Christians

the fingerprints of God on a "secular" society

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Tonight when I go to bed, we will have already spent 12 amazing days in the beautiful country of España, meaning that we’re already more than 10% done with our 105 total days on Spain Term (I know it’s not exactly 100 days like the hashtag, but hey)! Isn’t that crazy? It feels like there’s no way that we’ve been here this long, but at the same time, it feels like we’ve already been here for a month. And that makes absolutely no sense, but I’m sure everyone has experienced that sensation at one point in life or another. Recap:

Anyway, for this update, I want to talk a little about finding Jesus in the little things around you and appreciating the fact everyone single one of the 7 billion people on this planet was made in the image of God. It’s just something that I’ve been thinking about for a day or two. But first! Update!

So like I said, we’ll have been here for 12 days tonight, and that’s absolutely insane. We haven’t even had a real full week of classes yet, because we didn’t start until Wednesday last week, and we don’t have class tomorrow because our group is traveling to Madrid for the weekend! (Classes canceled for excursions? Count me in.)

However, at the same time, I definitely feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm here. I’m over jetlag. I don’t get lost walking to and from class anymore. I think I’m understanding and speaking Spanish a little better after a week and a half. I finally figured out how to get the temperamental key to my house to work so my host mom doesn’t have to let me in every day, and I can even make my way to a couple of shops and a couple of the panaderías (bakeries) by myself! So I’d say that it’s been a pretty good learning experience so far, and sometimes it even feels like I’m adulting (but let’s be real, who am I kidding?).

Finally, my small group finally got everything figured out for fall break!! At least concerning flights & lodging, so that’s really exciting!! More updates to come about that! So stay tuned.

Thoughts:

So, anyway, my thoughts this week have been revolving around balance, and specifically how to continue connecting with God over the course of this semester in a secular society (which is what so many people kept saying to describe the spiritual atmosphere in Spain, not my own words, haha). But after having been here for a little over a week, I think that a lot of people possibly misunderstand what secular really means, because that word has a lot of strong negative connotations for American Christians. I think that oftentimes, people imagine “secular societies” to be Bible burning, religion hating societies where everyone is an atheist and you’ll be persecuted if you subscribe to any sort of religion (at least in my most horrible extrapolations of what that word means). But in reality, it just means that most people don’t really care for religion. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be warm, hospitable people who can still bring light even if they don’t necessarily believe.

And the reason that I want to talk about this is that I think that, much too often, Christians get way too caught up in labels and what their preconceived notions tell them that certain descriptors mean. After all, what kind of things come to mind when you hear or see the words ‘democrat,’ ‘republican,’ ‘secular,’ ‘religious,’ ‘gay,’ ‘straight,’ ‘communism,’ ‘laissez-faire,’ and other things like that? I’m sure that depending on your upbringing, you would lump some of those words into the ‘good’ category and others into the ‘bad’ category, just because of the connotations they hold, and I for one, think that’s the wrong way to approach things. I think that we need to start really understanding people and things before we make rash judgments about them.

As my classical literature professor told our class earlier this week, “fascism, communism, and socialism aren’t bad in and of themselves. True, they might not necessarily work out in a given society, but we only attribute negative labels to these things because of the bad people that advocated for them.” I think that’s a really important thing to remember in general. Yeah, some people in the past may have taken secularism to the extreme by outlawing religion and hunting down Christians and others and stuff like that, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything inherently evil about secularism in and of itself. After all, countries like Iran are theocratic nations where the government and laws abide by a specific religion, and we don’t think that’s good either. Sometimes, a secular state is the best incubator for religious liberty, because it ensures that no specific one is elevated above the others.

So, I got a little off topic, but basically, I want those of you reading to start to think about why we have certain connotations associated with certain words and certain labels and whether or not those connotations and labels are correct or not. Does secular have to equate to evil? Does democrat and liberal have to equate to bad? What about gay and straight? Do those by nature have to be good or bad?

Let me leave you with this.

For our semester here in Spain, all of us are staying with different host families, one student per family. When we arrived, all of our host families came to greet us and take us back to our homes for the rest of the semester. As the stereotype suggested, many of these host moms and dads aren’t religious. They don’t believe in God, or they do, but don’t really do anything about it. They don’t go to church. They might not even have a single Bible in their houses.

But they were excited to see us when we arrived, and I daresay that they loved us even before we got there or as soon as they saw us. And a lot of these people may or may not be Christians.

My one friend’s host mom grabbed her hand as soon as she saw her and had joy on her face as she talked with the onsite director of our program, asking about my friend in third person as she stood there, seeing if she had any allergies, seeing if she needed anything special, and saying how excited she was to have her staying with her.

This woman was so joyful and excited about a random American college student who she didn’t know, who didn’t speak the same native language, and who was different in so many ways. But the thing was that none of that mattered, and it was beautiful. There aren’t a lot of words to describe that.

And the thing is, I think that a lot of American Christians (myself included) could learn a lot from that situation. Our host families and host parents hardly knew anything about us before we arrived. All they had was names, not even pictures, unless we had sent them beforehand. All they knew was that we were coming to spend three and a half months living in the country that they called home and to learn their language. That was all they needed to be joyful and excited about our arrival, the anticipation that they were going to get to know us and get to share some of their lives, their history, their culture, their language, and their country with us.

In my own opinion, I think that’s how Christians should approach the world. Instead of constantly trying to win political or theological debates, or trying to convince people that they’re sinners in need of repentance, I think that we would probably do a lot better by adopting the mentality of our Spanish host families. We might not know anything at all about the people that we’re going to meet over the course of our lives, but what we do know is that we have an incredible story of grace, redemption, and love to share with them. We have a history and a faith that stretches back thousands of years, and we have a God and a Friend who loves us so deeply that He sacrificed His own life in order to save ours. I think that warrants some joy and excitement on our part, don’t you? So shouldn’t we be excited and joyful to be able to share some of our lives, our history, our culture, our language (holla at Christianese), and our love with people?

To that end, I think this comparison is warranted. Part of the reason that we’re doing so well in Spain is that we see these people and we want to be a part of this country and a part of this language community from what we see in them.

In the same way, if people looked at us, would they want to be a part of this? Would they want to be Christians and involved in churches judging solely from what they saw of us? Or would they crunch up their faces and start walking the other way because they didn’t want to be associated with us?

I think it’s time that Christians started being more vibrant about their faith, overflowing with joy and loving with the abandon that draws people in, rather than pushing people away with debates and disputes.

Who knew that I’d be learning so much about Jesus, faith, and how to live authentically in such a “secular” country? It appears as if even “secular” countries can be covered in the fingerprints of God. They were all created by Him weren’t they?

Haha, well until next time! Hasta luego!

Kim Davis, Smoking, and Spoiled Children

I’m a few days behind on the times, it seems, since I don’t read a lot of American news in Spain, but I did just finish reading up a little on the Kim Davis situation and just wanted to give my take really quickly, because I do plan on keeping up with this blog (both fun Spain things and things like this) while I’m gone. In case anyone reading isn’t super familiar with the situation, what’s happening is basically this: a county clerk (or something along the lines of that; she’s a government employee, which is the point) was taken into custody earlier this week for refusing to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court ruling earlier this summer. Her defense was that her religious convictions prevented her from participating in or facilitating sin, and she now faces greater charges and possibly prison time. Needless to say, people have gotten pretty riled up on both sides of this debate.

My take?

Well, actually, my initial reaction to this whole entire thing was sadness. I obviously don’t know Kim Davis, but I’m sure that she’s actually a really nice lady, even though she’s sort of refusing to do her job (which the government pays her for by the way) right now, which isn’t okay. But what occurred to me secondly was this: I think that a lot of Christians are still really confused about how they’re supposed to navigate situations like this, and I think that confusion and lack of understanding causes them to create situations in which there appears to be a great deal of animosity between Christians and LGBT people. And right now, my prayer is that we would learn quickly so that conflicts and situations like this stop happening.

Now, some people may argue back that Christians aren’t confused at all and that people like Kim Davis are doing absolutely the right thing for “standing up to legalized evil” or something of that sort. Well…I would disagree.

Here’s the thing (and something that I’ve probably said a lot of times on this blog): there’s a grand difference between actually having religious liberty and using religious liberty as an excuse to be the god of your microcosm.

The problem is this: Kim Davis isn’t losing any of her own religious liberty. She has the right to believe whatever she wants and no one can tell her otherwise. She can refuse to attend an LGBT wedding. She can refuse to be friends with LGBT people. She can basically do whatever she wants in that sense. However, she cannot use religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against people by refusing to do her job, which happens to be that of a county clerk (or whatever the official title of that position is). That would actually fall under the category of imposing on their religious liberty by attempting to force her own religious beliefs on them. Just because she believes that same-sex couples shouldn’t get married doesn’t mean she’s allowed to use her government job to prevent them from doing so, and that’s why she’s currently facing prison time.

Regardless of whatever side you may take on this, (hopefully) I think everyone can agree that the situation is complicated. So let me say this: in my ideal world, Kim Davis wouldn’t go to prison for this, and I’m sorry if that angers any LGBT people. I just don’t. Rather, I think that this could be used as a learning experience for all Christians, and especially for those who still aren’t sure how they’re supposed to navigate these types of situations. My reasoning for this is that I’m sort of viewing ultra conservative Christians as children who don’t know any better in this sense, and I’m sorry if that angers any of those people.

Again, the problem here is that some Christians are acting a little like spoiled kids, and again I’m not hating on Christians, I promise. I am one, and I’m proud to be, but I think that the vast majority of conservative Christians aren’t quite used to not getting what they want in terms of laws and legal arrangements. Thus, like any child, they start to lash out, crying that the system isn’t fair and that they’re being persecuted, just because they haven’t yet learned how to live in a world where they don’t get everything that they want. I understand that my analogy might sound a little derogatory, and again, I’m sorry about that, but it does seem pretty apt for the situation, doesn’t it?

What people need to learn is this: you can disagree with people and stick to your own beliefs without creating a scene or throwing a fit (which refusing to do your job fits into in this analogy). The world is changing, and we need to learn how to adapt to it in order to keep up and stay relevant.

But let me be clear here: for those who aren’t going to be shaken in what they believe, that’s totally fine. You may continue to believe whatever you want. I’m not arguing for relativism. In this case, adapting means learning how to retain those beliefs while continuing to treat others with respect and dignity so that they don’t dismiss you as being some sort of backwards person who just believes in myths and stories instead of a real, powerful, loving God. That’s what I mean by adapting and staying relevant. It’s not at all a call to discard your beliefs just because the world doesn’t agree with you. It’s a call to behave and conduct yourself in such a way that people might not necessarily know that you disagree with them and in such a way that they might actually want to hear what you believe.

For example, some people choose to smoke even though it’s been scientifically proven that it’s bad for your body and leads to cancer in the long run. That’s just scientific fact. However, some people still choose to smoke. That doesn’t mean that those people are evil or bad; it just means that they’ve taken their American liberty and acted on it. Most people can continue to believe that smoking is bad for you and abstain from it without constantly reminding their friends, family, and acquaintances of that fact. Moreover, people can also work in stores and sell cigarettes to people even if they don’t smoke and continue to believe that it’s harmful to your body. Thus, their personal beliefs don’t affect the way they treat other people, and they can continue to treat those people with respect and dignity regardless of their decisions.

Though that comparison isn’t perfect, I think that it can be applicable to this situation as well. People can disagree and believe that same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships are wrong without discriminating against people and without compromising their own personal beliefs. Just like a non-smoking person selling cigarettes because it’s their job, people who don’t necessarily believe in same-sex marriage can still issue marriage licenses without having to feel like they personally endorse that union.

That kind of grace and tolerance/respect is my hope and prayer for the future, because we need to start learning how to adapt in these ways so that people will stop calling us bigoted and hateful and start seeing that we (hopefully) do love everyone unconditionally, regardless of our own personal beliefs, because again, that’s what we’re called to do, isn’t it? We’re not called to try and conform the world and the government to the Bible and its teachings, only ourselves. Our primary calling is to love.

So let me end with this.

I think that what Kim Davis did was wrong.

And I think that conservative Christians need to change some of their attitudes and actions in order to better serve and love people while we’re here on this earth.

But I also think that what she did doesn’t necessarily warrant jail time, at least in my own personal opinion.

And I also think that we’re (the church) in a transition period right now and that LGBT people and the rest of the world should have a little grace for us, just like we’re (LGBT people) asking for some grace from the church.

So that’s my take on this whole messy situation, and unfortunately, I don’t think that cases like this are going to stop popping up any time soon, at least in the near future. Like I’ve said a couple times in this post, we’re in a transition period right now, and times of change and transition are incredibly hard sometimes, let me tell you. But that doesn’t mean that you give up and stop. From what I’ve been learning this past year, I think that while these times might be some of the most uncomfortable and painful that we go through, in the end, they result in a lot of growth for all parties involved, growth that couldn’t have happened without going through all of those experiences.

So that’s what I’m hoping and praying for, that these times of trial and awkwardness for the church will lead to a time of renewal, revival, and nuance where we become relevant again and known for our love rather than for our political stances.

Finding Love in Weed, Abortion, and Other "Christian" Controversies

This summer has honestly been crazy, surprising, and unexpected in a lot of not good ways, but I thought that after a series of negative posts, I would write about something a little more positive just to shake things up a bit. Here’s a little context before I get into it: I’ve been spending the past two months in Grand Forks, North Dakota studying “linguistics” at this summer program that is closely tied with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I’m here because it’s technically a part of the requirements for my major at Bethel (which is seriously screwed up, and I’m pretty sure the only reason no one has complained before us is that there have been like 4 linguistics majors since Bethel introduced the program). Anyway, it basically sucks, and they’re not really teaching us linguistics. They’re teaching us all this watered down, proprietary stuff that’s used for Bible translation. Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but the fact of the matter is that we weren’t informed that’s what we were getting ourselves into, so it’s sort of frustrating that we spent a lot of time, money, etc. on a program that isn’t really benefitting us in any way. So that’s the backdrop of this summer.

Aside from a drastically less than satisfactory experience at summer school, this season has been trying in a lot of other ways, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It’s really just been a super brutal two months, and I also have been working through that no church experiment that I started at the beginning of the summer (which I’ve actually cheated on, which is the inspiration for this post).

SO, the positivity.

Last weekend, on the heels of two weeks of really difficult news, I was back home (I go home like every weekend, because Grand Forks just sucks that bad), and I was invited to go to church with some of my good friends from high school/college/PSEO/whatever. Anyhow, I was sort of hesitant to go, because I was on my church fasting experiment and also because the church was 40 minutes away from my house. But I wanted to see my friends, and I also figured that it was probably a little more acceptable to cheat on this experiment. So, I went.

And…honestly…it was really great.

The service itself was pretty standard, the vibes a good mix between the smaller church that it was and the megachurch vibes that I’d experienced before. But that wasn’t what really hit me. It was the people, which was something that I really wasn’t expected.

Now, granted, I was visiting with friends, which meant I already had my in, so to speak, since she was introducing us to everyone. But at the same time, I felt a genuine warmth and acceptance from everyone that we were introduced to that I hadn’t felt in a church in a while. That was pretty cool.

Their spirit of hospitality was so that we were all invited to go to lunch with people from this church that we had just met an hour ago after the service. Again, I was hesitant about this, because I just wasn’t at a point in life where I had disposable social energy for mingling with people that I didn’t know. But again, my friends were going, so I decided to go as well. And I think that was probably one of the best decisions that I made that day.

Over lunch, they started off with just regular small talk, lunch conversation stuff, but after everyone was mostly through eating, one of the guys there, who also happened to be the worship leader and youth pastor for the high school students got us into a more serious conversation. He told us a little about what he was going to be talking to the high schoolers about that night and just opened the floor/table for discussion.

So, for the next 45 minutes or so, we talked about a bunch of super “controversial Christian” topics. We talked about drugs. We talked about abortion. We talked about the Supreme Court ruling and same-sex marriage and relationships, and for the first time in a really long time, I didn’t feel an anger boiling up inside me as these other Christians that I barely knew gave their opinions and beliefs on these topics.

Honestly, I was floored.

The frequency at which I find myself a part of such authentic, caring, nuanced discussions on any three of those topics, let alone all three, is next to never, which is why I found myself drawn to these people. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend with them, since it was Sunday and I had to return to the dreaded Grand Forks that afternoon, but I had really wanted to be able to stay and talk with them more, because it was honestly incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that conversation in real life before. I’m being 100% serious.

The worship leader/youth pastor’s wife talked about the super real contradiction between pro-life activists wanting women to give birth, but also refusing to support programs that help mothers after they’ve given birth, oftentimes leading those children to grow up on destructive paths. She talked about how it’s so interesting that supposedly pro-life Christians also support the death penalty. And she was what most of us would call a “real adult.” People usually chalk up opinions like that to liberal, progressive college kids, but here was a real person giving a nuanced, informed, and consistent opinion on a topic that many Christians believe is black and white.

And then the worship leader/youth pastor himself told us about a talk that he had given the senior high students on same-sex relationships/marriage and the Supreme Court ruling. I was surprised to discover that he had read them both the Side A and Side B arguments off of the Gay Christian Network website, two essays that I’ve read several times myself. Again, here was a person in real life who actually cared enough to read stories and opinions about real gay Christians without beating them over the head with the Bible.

And the best thing is that his doing that really affected people in that church. He got people questioning what they believed, especially since he noted that many of the people in that church didn’t have LGBT friends or know any LGBT people personally. His reading of those two essays got people thinking, and it personalized something that had only been an issue before. And some people started wondering if what they had believed before was really the right thing. They started asking themselves if they were on the wrong side, for lack of a better term. That’s crazy to me.

Even though he eventually told us that he still personally holds to the traditional views of marriage and relationships, my mind was still blown (seriously) by that story, especially when he admitted that it’s really between people and God on matters like that. I don’t think I can fully express how blindsided I was by the sheer love, grace, and respect that was present throughout that entire conversation. It was honestly one of the coolest things that I’ve experienced in my life. I’m 100% confident in saying that was one of the few times that I genuinely experienced a group of relatively conservative Christians from the suburbs of Minnesota speaking so lovingly and relationally on a topic that they don’t wrestle with personally. The amount of Jesus that was shining through them at that moment was surreal, and they didn’t even know that I was gay when they were talking about it.

Crazy. Absolute madness.

I mean, I think that there are plenty of stories out there about people accidentally offending other people when they talk so bluntly and insensitively about a topic that they don’t know someone else has to deal with, but for the first time in my life, I was genuinely and completely surprised by the way that they talked about it, and I want to say that it was probably that situation in reverse. And that’s the coolest part.

In that situation, in that conversation, you could see and you could tell that they really loved the people that they were talking about, regardless of whether or not they actually knew an LGBT person personally. You could tell that they were wrestling with it and putting themselves in the shoes of the people they were talking about. You could hear them admitting and understanding how difficult and complex an issue it must be. And that’s just straight up insane.

I literally (correct usage, thank you) can’t get over how surreal and insane that situation was, and I’m so thankful that the legends are true and that there are still Christians who operate like that. It gives me hope that someday all Christians will be able to have loving, respectful conversations about things they don’t agree with, and it gives me hope that someday Christians will be known for their love, and that their love would just be understood by their actions and their words. It gives me hope that someday Christians won’t have to say that they’re “speaking the truth in love,” because people will already feel loved just by being in their presence. After all, the saying goes that if you have to tell someone you’re a hipster, you’re not a hipster. In the same vein, I would say that if you have to tell someone that you’re loving them, you’re not.

So, that’s my positive story for the week and my shout out to that church for reflecting Jesus in real life.

I only hope that this kind of love truly is contagious, because the kind of love those people were showing can change lives, and I’m sure they already have.

Calm Down; Religious Liberty is Intact & God Isn't Going to Judge America

Alright, alright. I need to get some things off my chest. As you may have gathered from the title of this post, I'm not very amused by the fact that conservatives everywhere are bellyaching about the fact that the church is being persecuted and that this is the beginning of the end for religious liberty in the United States of America. Honestly, there is absolutely no reason for all of those people to be getting thrown into a frenzy because of a new equality law. And no, this is not the beginning of a downward moral spiral for this nation. Sorry.As Cory notes in his piece on Bedlam, the main problem here is that the church just plain isn't used to not getting its way on things like this. I hesitate to use the word "lost" because it implies that there are sides, but frankly, the church "lost" a battle that it thought it needed to win. So now, there are all these people claiming that God is going to judge our country and judge us for allowing these terrible morals into the legal system.

The only thing is that guarding the legal system was never the job of Christians. Our job is not to keep the government in check, making sure that it only passes laws that we approve of. Our job is not to impose our own religious beliefs on the entire nation. That is what will cause the downfall of religious liberty.

Because do you know what that sounds like? I'm not saying anything bad about Muslims, because we are called to love them unconditionally as well, but that sounds like the situation in a lot of Middle Eastern countries that most Christians would not approve of. There, Muslim religious and moral laws are imposed on everyone, regardless of whether they follow Islam or not. Most people agree that isn't right, so why is it any different here? The answer is that it isn't.

Also, it is my personal belief that any Christian who says that God is going to judge our country for allowing this law to be passed should stop. Why? Because it's just not true. I wholeheartedly believe that.

The reason for that is twofold.

First of all, I just do not believe that God consciously judges individual countries or people groups in the present day. I believe that ended in the Old Testament. And the reason I believe that is because God has opened His arms to all nations of the world. He wants there to be Christians from every nation and every people group. Believers no longer come from one single nation, and sorry to break it to anyone, but the United States is not the epicenter of Christianity. It just isn't. God's plan doesn't revolve around the United States, so it just doesn't make any sense whatsoever for Him to judge this country just because we happened to pass a law that a lot of people happen to disagree with.

Second, I believe that the fact that this country exists presently is also a sign that God isn't going to judge us simply for passing a marriage equality law. In case you didn't know, the United States has a pretty messy history. We aren't the white saviors of the world like some people might like to believe.

To start off, this country basically exists because several different European countries systematically committed genocide of the countless Native American groups that occupied the Western Hemisphere for years before they arrived. Those people were made in the image of God.

Next, this country allowed people to be enslaved and treated as property all because of the color of their skin. They were persecuted and treated as less than human because of their outward appearance. Those people were made in the image of God.

Then, women weren't allowed to vote or participate in the governmental sphere because they were deemed to be less intelligent and inferior to men. People thought that they wouldn't be able to handle it. That was less than 100 years ago. Those people were made in the image of God.

Having said all of that, I think that if God has allowed our country to remain standing after genocides, enslavements, and treating other people as if they are less than human for one reason or another, I wholeheartedly believe that our country will be fine after simply passing a law that gives everyone equal legal rights as everyone else.

So today, another group of people is being treated as fully human, meanwhile, anyone is still perfectly free to disagree with us, so religious liberties are still intact. And this is great, because we are made in the image of God too.

That's my take on the status of America.

Good day.

A Response to the Response to Caitlyn Jenner

Well, the internet surely has been on fire with the Caitlyn Jenner story in the past week, and likewise has it been flooded with a myriad of different responses from Christians and non-Christians alike. Unfortunately, it seems as if the majority of the Christian responses have been very disheartening, vehemently arguing that Caitlyn Jenner is an insult to women, comparing her to soldiers (which is already a flawed comparison regardless of how you see the situation), and many other hurtful articles. That makes me sad and makes me think that Christians aren’t doing their job, their one job, seeing as I’ve only read maybe 3 articles talking about Caitlyn Jenner in even a vaguely positive light.

People keep asking whether this is right or wrong, whether it agrees or disagrees with the Bible, and whether or not we, as Christians, should be supporting a person like Caitlyn Jenner. What if I told you that all of those people are asking the wrong questions? What if I told you that the answers to those questions are irrelevant? What if there’s only one question to ask and that question is this: How can we love?

The answer to that question doesn’t need the answers to the other questions as prerequisites. That’s why it’s called unconditional love.

Jesus told us in John 13:35 that we would be known as His disciples by our love. That is the one sign that Jesus Himself said that we would be distinguished by. So, what happened to that?

I think that somewhere between today and the first century Christians have fallen back into the trap of the Pharisees’ mindset, a mindset that basically says that we are supposed to function as the morality police for this world, telling people what is right and what is wrong and making sure they don’t step out of line. I mean, doesn’t that sound familiar? Religious people claiming that it’s impossible for LGBT people to be Christians. Religious people defending their own even when caught in sin. Religious people “excluding” others from grace.

Did anyone want to be around the Pharisees? Did anyone feel like they were worthy to be around the Pharisees? Did people feel welcome around the Pharisees? Did people feel condemned and shamed by the Pharisees?

Answer those questions and then reflect on the church today.

Then, think about this: why were people drawn to Jesus?

People were attracted and pulled to Jesus because of His love and acceptance. He didn’t turn anyone away, not if they were caught in adultery, not if they were ceremonially unclean for years and years (akin to “living in sin/uncleanness”), not if they were Romans, not for any reason. Jesus was living out love. He was doing love.

So that’s what we should be doing, loving, otherwise it shows that we don’t really care at all. For everyone writing or sharing articles that slam Caitlyn Jenner by saying that she is an insult to women or anything like that, what is the point of that? What is that supposed to accomplish? What are you really trying to say?

To me, it displays a profound amount of selfishness, because it is evident that the authors of these articles (yeah, I’m looking at you Matt Walsh) don’t truly care or love Caitlyn Jenner at all. It demonstrates that all they care about is winning an argument, winning the theological decathlon that they think they’re competing in, all the while disparaging, attacking, and tearing down another human being who is still made in the image of God.

Something overly sentimental and not very practical, but nonetheless theologically accurate, that I learned in church once is this: before you do or say anything to another person, think about the fact that they are made in the image of the holy triune God and that God loves that person.

How powerful is that now.

So what do I think?

Personally, I have no moral or theological qualms with Caitlyn Jenner. Galatians 3:28 states that there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, and one of my philosophy professors once mused about how it’s interesting that all three of those things seem to be “issues” that the church has had to wrestle with at various points in history. I think that’s a valid point, but then again, it doesn’t really matter what I think anyway. What matters is where Caitlyn stands before the Lord and I am in absolutely no position to make that judgment. All I’m called to do, just like every other Christian on this planet, is to love, because love is supposed to break down barriers.

So what should we do? I believe that the only thing to do is what we’re called, to love, and to love unconditionally. That’s our only job. Christians aren’t called to be the morality police. Christians aren’t called to approve or disapprove of others’ choices. All that Christians are called to do is love, and if we’re not doing that, then I don’t see the point in even calling yourself a Christian.

So let me end this post this way. You might not agree with her choices. You might not think that what she’s doing is right. But here’s the bottom line: Caitlyn Jenner is made in the image of God and Jesus loves her to death. Jesus was bruised and battered, whipped and pierced, and He died and rose again for Caitlyn Jenner’s soul just like for yours and for mine. All of that sacrifice was not so that we could decide that her choices are “too out there” or “too unbiblical” to love.

The Bible and the Christian faith as a whole are both ultimately stories about love, unconditional love. The word Christian means “little Christ.” Our job, then, as Christians, is to reflect our namesake. Jesus said that we would be known for our love. Can we please try and make that a reality?