Upside-down trees swingin’ free,
Busses float and buildings dangle:
Now and then it’s nice to see
The world – from a different angle.
‘New World’, Shel Silverstein
Our kids love poems by Shel Silverstein. It’s not all that uncommon for one of us to open up to a few of his poems and see the world from a different angle. There’s much fun in the combining of poetry and comedy. But also, there can be much learned about life in taking a gander at it from another angle.
Gazing at the world only at one particular angle is quite troublesome for many reasons, but of most concern, there lies damaging trouble in our attempts to press the world into our expectations. When we expect the world – more specifically for the Christian – when we expect those different from us to believe what we believe and place value in our beliefs, we impose upon others, not love, but an instructive value system incongruent to theirs. And for that matter, I don’t believe this was Jesus’ intent.
I should be direct here as to not mislead: My belief on the issue of marriage is based upon what the Bible does reveal about marriage being purposed for a man and a woman, but this is my belief. My responsibility is to position love - God's love - before my beliefs so that love informs my beliefs rather than people or history.
When we place positions before people, we concede to being members of an organization rather than collected pieces of a Whole scandalously knitted together, embedded in eternity by the only One who could, who would, without ever fully knowing why except His owned desire. And when we guard our banalities more than the faith we profess, we pull faith out of the air to exist in our ordinariness. For what is faith in the absence of love, but unremarkable behavior ordinary to and at home within the walls of our selves? After all faith will one day fade, as will the beliefs associated with it, but not love. Love transcends. Love is the language which bridges our worlds and leads us home. Love bled an announcement to all who would hear, “you can come.”
This much I know about love: it doesn’t investigate for wrong before it identifies opportunity. That’s how love has worked in my life. Had love announced each of my wrongs first, I would never have known salvation. I belonged myself to a belief system as supplement to try and find my way, to feel better and escape emptiness, but love so incomprehensibly disrupted my fleeting attempts to make myself better. The disease common to the human heart is that we’re okay. But we are far from okay, even when we protect ourselves within the safety of our beliefs, pad ourselves within self-righteous activity and do all sorts of spiritual more to get more. Love heals. We all need love.
In the light of the SCOTUS ruling redefining marriage, again I’m reminded that the world our daughters grow into will be different than the one I knew. A faith not bound to time or mere understanding must find them, otherwise the faith they meet through my life will fade into the landscape of ordinary along with old wives’ tales and decayed clichés. If my faith is to be real, it must alive to those all around me. And nothing activates faith but love. Let’s be clear: love is more than carte blanche acceptance of all and anything, and at the same time love cannot only be judgment dressed up in holy words. For the Christian, love is the removal of self at center, a complete reversal of importance in our lives to where Christ is center and wholly authoritative positioning us in his likeness, that of humility, charity, choice, and commitment.
An issue should never serve to direct, guide and inform our love. Instead, Christ must be permitted into that space of our hearts holding too tightly to beliefs rather than love. There he can be trusted to lead us more than adequately through any issue foreign to our understanding. And so my response to monumental cultural issues such as same-sex marriage is simple: how can I love, as Christ would lead me to love? Our held beliefs on cultural issues should not disqualify us from loving others. A quick recall of Christ’s example leads me to take a step back from protecting a belief, value and the world as I knew it and instead move forward into loving people for who they are, just where they are. Our culture will only continue to change, and we, who are the Church, must be willing to gaze at the world from a different view, always with the intent to live ruled by the incomprehensible love of Christ.
God’s love expressed through Christ was a scandal upon religious beliefs. We should not soon forget that.