the conversation. I also want to thank the wonderful Bob Ratcliff, who has a God-given ability to put very complicated ideas and controversial topics into language that we can all understand. His humble intelligence is a gift to us all.
I have to be honest, part of me is relieved that the class has ended. It is hard to focus on our differences for an extended amount of time. No doubt, we as a congregation have a diversity of opinions on many issues. We will likely vote for different candidates in November. We have different convictions about economics, about gun control, about health insurance and about many other things. But for the past few weeks, the question of the church and same-gender relationships has been under the microscope. And, for many, it has been uncomfortable and emotional.
That’s another reason I want to thank you as a congregation–for hanging in there and hanging together. Hanging together in the midst of difference has always been a sign of the people of God. Jesus had among his disciples an anti-Roman zealot and a pro-Roman tax collector. The apostle Paul called the Corinthian church to unity, even when they disagreed about many issues, such as whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols. John Wesley urged the early Methodists and other Christians to be “of one heart, though we are not of one mind.” It’s part of our DNA. It’s God’s design: unity in diversity.
Unity is very easy to talk about. It is much, much harder to live out. It is easy to think that we have unity when we’re not talking about difficult subjects. But when our disagreements come to light, we begin to doubt our unity. We wonder about whether or not we really are “one in the Spirit.” Over the past few weeks, we have done some of the hard work of striving for unity. And for that I am deeply grateful. Ultimately, though, it is not we who accomplish unity. It is the work of the Spirit. And so I encourage us to continue to pray for unity–for our congregation, for our denomination and for the church of Jesus Christ in every place.
As this class comes to a close and we move the microscope away from these questions, I remind us all that we are not a “one issue” church. We can talk about questions of human sexuality–and we should–but our positions on these questions are not the heart of who we are. We are followers of Jesus Christ, and we have a lot of Gospel work to do. I, for one, am grateful to have such courageous, faithful and loving people to work alongside. Thanks be to God!