Have you ever noticed that people’s ideas often are qualified not by who they are or how they live, but what they look like?
Thinking a lot lately about the places we make negative by treating simple interpersonal differences as sin, and favoring specific types of people in the Church. The concept of partiality isn’t just wrong, it’s straight up evil and devisive. If we are called not to lead one another to stumbling for our differences, then how can we not realize that diversity says more about the body of Christ than inclusion?
In one of my classes right now, we are reading about ways that the gospel was actively distorted to oppress slaves brought to the U.S.. Slave master’s largely believed in what they were doing, and some treated their slaves fairly and prayed with them. Still, the name of Jesus was active social control, and many officials on plantations as well as in the Church believed it was crazy talk to teach the slaves the full bible or how to read, preferring instead to repeat messages like “Obey your master” as nauseum. In the same course, we are learning about how Islamophobia has always been part of the US, and how primarily Catholic monarchies strongly resisted the spread of Islam to native peoples and slaves in order that they could create more passive societies (Islam would have also taught the slaves to read Arabic, and was thus a no no).
So the slaves broke away in secret, often at night, to pray. The intimacy with God reflected in spirituals and modern day gospel music has to do with clinging to Christ through oppression. The Church as a whole owes a lot of the proliferance of images of intimacy with God to the faith of black slaves and free people in this country, and yet, the image of mainstream Christianity is still mostly white. Why do we reject history in the Church? Why is it still so important to deny the magnitude of the Body of Christ?
Today, we need to be able to identify when the gospel is being used in a way that distorts the image of Christ. It isn’t enough to passively sit by and ignore the sins of the past, insinuating that fully fledged faith and an equitable understanding of scriptures is just for some people. Do you really want to be the one to tell the heart desiring after Christ that they will not have a place at your table? Even logistically, Christians were never going to fully agree on somethings. Which battles are really worth fighting? Do we want to be fighting one another, or the enemy? He who is not against us is for us.
Is it Pastor’s duty to tell their congregants how to worship? If you are pursuing Christ with your full heart and your desire is after him, shouldn’t it be standard that you find a place where you can belong? Do we really want to have to explain this madness to every consecutive generation of children who similarly don’t get it? Church should be a place that is good for your soul, not a place that refuses to acknowledge the essence of who you are while denying you the ability to come to Christ if you don’t meet our expectations. That’s some bullshit.
There is no partiality before God. How can we refuse to allow people a fair place to worship in his house? How can we exclusively speak on his behalf? We keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, and it makes you wonder if we shouldn’t just cut to the chase and call this dividedness sin it’s fruit are generally so negative. Should it be up to us to be more saints than sinners, if by the blood of Jesus, we are both? Even Paul knew that desiring after Jesus doesn’t mean you are ever able to access a love like his on your own. Being sinners should not frighten us, because why else do we have faith? Being sinners means that we are just like everyone else, and we are willing to meet them where they are.