The reasoning goes something like this. I am a Christian. I read the Bible. I go to church. I believe in God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I love Jesus. Therefore, if I am opposed to something God must also be opposed to it. If I believe or have ascertained through my understanding of God that something is “wrong” then God also believes it is wrong. If I hate or fear something, then Jesus does also. The deep flaw in this way of thinking is, simply put, the speaker has made himself or herself into God. Just because I feel a certain way does not mean that God does also, no matter how faithful a believer I am.
This is certainly not new to our time and place. Throughout the two millennia of Christianity different factions within the faith have claimed Jesus for themselves. They have set themselves up as arbiters of the truth, and not just any truth, but God’s truth. They believe that they know the mind of God. They will force others to either accept their version of the “truth” and even kill others for not accepting it. They make themselves God. There is nothing worse that a person of faith can do.
It is accepted that the four canonical Gospels are accounts of the life, teaching, preaching, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus. The Book of Acts and the Epistles are accounts of the early church. It seems to me that the overarching theme within these books and letters is the love of God, God’s desire for a deep relationship with all people, and God’s drawing people to the Divine self. The only people who are put to death in these accounts are the people who espouse these beliefs, that is Jesus and his followers. Neither Jesus nor any of his followers puts to death death anyone. Rather those who do not believe are to be courted and persuaded, if possible, to accept the Good News. Those who persist in their rejection of the Good News of Jesus are to be left alone. Those who desire to come to Jesus are welcomed no matter where they come from, what are their past misdeeds, or their past beliefs. Despite the condemnation of religious authorities, Jesus ate with and consorted with run of the mill sinners as well as notorious sinners. He did not reject them and some he welcomed as his closest companions (e.g. Matthew the tax collector).
Recently we have heard of the desire of some Roman Catholic bishops to deny Holy Communion to particular politicians over one political stance. Sadly, an Episcopal bishop came out in support of the Catholic bishops’ desire to restrict Holy Communion. This bishop stated that it is the prerogative of the Church to limit who can receive the sacrament. This bishop’s reasoning stated that it was the Church’s responsibility to safe guard Communion. He even went on to state that the table belongs to the Church and that even God is a guest at the table. The table initially set by Jesus with his own body and blood no longer belongs to him. The absurdity of this theological claim by a bishop of my church breaks my heart.
For centuries the Church has put borders around something that Jesus invited everyone to partake of. Those borders are there to restrict this holy food to only a select group. These borders are to keep out those we do not believe are deserving of the sacrament. Yet Jesus said time and again that he wanted to draw all people to himself. He never once caveated that by saying all people who believe a certain dogma, vote a certain way, have a certain skin color, speak a certain language, live in a certain neighborhood, or any of the other myriad ways in which we sinful humans try to divide ourselves. Instead of seeing the light of God in each other we attempt, even in the Church, to snuff out that light or see it through a prism that divides the “true” light from that which we do not like.
If our theology is based on the Bible, then we must accept that when God said we are made in the likeness of God that means all of us are. There are no exceptions. When John write that “God is love” then God is love for all: no exceptions. God is love not hate. Jesus hates no one, even those with whom he disagrees. Even at his death he asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him.
As long as we prescribe borders around God and show disdain and hatred toward others we are not of God. We are not following Jesus. Our claim to know the mind of God is the dead giveaway that we know only our own prejudices and seek to validate them by claiming know the mind of God. As long as we do we play into the hands of the evil one. It is the greatest desire of Satan to keep people from the uncompromising love of the one whose name is above all names and whose unconditional love never ends.
Let us not, no matter how righteous we may be or may feel, to fall into that fatal trap. Rather like Jesus on the cross let us open our arms to the entire world. Prohibit no one and welcoming everyone. We have all fallen short of perfection and it is the heavenly food of the Holy Eucharist that can heal and strengthen us to do God’s work in the world. God blesses everyone, let us learn to do the same.