an open love letter to the Church

John, one with you,
in seeking relevance in our faith affirmations,

To all the saints
struggling with some holistic sense of reality—
an integration (with integrity)
of faith and the particulars of life—
wonderful and terrible and day-to-day,

Grace and peace to you
from the God in whose truth
we find our place,
beginning and end,
ever-consistent in love.

So we are to confront our world with our faith
until the world, threatened, feels it incumbent
to confront our faith.
Okay, but how?
Because there are those who claim to do this,
and many, I do believe, with the best of intentions,
and yet here’s how that’s perceived as what we do:
as judgmental, not prophetic,
as narrow-minded, not as those so loved that love overflows,
as rigid as those whose lives are dictated
by rules carved into stone,
instead of those who live in conversation
with a living word
ever guiding us
into relevance and truth.

We are not perceived as those
who are for life and life more abundant.
You’ve seen the same polls I have, haven’t you?
We’re perceived in far too many ways, as those
who are anti-life—
anti-fun, anti-sex, anti-alcohol,
anti-dancing.
We’re perceived as anti-people—
anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-transgendered.

We’re perceived as those
who ignore the wondrous diversity of God’s blessed creation—
who want nothing more
than to live in our own comfort zone
that we impose on everyone else
so we are never uncomfortable.

We are perceived as those
more focused on assessing what people do
and judging them on that basis
(for good or ill)
than as those who simply love people for who they are—
every one created in the image of God.

Here’s the thing,
Jesus loved people,
and then challenged them to claim their own growing.
We are perceived as those who insist on identifying the growth
we have determined others need,
and any claim of love is then seen as contingent—
which is, when you think about it, anti-God.
Jesus confronted and threatened the world
by loving people,
not by insisting they love him,
not by insisting they adhere to some plan of salvation.

And so the world does confront us,
but not threatened—
threatening, rather—
threatening us
who have ceded our prophetic authority
in seeking to impose our morals
instead of live our values—
all the while remaining silent
on the systemic issues
that undermine community and hope
and the dignity of creation.

So in some ways we need to recognize,
the world threatens us
with more of the truth of God than we embody,

and then joins us in our silence
on matters of justice and responsibility,
our commitment to the poor and the powerless,
our willingness to address greed and fear,
the violence of gossip,
and the pervasive violence
so fundamental to our world and culture,
the rampant exploitation
of creation and of people
in the pursuit of materialism
through consumerism,
and the focus and priority of the self
over and above the whole.

But that is all admittedly hard
and disturbing enough
to potentially be
uncomfortable.

And the world will always gladly take
the authority we cede to it,
and then remain as silent as we are
about everything truly important.

So,
love.
It really is that simple
(and we reaffirm
that simple does not mean easy!).
Choose love;
practice love;
live love,
and follow the implications of love
into and through the particulars of your days.

And here’s a sampling—
some of the implications
I seek to follow
that may or may not be ones you follow.
Either way, may they give you some sense
of the common and mundane details
into which attention to a pervasive love leads.

How does the setting on my thermostat
indicate my love of creation?
Or my willingness to buy the more expensive
fair trade coffee and chocolate?
How about what I eat
and my attention to where what I eat comes from?
How does my voting and my participation in politics
indicate my loving—
and the things I buy and the things I won’t?
How is love made manifest in my rejection
of the seductive convenience of some business
precisely because of their business practices?
How about any uncritical enjoyment of movies and shows
that celebrate a righteous violence?
Do I play games (let my children play games)
that undermine respect for others?
How much time do I spend presuming I can fix someone else’s life
compared to how much time I spend trying to improve my own?
How is love integral to the way I respond
to my loved ones?
What about my neighbors?
Do I take initiative to include people—
and especially people excluded by too much of institutional religion?
Do I follow Jesus in that way?
Do my perspectives and opinions matter more to me
than relationship and community?
Do I spend more time in affirmation than condemnation?
Do people hear “yes” from me more than “no?”

Do I, in deed, consider love made manifest
in and throughout my day-to-day?

And so,
I hope you see,
the outward-oriented question,
“What would Jesus do?”
becomes the more inward-oriented question,
“How do I love?”
WWJD becomes HDIL—
which is also, by the way,
high definition
illuminated and/or illuminating
living and/or loving!

So in your striving to walk with integrity,
to live and to love
in and through all circumstance,
may the truth of God,
and the grace of Jesus,
and the ever presence of the Spirit
grant you peace and joy and hope—
ever within the transforming reality
of love.

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