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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Hypocrites and bigots

LoveThyNeighborAsThyselfby Kevin Seraaj, J.D., M.Div.

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I’m confused.

Muslims have a saying: you are not a true believer in Allah unless you want for your brother what you want for yourself.   Christians call it “the golden rule,” and say:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Bible says, over in Mark 12:27-31:

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27  He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
28  And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29  And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30  And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Think on that a moment: “There is none other commandment greater than these.”    That’s red letter text.

But what about all those Old Testament scriptures we use to justify our condemnation of lesbians and gays?

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Once again those words erupt from the Book:  “There is none other commandment greater than these.”  Sounds like these two commandments trump all the rest of them.

The problem is that we tend to pick and choose who gets our collective condemnation.  Because as much as I hear people “of faith”  talk about “the great abomination,” I never see them voicing the same level of condemnation at folks described in Proverbs 15:16-19:

16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Anybody ever heard of a church holding an anti-liar rally?

Is that hypocrisy?  Or is it that most of us find ourselves in at least one of these seven groups at some point in time in every month of the year?  It just feels so much better to vilify other folk.

And yes, God never changes.  But that speaks to His nature and character, not to how He responds to our mess.  Or what He asks us to do.  He expects us to change.  To grow in understanding as we mature in the spirit.  And one thing is certain:  He always expects our absolute obedience to the last order given.   And loving your neighbor as you love yourself– well, those are some very weighty words that are hard for followers to get around, for you either believe them or you don’t.   And it’s perfectly okay not to be a believer.  But if you profess belief in God you are expected to act consistently with that belief– and not throw God under the bus when we want to act on our own biases and prejudices.

My, my, my.  What are we supposed to do with this troublesome scripture that elevates the requirement to love and not hate?  If we ignore it, are we not the most hypocritical of hypocrites?

I am reminded of how Jesus was often hanging out with the very people religious folk thought he should never be with– but that’s what love will do.

Love is so important that the Bible declares God to be love.  And if we are not quite clear about who our neighbors are, does not Luke 10:25-37 make it pretty clear?  Even our enemies are supposed to get our love (Matthew 5:44) when we are true followers of the Word.  (Not our emotional love, mind you, but our decisional love.  Remember the Bible says “as a man ‘thinketh’ in his heart, so is he.”)

I wonder how the God that we lay claim to is viewing our obedience to the two greatest commandments in this day and time?  As Dr.  Martin Luther King said, “I just want to do God’s will.”    I embrace those words.  I just want to be clear about what God is saying to me.  And to you.  To each and every one of us.

It just seems to me that if you are claiming allegiance to Jesus on the one hand, but not following the golden rule on the other, that’s hypocrisy.   If hatred of other people– black, white, lesbian, gay (or Mexican, Mr. Trump)–  motivates you, what say we just call a spade a spade (or better, ‘call a heart a heart’) and stop hiding behind the cross?  Because hating the members of a group you’re not part of simply because they don’t share your beliefs– well, that just plain makes you a bigot.  And if you do it in the name of Jesus, congratulations– you’re officially a Christian bigot.   Anyone think I’m missing something here?

Love.  Or hate.  Each is a demanding taskmaster, and you cannot serve them both.  Some of us should be ever mindful of the fact that it wasn’t so very long ago that folks used the Bible to justify hating blacks.

Which master do you serve? The Bible gives me a clue about you:  “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8.

We can justify whatever we decide to do, whether it is Biblically justifiable or not.  Just remember:  “Wide is the road, [but] narrow is the gate . . .”


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