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6872017034_3e5c170272_bBy John Pierce

Just when you think most of the damage is done there arises those who blend their narrow theology and narrow political ideology into yet another poisonous stew. Such mixtures have fed discrimination, arrogance and hostilities for much, much too long.

Along the way, good terms, titles and phrases get perverted. It seems like “I’m not that kind of Christian” is required before engaging in most daily conversations now.

Humbly and lovingly following Jesus tends to get replaced with fighting for my own way. And now such self-seeking, power-driven (all the stuff Jesus said to avoid) behavior is being excused and advanced as seeking “religious liberty.”

There goes another good term if we aren’t careful to protect it like it protects those who need it most.

Last Sunday, many of us preached from the “hard words” of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48, the Gospel text offered by the lectionary about not fighting an evil person, turning the other cheek, giving to those who ask, loving one’s enemies — and more. I titled the sermon, “Who’s a literalist now?”

Of course, those who claim the highest view of biblical authority are often those who skirt around such texts or seek to qualify or explain them away with words like: “What Jesus really meant was…”

It is a shame when good terms and phrases like “religion liberty” and “following Jesus” are soiled by self-interest, fear and the desire to exert one’s will over others.

In much of American Christianity, we’ve come a long from the kind of behavior to which Jesus calls his followers — and it is not the right way.

Blogger Rachel Held Evans put it bluntly and well recently: “As Christians, …we are called to love God, to love our neighbors, and to love even our enemies to the point of death. So I think we can handle making pastries for gay people.”

It is very important to not misuse religious liberty while ignoring the clear callings that should distinguish those who follow Jesus.

The guarantee of religious liberty is of vital importance to those who suffer under oppression and real persecution — as once did that little, suspect gang of Baptists settling into America. It is not a convenient justification for the powerful to carry out discrimination in unloving ways.

And the call to love beyond those we like; to walk extra miles; and to be generous above what is expected of us is not up for a vote for those who claim to follow Jesus. Those are clear commands.

As I said Sunday, I looked through the Gospels for an exemption to this higher calling for us good American Christians of today. But, I couldn’t find one.

It seems that selective obedience is not obedience at all; that’s called convenience.

 

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