Sunday, June 4, 2017

Making America Good Again: Cherry Picking Christians

On the front page of my local Sunday paper, a courageous woman working to revitalize her neighborhood asks:  "How do you say you love the Lord and don't love His people?"  I agree with May Lizzie Jennings wholeheartedly.  However, it is also time to ask the question in reverse:  "How can we say we love His people and not love the Lord?"

Loving each other is an extremely important Biblical principle but not the only one.  Right before Jesus told us to love our neighbor, He told us love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Further, He linked loving God to obedience:   "Love one another, as I have loved you." And "If you love me you'll keep my commandments."  Love like Jesus.  Keep all his commandments, not just some of them.  We don't get to choose which, we need to love God AND people.  'Both/and' not 'either/or.'

Sadly, it seems to be part of our human nature to want to listen to things we agree with and tune out those things that we don't.  For some reason I don't completely understand, some of us lean toward "conservatism" and some to "progressivism."  Whichever way we lean is the lens that determines how we view the world, what things we choose to believe, and ultimately how we respond to its problems. Each of us "cherry-picks," if you will, the things that confirm our biases and ignores the things that don't.

We all need to take a step back and look at how we can best love God AND all of His creation, including people.  God tells us how through Scripture, the universe around us,  and the lessons we learn from history.  The Declaration of Independence refers to this, "the laws of Nature and Nature's God." Admittedly, there are times that it seems Scripture contradicts itself.  Then we are faced with the greater challenge of working together to see what God intends, focusing on both/and and not either/or. Often we will find there is a new way open to us if we only do the hard work to find it.

I am growing increasingly frustrated with Christians and non-Christians alike who "cherry-pick"  Biblical principles to support various and sundry political points without struggling with the WHOLE of God's revelation.    

What put me over the top this week was all Scripture floating around over Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.  Many who supported the agreement pointed to God's delegating responsibility for the planet to humanity and our obligation to be good stewards. Others, focused on how the agreement hurts the people on the planet, pointing to the agreement's restrictions on ability of many to provide for their families in exchange for little climate improvement.   There is also another opinion out there that says we don't need to worry about climate change because God is in charge and won't let us destroy the planet. All of these views contain part of the truth, but not all of it.  Our discussion should be about how we can be good stewards to the earth AND use the earth's bounty for the benefit of all, recognizing all the while God's sovereignty.  Emphasizing one principle over the other is a false choice but, alas, easier than doing the hard work of uniting these principles to find a path forward.

We could have the same discussion in many areas of our life together:  do we help the poor by supporting them in their poverty or helping them out of it?   Do we welcome everyone who comes to America or insist that they be here legally?  Do we love and care for women, or their unborn children?   Do we love people whatever their gender and sexual inclinations, or acknowledge that God created male and female to enjoy the blessings of marriage?   And as the news of another terrorist attack comes out of London,  do we love our enemy or protect the innocent?  The hard answer is both/and.

Let's stop cherry-picking Scripture to make our political points and do a better job of loving God and each other by looking to the whole testimony of God, in the natural world, in Scripture, in history and in our hearts.  As much as I love God,  I confess that I am guilty of cherry-picking as well, so don't call me a hypocrite but help me do what is right.  We all, including me, need to intentionally open our eyes and ears and listen to God - and each other.  We won't always get it right, but we will do a much better job of dealing with the mess our world is in if we at least try to follow the Creator's plan.  God created us, and loves of us, and yes, our Heavenly Father knows best.  

So stop with the cherry-picking, or at least recognize that you are doing it. Let's all work a little harder at getting the logs out of our own eyes (like Jesus told us to), and start looking at all that God wants for us - not just the parts that we like.

Let's Make America Good Again.

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