One of my favorite moments of Scripture is arguably one of those that is in question whether or not it is in the original manuscripts. Regardless of its historical veracity, it’s principle is without a doubt indicative of the nature of Christ (and the nature I want to mimic) and the attitude of which we are meant to follow. Compassion.
Just yesterday for a quiet hour or two I sat at a local pub (for which, some in the community of Christ will condemn me for, go figure) and had one of those choice encounters, one that I describe as meant to be. I met a couple, Bob and Pam who shared with me some of their stories and experiences, and I shared some of mine on this subject, and I was able to thank Bob for his service to our country.
See John 8, 1-11 as reference.
In the last few years of my journey I’ve really come to see the Gospel for what I believe it was meant to be; Love. Simply, love, and not the ‘speak the truth in love’ kind of gospel, which is a common phrase among Fundamentalists who justify spewing messages of condemnation because they are doing it…in Love…for the soul of the individual whom they feel the need to correct.
The message of Christ was not a mechanism for an organizational structure, not an institutionalizing command, not a call for buildings and pulpits, pastor parking and pastor fundraising. Rather, as articulated incredibly well in the 2019 documentary American Gospel: In Christ Alone, the Gospel is something rarely taught in mass-produced Christianity/Church today. Love.
As I met with Bob and Pam the subject of politics and religion came up, as it normally does in a setting like that, and in just a few minutes I was able to share a little of my history and that opened up Pam about her past. And, the most staggering take away was that she, like many, didn’t encounter the Christ of Love in her experience.
Pam shared a story of when her son died, a staggering moment in any humans life, the loss of a loved one – but to see a mother speak about the loss of her son, I can only imagine the hole left in her existence. As we spoke she asked if I still believed in God after my experiences, to which I, of course, answered yes. Pam immediately replied, “I don’t, not after they told me my son would still be alive if I had been …” What came next didn’t matter. It was condemning. It was not loving. It was not Christ.
“But woe (judgment is coming) to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow those who are [in the process of] entering to do so. ~ Matthew 23:13, AMP
And it reminded me again of the story of the Adultress in John chapter 8. I apologized to Pam for what happened in her life, and for the loss of her son, and I took that opportunity to share that her experience was terrible, but it was not what the Gospel was supposed to be, it wasn’t what love and compassion was supposed to be, and I shared the story of the Adultress of John 8 because I believe the example of Christ is how every person should attempt to treat other human beings, Christian or not.
In the end, a woman who confessed to me that she no longer believes in Christ/God left saying, ‘there is a special calling on your life and you are doing something great for God’. And all that mattered to me was that this couple, and hurting mother, felt loved and was not being condemned. Love.
1 Corinthians 13 – the Excellency of Love
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not [a]love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing. 3 If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body [b]to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all.
4 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud orarrogant. 5 It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7 Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].
8 Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]. But as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete]. 10 But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete andpartial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 13 And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.