Love Sleeping Comfortably with Convictions?
Steve Brown May 3rd, 2011
I was recently at Malone University in Canton, Ohio.
I participated in their World View Forum where I debated Shane Claiborne on the subject of civil disobedience. Shane is the author of a number of books including The Irresistible Revolution and Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. He is the founder of The Simple Way, a ministry to the poor in Philadelphia, and has been on our talk show a number of times. (We helped him raise money when a major fire burned down his house and other buildings at his ministry.)
My time at Malone was confusing and, in some ways, very difficult. No, I didn't make a fool of myself (there's something to be said for that). I actually acquitted myself and the issues I supported quite well, thank you. I have a glib tongue and talk for a living so the confusion and difficulty weren't at that point.
My problem was trying to process Shane's insane political views with his love for Jesus and incredible ministry to the poor. It was sort of like having a reasonable conversation with a friend when, suddenly, a frog hops across the floor, and the friend picks up the frog and eats it. And just so you know, I suspect that Shane had a similar problem with me.
There were some other difficulties with the Malone thing. As you know, I carry a gun and have a concealed weapons permit (I referenced that fact in the debate) and Malone is a Quaker institution. (They aren't big on guns.) Not only that, I smoke a pipe and evangelical Quakers aren't big on smoking either. Add to that the fact that most of the some 2,000 people there were young and haven't been mugged yet. So they are basically as liberal as Shane.
So the folks at Malone weren't entirely sure I was even saved.
And then Shane has dreadlocks down to his navel and I'm bald. So, on top of everything else, I was dealing with hair envy.
The whole experience was kind of like Daniel going into the lion's den. Uh…that makes it too spiritual and pejorative. It was more like going to a nudist colony fully dressed. Uh…that's too secular and pejorative. How about like being Rush Limbaugh at a Nancy Pelosi political rally when they both start talking about Jesus and then join hands, kneel down and pray?
What's with that?
That brings me to what I've thought about all this morning. The question is this: How in the world are Christians going to love one another when we don't agree on anything but Jesus, don't think the same way, don't look alike, or don't share a common cultural and political understanding of the way things ought to be? And then there is a second question: How can we love one another without selling out our convictions?
The short answer is that Jesus makes everything else look small by comparison and, if we can get that right, we can probably love one another and make room for our convictions. John Wesley said, "If your heart be as my heart, give me your hand."
My experience at Malone University is probably increasingly becoming your experience in the personal encounters of your life. That's true whether you're an old guy like me or a young one like Shane; you're a Democrat or a Republican; you prefer "bubba" and Blues Brothers or Bach as worship music; you like Picasso or Kinkade; you're a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution or an immigrant; you're politically a liberal or a conservative; you get your clothes from Coldwater Creek, Brooks Brothers or Walmart; you comb your hair with a sponge or have dreadlocks…and it goes on and on.
We just don't agree on much anymore. The fragmentation of America (and the world)-where we once shared a common understanding of politics, religion and culture-has become the norm. Frankly, I hate it. It's really bad!
No, actually, it's really good. Do you know why? It gives us an opportunity to shine with a powerful witness of convictions and love. There is nothing more unusual and powerful in our time than that. And with all the humility I can muster, despite all the hassle and difficulty, that was the witness Shane and I (he less than me because he's not ordained and is a liberal…sorry) made at Malone University.
There are some specifics about love sleeping comfortably with convictions…
First, love and convictions can't go together without repentance. What the prophetess said to the king in 2 Kings 22:18-19 is a major theme in Scripture: "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord…I have heard you." The Psalmist said that God was close to those with a broken heart of repentance (Psalm 34). Jesus said that the kingdom of God was present when he came and that the appropriate response was repentance (Matthew 3:2). Jesus also said that he had come to call sinners (that would be us) to repentance, not the righteous (Mathew 9:13). It's everywhere in Scripture.
Jack Miller said that the only people in the Body of Christ who have anything to say are those who are repentant and the most repentant people in the church should be its leaders. Repentance is an attitude more than an act-an attitude of recognition that God is God, he is always right in his judgments, and we are subject to that judgment throughout our lives. It's hard to have that attitude, know who you are and who he is, and pull a trigger on someone who is different than you. It's an attitude that one can be wrong as well as sinful.
Second, one can't put love and convictions together in the face of differences unless one recognizes that Jesus has made some weird choices in those he has chosen to love…and we are among the weirder. Paul said to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:15): "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." Our message is not a political or a cultural one. Our message is always that of a sinful, needy and forgiven sinner telling other sinful and needy people that Jesus saves, loves and forgives sinners of whom we are the foremost. That's the main thing and everything thing else is secondary.
Finally, love and convictions rest comfortably together when one is free to speak one's truth. That freedom comes with repentance before God and love from God. Our fear keeps us from speaking our truth because we want to be acceptable, valued and affirmed. If you seek that from people, you'll be a weenie, agree with everything people in power say, and cave in the face of differences. We dare not get that from anybody but Jesus. Jesus accepts me and whether or not you accept me is of very little importance. When he bought me with his blood, Jesus placed a very high value on me and that value is all that counts whether or not you value me. Jesus likes me big and affirms me whether or not you affirm me.
When I remember that-and I do sometimes-I'm dangerous. When I forget it-and I do sometimes-my convictions don't get spoken, I become an "echo" of the tastes and convictions of others, and Jesus blushes.
The morning we were at Malone, Shane and I participated in a radio interview to be aired on the Moody network. During that interview, the subject of Bonhoeffer and Eric Metaxas' biography of him (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy) came up. (That's an incredible book and I referenced it.)
Anyway, Shane said that he thought Bonhoeffer was wrong.
I told Shane I thought he (Shane) was crazy and if everyone had agreed with him during the Second World War, we would be conducting the interview in German.
Shane didn't change his conviction about Bonhoeffer and neither did I. But we did love each other, speak our convictions clearly, and decide not to be each other's mother.
It worked for us and it can for you too. So don't shilly-shally.
Jesus asked me to remind you.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 at 2:29 pm and is filed under Bonhoeffer, Christianity, Civil Disobedience, Common Prayer, Democrats, Eric Metaxas, Evangelicals, God, Jack Miller, Jesus, John Wesley, Love, Malone University, Moody Network, Pacifism, Politics, Quakers, Religion and Spirituality, Republicans, Shane Claiborne, Steve Brown, Steve Brown Etc., The Irresistible Revolution, The Simple Way, World View Forum, World War II. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.