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Speaking to the Soul: As I Have Loved You

Speaking to the Soul: As I Have Loved You

Week of Christmas 2, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 2, 110:1-5(6-7) (morning) // 29, 98 (evening)

Joshua 1:1-9

Hebrews 11:32-12:2

John 15:1-16

On my drive to church yesterday morning, I listened to the “Sunday Conversation” segment of NPR’s Weekend Edition. This weekend’s conversationalist was a Presbyterian pastor who holds a different perspective from mine about the compatibility of same-sex relationships with Christian faith. This openly same-sex attracted man (who declines the term “gay”) chose to marry and start a family with a woman, believing this to be the only type of intimate relationship available to him as a Christian.

It was my privilege as a straight person to listen with only one ear to the potential harm of his position. I have at least one gay, Christian friend who felt that the interview perpetuated the hurt that Christians often cause to gay and lesbian people.

With my other ear, I listened for the difference between this conversationalist’s tone and that of other people who hold his position. What struck me most was his response when the interviewer asked whether he thought that other Christian leaders and denominations were “sinning” when they adopted a different position.

The pastor refused to use the word “sin.” I was impressed. He acknowledged that people in agreement with him have said “hurtful things and demeaning things” about gay people, and that such speech is “outside of the Christian ethic.” Ultimately, he described those who disagree with him as “in error” rather than sinful.

To me, this difference mattered. To others, though, his words were merely a sugar-coated and grace-laced version of a message that denies their dignity as loving and beloved children of God.

In our gospel for this morning, Jesus leaves his disciples with one rule: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” I was feeling pleased with myself yesterday morning, believing that this pastor on the radio and I were managing to love each other over the airwaves and across our differences, accepting each other as merely “in error” rather than labeling each other as sinful, putting graciousness above destructive speech. Surely we were humbly putting Christ’s command to love one another ahead of our disagreements, just as Christ wanted.

I was wrong, though. I was too smug. “Love one another as I have loved you” means so much more than downgrading our differences and adopting a gracious tone. It costs much more. There are many models of Christ-like love, and this pastor’s marriage may be one of them. But we’re here to celebrate and nourish every opportunity for people to love one another the way that Christ did, incarnating that love in every context and circumstance. Why oh why can’t this message get more airtime?

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal.  She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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Fr. frank young

I listened to the same NPR piece. It left me with very mixed feelings. As one who has been all over the map on this question over 40 years since ordination, I found Lora's reflections this morning helpful and insightful. Thank you. I think what Richard Rohr wrote this morning on his blogsite about the difference between uniformity and unity echoed the deeper issues which Lora has so adroitly addressed.
PS: starting to get used to the new website design. I like the changes.

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