A Position of Love

From "Theirs is the Kingdom" by Robert D Lupton

Why do Christians not agree on such important matters? Is it because some are more spiritually mature than others? Are some more hermeneutically astute and able to gain more accurate insight into the word of God? Surely God doesn't contradict himself. What shall we do when well-meaning Christians come up with different answers from the ones God has clearly revealed to us as his truth?
Perhaps we should try to educate these ignorant ones. If they refuse to accept the truth, we can cut them off from our fellowship...But one of the things that troubles me as I take up causes for the kingdom is this: our Lord has told us the essential I.D for all "card-carrying" Christians is "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). There is nothing distinguishing about holding certain political positions, engaging in debates, staging protests. Whether we pledge allegiance to the moral majority or the radical minority, whether we vote Republican or Democrat (or Independent , Libertarian, or Socialist), there is no visible statement to the world about our commitment to the lordship of Christ. We may join pro- or anti-nuke, life, draft, NRA, Contra, or defense bandwagons and do so for all the right reasons, but this will not cause us to shine like lights in darkness. Such affiliations may express our convictions, but they do not set us apart as "Christ-ones." 
There is only one activity so unique to this world that Christ distinguished it as the proof of his deity and of our authenticity as his followers...It is more reconciling than Camp David peace accords, more convincing than arguments for and against abortion or gay rights, or the authority of scripture. It illuminates the minds of men and women more than Christian television or political debates, and it is not an option for a Christian. It is a command. It is love. Love of a special sort. 
Unfortunately, we seldom see this love. We talk about it, but quickly abandon it in the pursuit of "rightness." Perhaps building cases for issues is much more exciting than loving each other; issues allows us to win, or at least compete. Love on the other hand, lays down its ego, its case, its defenses for the sake of another--and that isn't fun.  
And yet our Lord saw love as so vital that he spent his last night emphasizing and reemphasizing it to his disciples. He assured them (and us) that he would reveal himself to them, give his Holy Spirit to teach them, grant all that they ask, give them peace and joy, and call them his friends of they would but obey him by living out his love (John 13-15). Would it be easy? Is laying down your life easy? Yet, said Christ, this is how love is measured.  
But what about the issues? Shouldn't we take stands on important issues like human rights, war, and even life itself? Of course. We must. This isn't to say that all Christians will take the same stand. As long as we are fallen and our perceptions are colored by our experience, as long as we have blind spots and different personalities, we will continue coming up with different answers.  
Yet somehow in the tension between the poles, God continues to work. Love leads us to an appreciative understanding of the unique contribution each member makes to the body of Christ, and thus the tension is creative. But without the willingness to lay aside, at least for a time, our own position in order to affirm a dissenting brother or sister, the tension will undoubtedly be destructive. I suspect that Christ is working overtime these days healing the ears (and egos) of those we have slashed in his defense. Perhaps it is time we put away our swords and began displaying the mark of "Christ-ones:" Love.

Enough said.


Manipulated for the Sake of Relationship

I started reading "Theirs is the Kingdom" by Robert D. Lupton. I might be A LITTLE behind. The book came out in 1989. But to be fair, I wasn't all that into reading when I was 6, so I feel I have a good excuse.

This book is great though! I love the unique angle he takes in talking about life and ministry in urban settings. Most of the book is just stories. And a whole lot of it is about failing. Wrong decisions, mistakes, struggles and fears. The book is raw, honest, challenging and convicting. I am sure I will talk about it a bit more later…but for now I want to engage one specific chapter.

It is the chapter titled "Kurt" and it is about a man he got to know in his neighborhood with a really difficult story. His mom was murdered, he had tried to take revenge and had suffered the ramifications of trying to take things into his own hands (beaten in skull with a baseball bat for one thing!). He was an alcoholic and drug abuser but was trying to (and seeming to succeed in his efforts to) turn his life around. 

He had gotten a job and needed money for the bus fare. So Robert gave him that money. Only problem was Kurt ended up purchasing liquor. 

Robert was devastated. He felt used. Lied to. Stupid. 

I think I deal with these thoughts, reservations, and this skeptical outlook often as we work with the women out on the track. I hear a lot of really sad stories. A lot of seemingly helpless situations - but I often wonder how true they are. When it seems like all they need is some money for formula and diapers - I wonder how true that is. If I were to give them that money - would that really solve anything? Would the money really go to buy diapers?

Robert goes on to say "I can see the conditions I place on my giving, my own subtle forms of manipulation. I am confronted with my pride that requires others to conform to my image. I see my need to control, to meter out love in exchange for the responses I desire. I will opt to be manipulated in person. For somewhere concealed in these painful interactions are the key to my own freedom."


I was in class in February and one of the other students told a story about  Mother Theresa handing out food on the street. Several of the people were going through the line three or four times! One of the volunteers came up to Mother and told her that someone should regulate the process better because these people were taking more than their fair share and trying to go around the corner and sell it!! Mothers response? "The rich get spoiled so often, it's about time someone spoiled the poor."

How profound.

I know there is so much more to this conversation and it is such a fine line (giving without regard and caring about unhealthy behaviors) - but I think I agree with Robert's line of thinking. I would rather be manipulated in person. I would rather build relationships, and listen to the half truths that spring from the deep need that resides within. Maybe the money or resources don't always go to where I wish they would or where I would choose - but the first step is presence. Consistency.  Love. And then freedom.

I don't know - maybe this doesn't make sense. But this is what I'm chewing on for the day….chew with me. And pick up the book if you get a chance. We can dialogue more.