On Sunday Ken Wilson gave a sermon at City Church San Francisco called “The Unique Tenacity of Christian Community.” A friend of mine called it, “Best sermon ever on LGBT inclusion without mentioning LGBT once.” You can listen and judge for yourself.
Yesterday I interacted with one part of the sermon that resonated deeply with a theme that I have been developing here for a couple of years: knowing what we think about an issue (and the LGBTQ issue in particular) does not automatically provide us with an immediate knowledge of what we should do about it.
Today’s there’s another, related thread I want to trace.
This one is closer to what I blogged about on Sunday: our “believe thats” can get in the way of the dangerous business of entrusting ourselves to the God we profess to “believe in.”
To put it differently, knowing we are right about something can give us a kind of confidence that impels us to greatness in spite of ourselves. Or, it can make us into a most insufferable band of self-righteous hypocrites.
Knowing that we are right can, as Wilson put it, make the world a more dangerous place.
As I’ve explored this theme, I have sometimes talked about the dangers of bounded-set Christianity, where the right things we know become the litmus test for who is in and who is out. Once we adopt such a posture it is literally possible to justify any and every sort of evil and violence in the name of Jesus–just as long as we can convince ourselves that we are guarding the borders of the people of God.
In his sermon on Sunday, Wilson put it like this:
A group of people that is more right than everyone else is not good news for the world.
Indeed, everyone thinks this about themselves. This is neither good, nor is it news, nor is it for the world.
I think that Protestants in general and evangelicals in particular have a hard time with this. Our whole church system was created around the notion of theological correctness. Each of our denominations was created to be more theologically correct than the one we broke off from.
But here’s the true rub, as Wilson articulated it on Sunday:
The gospel Paul is preaching intends to produce people who can love their neighbor as themselves, embrace people who have strong disagreements, and not just embrace 250 Facebook friends.
Our “gospel” becomes good news when it is recognized as producing a love that transcends and demolishes the boundaries of love that we have inherited or created.
If the gospel is not defined as falling within a boundary defined by a theological system, how might it be known and seen? By people moving toward each other–with a strong emphasis on “other”–with the same self-sacrificial, embracing, reconciling, and self-giving love that God showed us in Christ.
There’s a gospel that is actually good news.
The way of the gospel is the way of the cross. And that always stands in tension with the way of the empires of power.
What if the surprising power of the crucified Christ is not that it can make us all God’s people agree with each other, but that it can make even those who disagree with each other into a thriving, flourishing family of self-sacrificial love?
Wilson framed the question like this:
What if we understood that God was more concerned with how we handle our disagreements among ourselves than he is in resolving them for us? What if this is actually the test of authentic resurrection faith? What if God judges more by willingness to love than on our getting it right on any issue?