Many Christians (apparently) fondly remember Jesus saying:Then Jesus said unto the prostitutes, tax collectors and social outcasts: “No longer will we tolerate your moral filth! From this day onward, we will stand outside your homes berating any that come near, reminding you of your sin and your ultimate destination of hell. No longer will anyone in this town have anything to do with you. You will never know the Kingdom of Heaven, which is reserved only for the righteous and the religious. Only through rejection and a constant reminder of your failings and sin can you ever achieve salvation.”
But these verses do not exist. Before we pick-up our protest signs and begin our “God hates (x, y, z)”, let us remember what Jesus actually said and did.
Jesus’ message to the prostitutes and tax collectors of his day was to love them, eat with them, hang out with them and treat them as welcome individuals and friends. He offered them forgiveness and a new life, not hatred. He reprimanded his own disciple Simon for not showing him as much love as the prostitute anointing his feet and asked the Pharisees to throw the first stone only if they were without sin.
When Jesus gets angry it is because the people who are supposed to be representing God and offering forgiveness are not living up to the task they are assigned. So the “Woe!” goes to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day because they were focused upon other things than justice, peace and faith.
This week, I read an article that told the story of a local college Junior who was told to leave her church by a vote, a church she attended since birth, because she was a lesbian. There are no words. Her, along with the praise team, lost a church home and a place to worship and now they have no place. These are faithful people who were told they are not worthy to worship God.
I’m tired and I’m sick of seeing God’s name associated with hate and exclusion. We are called to love. To love when it hurts, to love when its hard, and most importantly to love whenever we sure as hell do not want to love anymore. I could list a litany of reasons why God is primarily understood as Love, from the greatest commandment that Jesus tells to the letter of John, but here it is sufficient to say that if your response is not love, it’s not Christian. And we are no longer willing to hear the excuse that acts of hate are the best way to show love. Some pastors have said things to the masses that would be labeled verbal abuse in a parent/child relationship.
We are failing as a church at something so simple as loving, welcoming and encouraging. Its not philosophical or theological, its a question of methodology. So please, choose love.