As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3. 12-14
For the last two Tuesday nights, a small group of our New Church community has been meeting to be a part of an online book study led by theologian and writer, Brian McLaren. In his latest book that we have been discussing, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian, McLaren shares a story of speaking to a seminary gathering at which he says, “You have to find a way to disarm your faith as a potential instrument of hate and convert it into an instrument of love. You have to convert Christianity from a warrior religion to a reconciling religion.” Of course, the great difficulty in meeting this challenge is where to begin.
How do you and I transform our Christian faith into a reconciling religion? McLaren tells us that we have to take a hard look at how, for centuries, the Christian religion has operated with violence as its core message of how and why Jesus died. We have to acknowledge that for centuries adherents to the Christian faith have participated in genocide all in the name of defending the faith from infidels. Okay, so much for the lesson on the history of the Christian faith.
What I want to know, and I’m assuming you do, as well, is just how I can be a part of this transformation. And as simple as this may sound, it seems to me that we have to start right where we are. We have to commit to non-violence not just in how we act, but how we think, and what we say. We have to commit that our faith will be a faith grounded in the love of God, revealed in the love of Jesus Christ, the Human One, and sustained by the presence of the Holy Spirit at work within us. That this will be the penultimate motivation for how we treat others, our family, our friends, our colleagues, acquaintances, strangers and our enemies. We have to make a commitment that we will not participate in violence: personal, communal, state-sponsored, global, period. We have to commit to caring, as best we can, for the earth.
Now, having said that, I know and you know, that try as we might we will have some successes and some failures. The keys, however, are to acknowledge our failures, ask forgiveness, learn from them, get up, dust off and try again. The keys are to keep seeking the presence of God, loving as Jesus loved and loves, and seeking the presence of the Holy Spirit through prayer, worship, conversation, study, service, generosity and trusting that God is with us, we are not alone. The keys are found in the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, that we are called to compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness, from all of which we will learn how to love. Write those words down. Pin those words on your wall. Carry those words with you in your wallet.
McLaren’s book is a clarion call, a prophet’s voice in the midst of this current wilderness, warning us that we must change or die. I commend his book to you, and I pray that you will join me in this journey.
Holy One, I can’t, I’m yours, show me the way. Amen.