The idea that we Christians love unconditionally is about as true as the notion that the sun is a warm fuzzy ball. Any one who believes either of those ideas is clearly deluded. The very notion that the Church is exclusionary in its gatherings is in itself proof that our love is conditional. It’s conditional upon you accepting what we believe to be truth, as truth. It’s conditional upon you looking, speaking, and acting in a manner that we deem acceptable by our measuring stick. It’s conditional upon you living your life by the same set of values by which we live ours. Why, sometimes it’s even conditional upon what color the statue of Jesus or the picture of him above your mantelpiece is. If that’s not conditional love then I don’t know what is and I’m the deluded one!
Much of the way we express our faith reflects this notion: If you accept all the things we accept, and live exactly the way we live, then we extend our ‘hand of fellowship’ and welcome you warmly (That’s why in America we think being Christians and Republicans are part of the seven sacraments). If on the other hand, you are a non-conformist and insist on questioning everything we believe, then you’re an outsider and we generally extend to you the “left-foot of fellowship.” Oh, don’t get me wrong, we definitely pay lip service to the idea that we love, embrace, and welcome everyone, but that is the theory. In practice the reality is much different as evidenced by the clear lines of demarcation along racial, denominational, and various other ‘measurables’ during our Sunday worship hour. I realize that I’m generalizing and there’s always a danger in doing that, but the larger point is clearly found somewhere in the middle of these ideas.
I recently read a blog post by Brad Johnson that chilled me to the core because of it’s simple but profound truth. Now I could paste the hyperlink here and go on to restate the same ideas, but that would be redundant. Instead I decided to directly quote some of his observations since he stated the big ideas more succinctly than I ever could. The writer made the following observations:
“I can’t shake it. It’s a phrase that haunts my thoughts at night, like some ethereal creature floating just out of my reach, taunting me.There is this on-going debate going within me about this phrase.
I have a few more ideas about this that I’ll conclude with tomorrow (yeah, really. I’ll actually blog two days in a row), see you then. :)