Monday, August 1, 2016
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18(NLT)
I posted a devotion last week about the Western Jurisdiction’s election of a lesbian as their new bishop. Generally speaking, most people have strong feelings when it comes to human sexuality. This is certainly a case in point.
In reading the backlash over that election this week I came across an article by The Rev. Mary K. (Sellon) Huycke, lead delegate for the Jurisdiction, describing what led to the decision to elect (as she terms) an out bishop. Her well-written, thought-provoking editorial speaks to understanding the nature of conflict which moves into mayhem when people have their minds made-up, and are in no mood to consider the other person’s point of view. Using John Wesley’s “Do No Harm” as a mantra, she encouraged people, both at General Conference and the Western Jurisdictional meeting to do just that – do no harm to each other, or our beloved Methodist connection.
I realized very quickly at General Conference that, when it comes to human sexuality, there is no agreement about what is “good.” Each side’s “good” feels like harm to the other. Traditionalists and progressives alike fear for their ministries and the very life of their churches, should the other “side” prevail.[ii]
What Rev. Huycke described is a puzzle that just won’t be put together because the pieces despise each other. The idea of doing no harm has no place at our table because when people hold convictions this deeply on both sides, one side (or both) are going to bleed after the dust settles.
Although the thesis of Rev. Huycke’s argument appears spot-on, I do believe it belies the bigger picture of God’s long view. His ways are, after all, higher than ours![iii]
The apostle Paul applies in human relationships God’s higher thoughts and ways:
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10(NLT)
While this just seems to prove Rev. Huycke’s issue – that there is no love in this battle and people are being cast aside – what if it really speaks of highlighting just how perfectly God’s will is being worked out?
Human conflicts can illustrate this. When a child is disciplined there is an immediate sense of sadness or hostility (or both), and, for a while there may be estrangement between the parent and child. But if the discipline is appropriate in its scope and delivery by the parent, and the child eventually responds with obedience…is there not growth and a stronger bond in the relationship?
Now, I’m not willing to venture who is the child, and who is the parent in the UMC’s current struggle; perhaps it’s more like the sides are both children, and our Heavenly Father has to separate the fighting wildcats before he can appropriately tan both hides.
However we care to simplify, allegorize or analogize this riddle, taking a firm stance on this issue of homosexuality is going to hurt – on both sides.
And, to the world it will look like a lack of love. And the world may be right to some degree…some (less mature) people on both sides only want blood. But, both sides can hardly be right, if either side actually IS completely right.
So…hold to your convictions…as long as your conviction falls on the side of Scripture, preferring your brothers and sisters in love, which our Lord’s brother James describes:
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20(NLT)
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!
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[i] Title Image: Adriaen Brouwer (circa 1605/1606–1638) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[iii] Isaiah 55:9