Grappling With Ideas Makes Jesus Happy

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Jesus in Matthew 22:37

On the way to TBC’s wedding weekend last Thursday, HH and I saw a billboard that we wished we’d photographed. There was a preacher holding a Bible with his name and the name of his church in the corner. And the headline – in quotations – said, “The Bible Answers Every Question.”

HH and I – punchy from being in a car for a couple hours – immediately offered examples of questions not answered in the Bible:

  • What do you want on your pizza?
  • How old is our dog?
  • What’s the best flavor of ice cream?

Again, we were punchy.

I was in a meeting last week that involved grappling with ideas and the majority of people were not happy about it. The ideas included these:

  • Does God want us to talk about hard things (like abortion, racial justice, climate change)?
  • Can we be in Christian community with people who are our political enemies?
  • Does God want people of different races to be the Church together?
  • Do we in Smalltown, USA have the responsibility to love people in Smalltown, Israel?

Over and over again, I hear people say that it hurts the Church to be political – in the pulpit or anywhere in the church building.

Over and over again, I say that the pastoral is political (thanks RGBP) and that Scripture is an equal opportunity offender in terms of politics. Over and over again, I say that we are called to be non-partisan, but church decisions on mission, pastoral care, and budgets are always political:

  • Do we offer an after school program for DACA students whose parents are undocumented? (This is a pastoral decision with political ramifications.)
  • Do we collect money to send to disaster relief to Ukraine? (This is a budget decision with political underpinnings.)
  • Do we put a rainbow flag on our church signage? (This is a hospitality decision with considerable political connections for some churches.)
  • Do we partner with a church with a different majority skin color to do Christmas Eve together? (This is a worship decision with political implications.)

The loudest voices at last week’s meetings said that talking about and making statements about issues like race, human reproduction, investment policies, and unfair systems are unnecessarily divisive. It was clear that not everybody in the meeting was on the same page in terms of “politics” and yet – again – the loudest voices were opposed to grappling with ideas. It could split the church. It will only make people angry.

My friends, we are talking about faith issues here and the least we can do is wrestle with what God is calling us to do and be. If you don’t believe that abortion, climate change, apartheid, gun violence, or LGBTQA+ issues are faith issues, I worry about your commitment to live faithful lives. Yes, people of faith disagree about those issues. But if we close the door on talking about them, we stop growing in spiritual maturity.

Committed believers are not afraid to discuss hard things. Consider that Jesus was unafraid to grapple with hard things during his earthly time: health codes, Sabbath policies, idols, relationships with enemies, money, power, and divorce. Jesus was also killed for his words and actions, and we can expect people to become angered to the point of violence. But people of faith – by definition – should be able to talk and pray together without fear of personal injury.

Does the Bible answer all our questions? Yes and no. We clearly have to grapple with the whole message of Scripture and not cling to a single verse that supports our own established opinion. If you are pro-choice on abortion, don’t clench these verses too tightly. If you are against abortion in all circumstances, don’t think you’ve absorbed the full understanding of Psalm 139. I don’t know that the Bible has answers about thousands of random life questions. I do know that Jesus loves it when we take our faith seriously and that means studying Scripture by looking under, around, before, and after holy verses seeking God’s Truth and not our own.

God gave each of us brains. And Jesus reminds us that loving God with our minds is part of our responsibility.

5 responses to “Grappling With Ideas Makes Jesus Happy

  1. A motto of the Austin College ACtivators: “God gave us brains and expects us to use them.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of the bumper sticker- Jesus is the question to all your answers.

    Like

  3. So true!

    Like

  4. Thanks for this! Spiritual life is political. That’s just the way it is.

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  5. I’m 100% down with you, as I am just about always, on the gospel mandate for holding hard pastoral and/or political conversations. But the question is begged of how to have them. Timid members there just for security feel overwhelmed and won’t speak up, or act passive/aggressive; bold members there to advocate for their agenda overwhelm and speak too much without listening. Often few persons grant an opposing viewpoint any credence. Churchfolk need training in communication skills, frequently the first step required everywhere, imho; Churchworld leaders, please take heed.

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