What is it to you?

So Jesus looks at Peter and says, “Follow me.” They’ve just been talking about how Peter will die, about whether he truly loves Jesus, so naturally Peter turns around and points to John, asking “And what about him?” Naturally.

Jesus replies: “What is it to you? You must follow me.”

If I look back at the apostles, it seems like they often set the example for the rest of Christendom that followed. The disciples were a fractuous lot. Besides spending their time constantly missing the point, misrepresenting Jesus, and walking around confused, they seemed to fight among themselves. A lot.

Just a short while after this conversation with Jesus, they’re at it again, fighting over who gets to sit on  Jesus’ right and left hands. Once again, worried about power and authority rather than the things Jesus cherished.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It seems like every time some Christian does something I find truly inspiring, John Piper (and others like him) feels the need to go on Twitter and say goodbye. Indeed, the “farewell {insert name here}” trend has become one of the most famous pieces of public disapproval that Christians use against those they deem doctrinally unsound.

I recently chanced upon a Christian blog, which will remain nameless here, driving the point home with uncharacteristic exuberance. The actual post was a warning against how Angus Buchan will “take his deceitful show on the road to unleash its contagious religious lies into the unsuspecting world.”

While this is a great example of one Christian disowning another with the judicious application of vitriol, the point of the article wasn’t what drew my attention most (I am also very much like the disciples, it seems). Hidden in between the unsubstantiated claims and personal attacks on Mr Buchan is this gem: He is placed among his “NAR / pseudo-charismatic counterparts such as Reinhard Bonnke, At Boshoff, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, TB Joshua, Joyce Meyer, Todd Bentley, Rick Warren, Rodney Howard-Browne, Billy Graham, TD Jakes, Nevil Norden, Kenneth Copeland, Rob Bell, Reinhard Bonnke, John Piper, Kay Arthur and Cindy Jacobs to name but a very few.”

To name but a few. Look at that list again. If the writer truly believes that each of those people (and the large theological streams they represent) are part of the “vile deception of the false gospel”, then the true gospel must be believed by an extremely small group of people. That list encompasses almost the whole spectrum of major Christian movements. There is even some nice inside-greeting there, since John Piper has Farewelled Rob Bell years ago for his views on hell.  This is an extreme version of the same problem that plagues anyone who declares anybody unChristian because they espouse a different theology.

Do you really believe that you, and only you speak for “true” Christianity? Can you be so arrogant as to think that everyone else is either completely misguided or false prophets? Who gave you the authority to say who is and isn’t Christian? Where did you even find the gall to assume that you know what true Christianity is?

There are thousands of people honestly seeking God who don’t believe as you do. Smart, loving, deeply committed Christians read the same text and believe wildly different things. Why should you be any different?

Rachel Held Evans recently replied to a “farewell” blog with her characteristic wit and insight: “You can’t “farewell” me from the Table because it’s not your Table to set. It’s Christ’s. And the hungry are welcome.”

The hungry are welcome. By all means, rather spread your bile and destructive judgements. Keep going trying to split the world into US and THEM.

But remember, when you deign to cut off legitimate seekers from Christ’s body, know that He just might turn and ask “What is it to you?”

What is it to you?

“You must follow Me.”

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Of beams and splinters: Homosexuality and Christian activism.

World Vision has caved under pressure. I don’t necessarily count this as weakness on their part.  As an explicitly Christian charity, the kinds and amounts of pressure that can be brought to bear against them are unfathomable. Which leads me to my first point: the Gospel is under attack, but not from outside. Rachel Held Evans summarised this so eloquently.

I have been working myself up to this point for a while, thinking about complicity and bigotry and where I stand in the strange maelstrom of where all these things intersect with theology. To those who know the shape of our souls silence does not mean assent, but to the world at large silence is yes. This is true of social organisations too. To outsiders an absent no means you agree. Always.

This is how systemic evil stays alive: when good men stay silent. If nobody speaks out, everyone stays isolated and impotent in their dissent. It’s in the absence of communication that relationships break down, societies calcify, progress is hamstrung.

And I want no part in it.

This is what I believe. I lay it out in public, because that’s where it may be a small crack in the monstrous monolith that outsiders perceive Christianity to be.

The roots of Christianity are set in the hearts of the oppressed. It’s in the history of the Jewish people; it’s in the oppression of the early church. In the Bible we find, over and over again that God is the God of the oppressed, of those on the underside of power, no matter who they happen to be. The gospel is the story of a God who comes down to the powerless and broken, and offers them healing. I believe that it’s our sacred duty as Christians to speak out against oppression, especially when it originates within the church, because silence is complicity.

Jesus calls us to love. Wherever we support, even implicitly, the systematic oppression of others, we have moved away from God and His good news.

Homosexuality isn’t even close to the issue that it is made to be, even if you believe in its inherent sinfulness. In the Bible, homosexuality is outshone by things like greed, hate and oppression to such a degree that we can almost round its score off to zero. That’s the problem here: it’s become a political issue, not a theological one. It’s a hot-button topic used by lazy preachers to create a fictitious enemy that the church can unite against.

But the church doesn’t need to. The gospel is so much more than a set of rules to protect with force. The only people Jesus ever used force against were religious people. Everyone else received an invitation. So the question comes up for each of us: if Jesus were here, would he weave a whip for me?

Creating laws to kill and imprison people for their sexuality is deeply wrong. We cannot legislate our specific morality: down that road lies fascism and all the many inventive evils that flow from it. Jesus didn’t call us to patrol the actions of others, especially not those of people who hold different beliefs. Not even God does that. If the most high respects free will enough to allow me my faults, who the hell are we to withhold our love in some misguided attempt at social engineering? We’re to bring good news, love and healing.

Withholding homosexuals the right to work alongside fellow Christians for the betterment of the world is more than sad, then. It’s misguided, loveless and evil. As long as the church keeps pushing this stupid homosexuality agenda (in all its forms), it will be an empire of oppression. It will be part of the problem that our religion was started to solve.

The stance taken by most Christians on this topic is so disgustingly toxic that it beggars belief. It is so ‘far-sighted’ that it needs glasses to see its own sin. As long as we remain sinners, we have no right to even pick up stones, no less cast them. I am staggered by the amount of damage done by the rejection of homosexuals. It is possible only because the Christians doing so reduce these people to a single characteristic. These are people who love, fear, feel, cry, dream, and laugh. They are flesh and blood, with lives like ours, full of beauty and complexity. Just like us.

We are meant to be a force of love in the world. The body of Christ. Christ who loved and accepted whores and killers and you and me. We are in good company, no?

Personally, I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin, but “allowing it” (if we assume that it’s sinful) will never be able to live up to the destruction that is being sown all over the world by those who oppose it. Don’t we ‘allow’ so many other sins too, anyway? Isn’t that the point of forgiveness, of tolerance and love?

Christians must start speaking up against wrongs. If we don’t, nobody’s going to change it for us. So this is my start. I denounce Uganda’s gay bill, Russia’s legislation, every Christian’s clamour against a charity allowing homosexuals into its ranks. We must speak out against anybody who treads on those who are different from them.

This madness needs to stop. It’s small-minded and unworthy of people who claim that God is love.