Updated: Apr 13, 2021
I get it now. I now understand how a church can reject a person because that person does not conform to its ideal of the human life choices in actions and even in biological choices. It became clear to me when a person said to me, “We must stand up for God.” It finally occurred to me that for many faith is standing up for an ideal and standing against the anti-ideal, a persistent, passionate proclamation to stop the onslaught of an attack of human beings against God’s predetermined order of the universe. To them, humanity is a virus against which we must stand. Human choice is the unpredictable ugliness that stains the beauty of the celestial order of perfection and the cross is a rallying point for people to be cleansed and forgiven from their humanity. The gospel, the Good News, is not about a God who stands against humanity. The idea that faith stands against humanity and rejects human choice is diametrically opposed to the gospel. Faith is more than that. God is greater than that. The notion of a deity requiring a sacrifice or cleansing is not new or particularly good news. The cross is only a part of the news of the gospel. Like someone who only reads a paragraph of a wonderful story, the reader can distort the point of the whole story. The good and indeed revolutionary news of the gospel is a cross that is understood in the light of the incarnation. Mainly, that God does not repudiate humanity. God joins in it through the humility of birth and the role of a child. God became vulnerable as a child. To do so was to not be in control of human beings but to trust us enough to be fully vulnerable and powerless to our humanity. God was subject to human power and choice. Jesus grew up through the vulnerable matrix of human development with the rights of a child and the limitations of a voice that was structurally discounted and socially prescribed. In large measure, the job of a child is to listen and observe because the child is simply learning what it is to be human. This is the good news about God in the gospel - Jesus spends most of his existence listening. Indeed, the miracle at the wedding is the penultimate expression of this God. When the wine ran out, at the behest of his mother, Jesus turns water into wine. Jesus first observed, then empathized and finally moved to support and affirm humanity. The good news of Jesus’ parables is not a declaration against humanity but a plea to humanity to join him in the human enterprise of compassion, love, and creativity. Jesus expressly declared,” I do not condemn” ( John 8:11) and neither should we judge.” I got it! Those of us who believe that our faith calls us to correct, to judge, and to deny the choices of others have misread the paragraph of the cross without the context of the incarnation. If there be any revolutionary act of Calvary it is that it is standing up for humanity and denying the destructive powers of the humans’ worst practices–to control, to condemn, and to destroy. By the cross, Jesus rewrites the story of a conquering, condemning, or cursing deity. Rather, Jesus lifts up the blood of humanity and the power of choice to destroy the horror of the terminal consequence of the grave. This is the Good News– standing in the pain and pathos of others has supernatural implications. After thirty years, many of them listening as a child, Jesus defines his choice to stand with the disposed and the misunderstood. In his teachings, he often redefined the typical understanding of the teachings of exclusivity and redefined them as inclusive. Indeed, after listening Jesus served as a model of service as the best life, love as the best way, and sacrifice as the most powerful tool of human change. This is what rose from the grave - a God and a Hope, not apart from humanity, but imbedded in the human experience. This is what is missed by those who interpret strength of faith as a sincere desire to stand up for God. It is why such effort often concludes that most human choices are wrong and, even those that are deemed right, are always under scrutiny. God stands up for and in us. To deny or condemn a child of God because we do not understand the choice or experience of our fellow human beings is to miss the good news. We are tasked with standing in our humanity, with all of our gifts and foibles, and to learn from the lesson of a God who calls us to live in the childlike wonder of forgiveness, faith and joy. This is the Good News. As a child learns to walk and stumbles and falls or is hurt by the effort to walk nevertheless, we do not condemn the process, blame the child, or deny the child the innate right to learn to walk however the child wants. Rather we say, “Stand up! You can do it.” When we fall - stand up! When we stumble - stand up! When we are afraid - stand up! When we are belittled - stand up! When we stand God stands within us.