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The Truth in Love: A Dangerous Thing March 10, 2015

Posted by michaelnjohns in homosexuality, sex.
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I wouldn’t have thought this was a really drastic change of position if I hadn’t lived through it.  Swept along by a wave of peers, I missed something.  In large part I agreed with them.  And in part, I was dead wrong for it.  These peers? Well meaning Christ-Followers.  I’ve been processing this still, so if I’m repeating myself, just move along to the next blog you like.  My feelings won’t be hurt, I promise.

I’ve been accused of thinking dangerously, or maybe that my thinking is dangerous, or maybe they weren’t thinking and they thought the fact that I was, was dangerous.  My fellow seminarians joked good-naturedly that they would pray for me even back before I got here.  Some of them would be spinning in their pulpits if they knew what I think now.  Farbeit from me to think I’m special, revolutionary, radical.  I’m no trail-blazer, like a Martin Luther.  I don’t think I could even come up with 95 theses, but I have one:  “the truth in love.”  I’m captivated by the power of the phrase, from Ephesians 4:  15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

What if God’s love is more radical than even Christ-followers give it credit for being?  If we really understood it better, and embraced it more fully, I’ll bet we would reap a few benefits.  I’m only going to share two I believe are available.

Benefit # 1:  We grow and become like Jesus.  This makes us different from a lot of people in the world, and that might just make us dangerous.

I Corinthians 13 extols the virtues of love, and proclaims, “…if I don’t have love, I have nothing.”  “I am a sounding brass, a tinkling cymbal.”  (I used the loudest-sounding translation)  For years I thought nothing of my fellow Christ-followers proclaiming the evil of sin, the final destination of unrepentant sinners.  I saw nothing wrong.  But their focus seemed to change.  I think it became too narrow.  I think it became unloving.  We went back to Jewish legalism, for people who aren’t Jewish, for people who don’t even follow Christ yet, expecting them to live by some hand-picked set of standards out of that Old Testament law code.  Sinners who are well-aware that they are sinners are rightly calling us onto the carpet for it.  It’s not loving.  It’s not gracious.  It’s not Jesus’ method.  And we don’t even live by the letter of the law we’re offering the world.  Well-meaning Christ-followers are blindly falling into it.  It’s wrong.  It’s sin, and some are still ignorant of it, or worse, in denial about it.

I hope you can stay with me, this is going somewhere dramatic.  Trust me.  This is what I’ve been meditating on:

Some Christ-followers are operating under the misconception that sin is a choice.  This has never been true.  The question that came to my mind was, “What is a sinner going to do?”  And obviously, the answer is, “we’re going to sin.” I said “we.”  It’s a radical challenge to what I have heard a lot of well-meaning people trying to teach recently, as if it were the truth. And it’s a drastic change to my prior thought process as well.

Here’s the revelation, if I dare call it that:

Hatred quenches the Spirit of God.  Hatred stops any good from coming out of your part of a situation, no matter how well-intentioned you are.  Your hatred isn’t going to change a single sinner into a not-sinner.  You can tell the truth, without love, and your true words won’t change a single sinner into a not-sinner.  Sometimes the truth alone can quench the Spirit too.  You can love, tolerating and embracing and accepting, and your love won’t change a single sinner into a not-sinner.  Sometimes just expressing love quenches the Spirit as well.  A balance of both is required.  Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life,” but he was also very loving, which is why the people flocked to him.  Nobody but the mob is flocking to certain churches, because they don’t really “love.” They just “truth.”  And sinners who feel affirmed are flocking to churches that embrace the sin as well as the sinner –  flocking to a place where they can hear what they want to hear, nothing uncomfortable, nothing that demands “Go and sin no more,” but that’s equally wrong.  They just “love,” they don’t really “truth.”  As a Christ follower, my message is empty if I deny the sin, just as empty if I embrace and accept the sin along with the sinner.  As much as I want to teach about your sin, or their sin, I feel compelled to confess first, I’ve got a plank in my eye too.  Christ commands anyone who would follow to first repent, or turn away, from sin, and then take up their own cross and follow Him.  I have a hard time with both of these commands.

In Psalm 51:5, the writer says he was conceived in sin, and born into sin.  In Ecclesiastes 7:20 the writer proclaims “there is not a righteous man on earth, who does what is right and never sins.”  Isaiah 53:6 the writer says we’re “like sheep” and we all want to go our own way, but we’re being led the wrong direction by our selfish motives.  In Jeremiah 17:9-10 the writer says we are all crooked, “desperately wicked,” and ultimately God “rewards” us for what we do.  The story doesn’t change from Old to New Testaments.  Romans 3:23 says we’ve all sinned and none of us can even dream of reaching God’s perfect standard, His “glory.”  So we’re all sinners.  From the first time when you’re a baby and mom says “no,” and you do it anyway, or try to do it anyway, it’s sin.  But if we’re going to live by the letter of the law we should be aware of II Corinthians 3:6- the letter of the law brings death, but the spirit (intention) of the law brings life.  The letter of the law, a slavish obedience to an impossible law code, or disobeying the perfect standards of God, only bring us to eternal death.  The spirit of the law, as distilled by Jesus into just two neat commandments, gives life like in John 10:10 and John 14:6.

Guess what?  Nothing can change a sinner into a not-sinner.  We can only resist, with the power that we have inside ourselves, and that’s only if we know something is a sin and we decide we don’t want to do it any more.  It’s more blinding, more powerful, more seductive than alcohol or tobacco or any other drug.  In the flesh, we are all going to fail, and stumble into sin, even the best Christ-followers.  It’s true that we have a choice, but the choice isn’t whether we’re going to sin.  It’s what kind of sin are we going to choose?   Some well-meaning Christ-followers think sin is a choice, but it’s not.  If you believe the Bible, you should believe that we are all born into sin and we have no power to escape without the grace of God.  And some well-meaning Christ followers preach judgement and condemnation and hellfire and brimstone on certain people’s sins, while ignoring others.  Especially their own.  The only way to escape is through the truth in love, which allows the Holy Spirit of God to work on our hearts.

The pharisees used to do that back in Jesus day.  They held people to that impossible standard of behavior, “the truth,” while at the same time treating others without any regard to mercy, or “love,” which was why Jesus was so upset.  He quoted the Old Testament, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  And he specifically told the pharisees, I paraphrase: “On the outside you look great, all freshly whitewashed, just like a tomb.  But on the inside you’re ugly, full of evil things, corruption and rot.”  (Matthew 23:27)  Those pharisees were ignoring their own sins of hatred and pride, while pointing out other people’s specific sins with all kinds of judgement and condemnation.  Sound familiar?

The more I consider it, the less I think of myself, because personally, I am good at the above, because I suck at love, but I know all about truth.  I can hate all day long, and I can use the truth to defend my stronghold and crush the opposition with words, thrown like stones.  I can judge and condemn, just like everyone else.  It’s easy.  I can get all caught up in my fancy proofs of whatever the thing is that I don’t like, either because it’s not my choice of sin, or because no one knows I’m another definition of “sinner.”  There are plenty of sins to habituate.  I’ve picked mine, you’ve picked yours, they’ve picked theirs and we all point fingers at each other.  I have an audience.  They think I’m so good because of the whitewashed outside.  And from there, the mob mentality is too easy to just join in, grab the big rocks along with everyone else, and start flinging.  Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you should follow me.  I do it wrong, in my own way, all the time.

That woman “caught in the very act of adultery” was a test case for Jesus.  He let the accusers think on their own hearts and decide if they were sinners themselves.  And he said, after they all left, “where are your accusers?  I don’t condemn you either, but go and sin no more.”  She was about to be stoned to death for her “sin.”  Jesus dismissed the mob though, and then quietly talked with her about her choices.  And Jesus said it was “sin.”  It was the sin of adultery, big enough it made God’s top ten list back in Exodus.  What’s “adultery?”  Any kind of sexual relations outside of “marriage.” And what did Jesus say was “marriage?”  Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7 have Jesus quoting Genesis 2:24, validating the text like it’s his own personal stamp of approval. “Marriage,” sorry to say, as defined by God and verified by Jesus, consists of a man and his wife, nothing else.  Anything else is “adultery.”  So I’m not discounting what she did, or what anyone else, including me, does, that God says is wrong, as if that wasn’t sin.  I’m saying we should teach things differently.  We have to dismiss ourselves from the mob mentality, drop our rocks, consider our own thing that we do that’s wrong, and turn away.  I think we lead by example, and who wants to follow a rabid mob that operates based on its’ own standards, judging harshly and without any mercy?

Jesus’ first message to everyone was that we needed to “repent,” which meant to turn away from sin, and go toward God.

I’ll still agree with the mob that sin is evil.  I still agree with the mob that unrepentant sinners go to eternal torment and hopeless separation from God.  But I think we need to shift our message to something different.  Let’s understand, before we preach against one form of sin or another, that we all sin.  That’s the truth, and it makes us more gracious.  It puts the speaker on the same level as the audience.  No denial here:  there is such a thing as “sin.”  Anyone who reads Romans 3:23 will tell you that, and it hasn’t changed from Old Testament Jeremiah 17:9 to Romans 3:23.  The heart is crooked, no one can fix it for themselves.  Only when we get to Romans 6:23 do we realize there’s any hope.  It’s the gift of God, further clarified in Ephesians 2.  We should be teaching that, instead of just the condemnation, the straining of gnats of other people’s small misdeeds, while we pass the camel of our huge self-righteous judgmental hatred.

Romans 9 is quite clear:  Israel’s standards are out of date after Jesus’ sacrifice.  The law isn’t going to save anyone, it’s only going to convict us.  Once we decide to follow Jesus, we can look into what’s important.  I for one don’t want to go back to Israel’s standards.  They had over 600 rules to obey, from clothes to food to how and when to party.  Do I really want to invest the time to figure out how to do, or not do, all of that?  Might be fun to figure out the party schedule.  But I don’t relish the idea of trying to do all the rest.  But until we decide to follow Jesus, there’s no point.  There’s good news from Romans 10:4-13.  Once and for all Jesus paid the price for my past, present, and future sin.  And if I want to follow the teaching of Romans 10:14-15, I should be an ambassador teaching that forgiveness is available through Jesus’ sacrifice.  Not only forgiveness for yesterday, but also the strength to repent, and choose not to sin, for today.  I’m so happy that forgiveness is available, even for a failure like me.  I mess it up every day.  That whitewash I show on the outside is a whitewash.  Ignore it.  It’s nothing.

All you church people, let me challenge you first, like I did myself:  Love first.  Then speak the truth in love.  Don’t leave out either part.  If you do, the audience will miss out.

If I’m nothing without love, I’m nothing without the truth as well.  But with the truth in love, expressed with grace, I bet I’ll see Benefit # 2:  “The power of God  that leads to Salvation” that Paul wrote about in Romans 1:16.  Even he put the love first, before he started talking about what was sin and what to do about it.  And after I decide to follow Jesus, Jesus boils it down to a really simple standard without all the nit-picky laws:  Love God wholeheartedly, and love others as I love myself.  I don’t think you can go wrong with those two rules.  I think if we really followed them, we might see other people deciding to follow Jesus, too.  And we all have to figure out how to love God on our own, although we can encourage each other.  That’s why there’s a church and you should go.  Yes, it’s full of us hypocrites- we’ve all stumbled at some point, on the journey of life, while attempting to follow Jesus.  Me included.  But if you come and encourage us, we all might become better Christ-followers.  A good church is welcoming (love) and challenging (truth).  Maybe you think the church isn’t welcoming.  Maybe your church isn’t challenging.  Maybe you aren’t going to a church at all.  I invite you: come and see.  If the first one isn’t welcoming and challenging, maybe the next one will be.  I hope you find a good one.

II Corinthians 5:

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin (Jesus Christ) to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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Dang April 25, 2014

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I know an absolutely beautiful lady, who writes beautifully about life.  She has books published, I am so jealous.  And I’m married, or I might tell you she’s a complete knock out.  I hear my single readers saying, who is this lady?  You need to introduce me.  Nope.  If it’s right, she’ll find you and she is absolutely worth every second you’d wait.  She has her flaws and scars, just like all humans do.  They make her more interesting, more humble, more experienced.  More attractive.  Seriously, without exaggeration, she has the second prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen an adult possess, and I dare not get descriptive about any other observations I may or may not have made.  I’ll plead the 5th amendment.  The prettiest eyes, for the record, are my wife’s.  They aren’t just an inspiration for poetry, they ARE poetry.

My writer friend writes about dating guys and she is hilarious.  So far, she’s only writing about the reject pile of resumes applying for the title, “winner.”  She gets to observe, take her time, write it down, mull it over.  What did he just say?  What does that mean?  How did he behave?  Is that a lie?  Because ladies have a b.s. detector.  Hemmingway said a writer has to have that to make sure his characters sound real.  And women need that because guys are frequently full of it.  Or full of themselves, which isn’t far enough away from full of it.  Women have a b.s. detector, and occasionally guys will find the girl to be so desperate as to have shut theirs off.  Lucky for the guy, maybe, but how long is that going to last?  When she finds out you’re a liar, she should rightly kick you to the curb.  My friend’s detector is fine-tuned and permanently on.  Ladies, take a lesson.

And then her way of describing these poor guys is hilarious.  And sad.  Notice I said, “these poor guys.”  Because I really do pity them. As a married man, I’ve won.  The text says “He who finds a wife finds what is good, and receives favor from the Lord.”  (Proverbs 18:22)  No place anywhere does the text say anything about “she who finds a husband.”  Dang.  So I understand where these guys are.  Single. Un-chosen.  Alone.  And then they meet this priceless woman, whose presence takes them so off guard…  And they do what us guys do.  They screw it up.  

They lie.  Loser.  They brag.  Loser.  They don’t want to hear more about her.  Loser.  Worse, they minimize what she does.  Loser. They’re shallow.  Loser.  They’re illiterate.  Loser.  They don’t think there’s room for self-improvement.  Loser.  Momma’s boy.  Loser. They want too much, and they offer too little.  Loser.  They are pushy, or downright aggressive.  Loser.  (Having power doesn’t mean you have to assert it.)  Or they try a little too hard, too desperate.  Loser.  Or they’re scary.  Loser.

This woman is really brilliant.  And did I mention beautiful?  Yeah, guys are just dumb schlubs, even if they clean up nice and can wear a suit. I watch her, I read her writing, and I think, it must be nice to have the self-confidence to wait and take your pick.  And then I have to ask, how in blazes did I get so lucky as to fall into my wife’s life, and better still into her arms, which I now affectionately refer to as “my spot.”  You know, Dr Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory calls that spot on the couch “my spot,” and demands everyone respect it as “in a state of permanent dibs.”  My wife is so beautiful.  More than 20 years and she just gets prettier to me, it’s awesome.  It’s a profound mystery to me.  If I never figure it out, I don’t care as long as I don’t mess it up.  Every time I’m in “my spot,” I feel like I’ve won the lottery somehow, because she chose me.  In the same way, whoever my friend chooses is a winner.

Note To All Women Everywhere:  You are the treasure.  Don’t let the losers drag you down.  You choose the winner.  You have the power to do that, and not him.  Sorry, guys.  Ladies, like the nursery rhyme and your “mother told [you], to[, you should wait and] pick the very best one.” In my childhood I never knew you could say “my mother told me,” or “my mother said.” These options change the final outcome of the selection process, which seemed random to me when I was young. Oh, childhood. I am still pretty naïve. When will I become wise, and why does it have to be after the hornet-stings, before I learn they’re mean? After the “match burn twice” trick burned me when I was a kid, and after learning what bullies people can be, I learned people can be mean too. But I still put out a courageous vibe, bravely meeting other people despite my profoundly deep introversion and fear of being burned by something that looks harmless.  You have the power of the choice:  “my mother told me,” or “my mother said.”  Choose wisely.  Reject the losers.

So my friend writes and she says things like “rugged” and “hunk,” and how hot the room feels, and I realize, she’s talking about one of the losers.  And I think, Dang.  I wish I was a “rugged hunk” who made the temperature of the room go up.  Alas, I’m only a hopeless romantic poetry writing schlub who worships the ground my wife walks on, and her eyes, and as another poet has aptly described, “all her curves and all her edges.”  Thank you, John Legend.  That song, “All of You,” is the kind of poetry I want to be writing. Sadly, writing poetry hasn’t make me rugged or hunky or rich.  (Yet?)  Nope.  I’m still slightly overweight, grey-bearded, and approaching 50 at warp speed.

The songwriters get rich and famous writing about women who like their tequila and their whiskey, or who like to dig for gold, or who live exciting lives spending lots of money and looking good.  I’m not hearing a lot about 22 years of stability, working hard, making a brilliant choice and staying with it, and living for solid good old-fashioned true love.  I’m there, writing about it and not making myself rich or famous.  (Yet?)  Because whiskey and tequila and money and clothes and cars and shallowness aren’t the things that turn her on.

I’m in a stage of my relationship where I want to rekindle whatever fire she felt when she said “I do.”  I’ve been there, working on the rekindling for 27 years.  We’ve been married 22 years.  There’s no magic elixir or spell.  She doesn’t like my poetry, which is about all I have to offer. Drinks put her to sleep.  There are acts of service–washed feet (a great flirtation device) put her to sleep; back rubs (another one) put her to sleep, household chores, which I do cheerfully as long as I’m not half-asleep myself.  And I tell the truth:  I’m a slightly overweight, grey-bearded (she hates the beard but I hate shaving more), guy approaching 50 at warp speed, a hopeless romantic poet and novel-in-progress-ist, who dearly and desperately loves his wife and family.  I do all of that, and it’s not enough.  She’s hard to turn on.  Worth it, but hard.  Those moments when the moon and stars miraculously align and my kids don’t bang on the door…

There’s plenty to repair if I were any good at that.  Cars and plumbing and computers, sure would be nice to be able to fix those things myself.  I’m good with electricity, now, finally.  I can wire some things, or fix a short circuit.  I can repair our vacuum cleaner, and I can clean things you wouldn’t believe.  But if you start telling people how I do windows, I’ll plead the 5th again, claim Mission Impossible, and disavow all knowledge of my actions.  I used to change the diapers and coddle the kids, when they were of that age.  Now I put notes in their school backpacks and try to encourage them when I’m not working.  It’s not enough.  If I had enough money, I could have a proper midlife crisis, with the new sports car (I’d choose a Prius, and how lame is that?), and the new career (I’d choose poet and published novelist instead of day job worker and writer-by-night, and how lame is that?).  If I were cool, and rich, there’d be a Ferrari and I’d be a famous singer/songwriter like John Legend.  A lot of guys choose a new wife.  But if I were rich, and if I did have the crisis, if I were wise, I’d still choose my wife.  Though I loved her first, she made this loser feel like a winner, and she still loves me best.  So maybe, just maybe, it’s enough.

But, Dang!  It sure would be nice to be a sexy, rich, rugged hunk, whose presence heats up the room.

IRS Workers, Lawyers, Protestants, Catholics and (Other) Sinners March 27, 2014

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Conformity is treasured in the modern day. I can’t imagine it is much different now than any other time in history. Those geniuses that made the leaps of progress were frequently called heretics and dangers to society.

Socrates is now some kind of heroic figure, but he was judged by his city to be guilty of corrupting the minds of the youth (here read “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”, in modern law-speak). His crime was asking questions, which inspired his followers to ask questions, from which we now learn the Socratic teaching method. It’s a way of getting students, and wise men, to think by questioning the questions they are being encouraged to ask and the theses they are being asked to accept. Then, either ask the questions in a new perspective, or ask entirely different questions posing brand new theses. It was fine until they started asking about the political regimes and the social structure (here read “distribution of wealth and power”). Asked what he felt his punishment should be, he suggested they feed him and provide him with a per diem, for the rest of his life. The way I read the story, they agreed, and provided him one free drink before dinner.

I read with great interest the stories of several excommunicated by the church, and in hindsight, too many times, it sounds a little too much like the result of a power struggle, and a little too little like any actual heresy was being promoted. Certainly someone nicknamed Pedro the Cruel, who, the story goes, persecuted clergy and church members alike might be deserving of this. But several people who were judged by the papal authority to be “excommunicated,” and thereby forfeiting any hope of eternal salvation, according to those authorities, after being in hell for years, were recommunicated by the church.

This doesn’t sound right. Did these Popes and Bishops have God’s ear, or was God telling them in spite of their own wrath, that the people they were excommunicating would officially be kept out of heaven? It’s like a kind of eternal prison system- now you’re locked in hell; now you’re released and free to roam about heaven. Add a belief in purgatory not supported very well in the Old or New Testaments, and you have a whole new dimension The problem is, we don’t have the voice of God pronouncing these judgements. We have finite human beings making, they claim, infinite judgement calls. The ref made a bad call, coach, what can we do? Accept the score and suck up the penalty. Oh wait, here comes an instant replay. Or, the head ref discusses with the ref and they decide to remove the penalty.

My son played flag football last year, and made it all the way to the playoffs. In the last round of the championship game, in the last quarter, one of his team mates got a foul that cost them 15 yards, and ultimately, the game. But the call was fair. Everyone saw what happened, and the official, a human, explained to the other humans why that was a penalty, and the cost of what had been done according to the rule book.

But with these excommunications, it’s a human declaring an eternal divine judgement call, based on their interpretation of the Bible, or based on their feelings of affrontery, or based on their own lust for power and money. A call which may be reversed at the whim of the next human. What makes this fishy is one of my favorite verses about God, that He doesn’t change. If God declared to the pope that someone was excommunicated and eternally hellbound, why would God change his mind and declare to another pope, or to the same pope, “we’re cool now and he can come to heaven?” Highly dubious.

So it was, that Joan of Arc was excommunicated and burned at the stake for her crimes, and then, oh, nevermind, she can come to heaven now. That whole burning torturous murder? Um. er… ah… We’re sorry! Now she can be venerated as “Saint Joan of Arc.” King Philip the fair was excommunicated for not respecting the authority of the pope. “Ah, yes, quite, I’m personally declaring myself as co-equal with God, and kicking you out of eternity in heaven because you don’t like me.” How humble that pope must have been! How many know that Robert the Bruce, future King of Scotland and legendary hero, was excommunicated later for a killing he may or may not have personally committed, on his way to the throne? The English see Robert as a villain, the Scots revere him as heroic. Which means this quite likely had to do with power, as much, or more, than with sin.

Copernicus and Galileo were not officially kicked out of heaven, but they were strongly suspected of heresy and ordered not to teach. Their books were banned until 1758. At least they weren’t burned at the stake. 116 years of continual denial of scientifically verifiable facts about the earth’s position, an insignificant planet in a huge universe, did no favors to the relationship of scientists and science to the church and doctrines.

In the 20th Century, in 1962, for voicing an opinion not popular today, but popular then, that schools shouldn’t be racially integrated, two people in Louisiana were kicked out of the Catholic fellowship. After they recanted publicly they were let back into the church. Whether they repented or not is only God’s knowledge. But that one I have to agree with. In an absence of Love, can God be present? “…for God is Love.” (I John 4)

For speaking against any one of the popes, many were excommunicated. There’s a rumor all it requires to get kicked out is claiming that he’s a fallible human being just like all of the other humans on the planet. The “doctrine of Papal Infallibility,” was a popular ditty back in 1860 and 1870 and again in 1950 when they declared emphatically that Mary the Mother of Jesus ascended into heaven without facing physical death. Funny, none of the books that made it into the Protestant canon assert that one. Wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_infallibility asserts “This authority is considered by Catholics to be apostolic and of divine origin.” But if the pope, and all who hold the office, are infallible, why did any of them ever recant on an excommunication from another “infallible” pope, or from themselves? Oh, there they answer, it’s only on certain matters and has to be something a council agrees to. Then it’s not real infallibility, as argumentum ad populum is a logical fallacy. (Just because a bunch of people agree on something doesn’t make it a fact. But followers are going to follow.)

Notwithstanding, the founders of the Church of England, and the leaders of the Protestant reformation, were declared not worthy of heavenly inheritance by the Catholic church despite years of thoughtful, prayerful study that ultimately resulted in the Bible falling into the hands of commoners in our own language. Don’t let the commoners read and think for themselves. Make them submit in fear of the church. But “There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18) So if I’m frightened the church is going to kick me out, how unloving is that judgement? Why would I join an organization that teaches this but lets me fear their judgements? Wycliffe’s work was banned by the Church authorities. John Hus begged the church authorities to prove him wrong with the scriptures before he was burned at the stake.

Jesus too was considered a rebel in his day. He was a friend of sinners, like Matthew, a tax collector. Like Mary Magdalene, notorious by prior reputation, but forgiven by Jesus. If he forgave sin because he knew a heart was repentant, I have to say hallelujah, me next, please. Not only was he a friend of sinners, he did unauthorized work on the Sabbath day. Like healing the guy born blind. How just plain wicked is that?!

Those Protestant Christ followers are similar rebels, making up their minds after they read the Bible for themselves. They decide that “one mediator between God and Man” cuts out the confessional box, and penance. They decide that wine and bread is still wine and bread and the symbolic nature of the act doesn’t mean the elements are transformed into blood and flesh. It used to be called a doctrine around me, I affirm solemnly that I heard it called that, but now they’re saying transubstantiation isn’t a “doctrine, but a theory proposed to explain how Christ can be present in the Eucharist. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than just agreeing that “where two or three are gathered in [His] name, there he is in their midst.(Matthew 18:20)” Or does it?

I’m sorry if I’m stepping on your favorite dogma’s tail.

Does it boil down to the individual’s heart and their own personal relationship with God? I certainly hope so. Maybe God requires that if we’re following Jesus, we befriend “sinners” that the more pious among us wouldn’t associate with. I’ll let you decide for yourselves who the modern-day equivalent of “tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners” are, those were Jesus’ less-favored friends back in his day.

Perhaps we should befriend workers at the IRS, people who’ve had affairs or divorces or both, lawyers, Protestants, and even Catholics, among other more modern-day “sinners.” I know a lawyer and he’d love another friend. Anything to not be the butt of another lawyer joke. I don’t want to be a blind follower necessarily, but please don’t burn me at the stake when I think out loud and ask questions and make statements about what it says and what makes sense to me. Maybe the youth need someone to help them ask the right questions in the right way, so they can learn how to think differently.

Maybe I’m wrong, after all, I’m not infallible. I’ll take a lesson if you’ve got one. Oh, and yes, I would love a drink, but hold the hemlock if you please.