The past few days have seen some good, some bad, and lots of challenging conversation go by on the post about gay marriage. One of the recurring points of conflict comes from the Bible: what is it and what are we supposed to do with it?
As Christians, we are a people of the book. The scriptures witness to the redemptive work of God that comes to its fulfillment in Christ. This collection of documents is normative for Christians. It tells the stories that found our communities, it reflects on the implications of those stories for our life together. It gives rules to live by.
One of my operating theories these days is that for a people of the book our identity, our ethics, and our hermeneutics are inseparable. How we read the Bible is indicative of how we conceive of what it means to be Christian, what we think we are supposed to do will flow from these two.Part of the challenge of living well is that there are numerous close-calls: we can attempt to live by grace, because ours is a religion of grace; we can attempt to live in obedience, because we are called to obey and respond.
But these “close calls” are all the more wrong for their proximity to the truth.
We are not saved by grace [full stop].
We are saved by the grace of God made known and given to us in Christ.
We are not called to obey [full stop].
We are called to walk in the Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ; we are called to obey the words of the good teacher who also laid down his life for his friends.
It is Christ who makes us Christian. It is the participation in the cosmic reality that the crucified Christ is the resurrected Lord over all things. This will give us our own standard and definition of love.
What does it mean to love my neighbor as myself? Somehow, the self-giving of God for the sake of sinners who turned on the grace-giver in murderous rage will have to become our story. Not necessarily the murderous rage part–but that we step forward and love as Christ loved, that we bless the world as God blesses.
And that means loving those who are outside, beyond, and against the kingdom of God as ourselves. Loving neighbor is never antithetical to the love of God, because the God whom we are called to emulate is the God who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike–all the nations are blessed. Because the God whom we are called to emulate is the one who did not spare his own son but delivered him up for us all–while we were all still sinners and hostile in mind to this same God.