Wednesday, May 16, 2007

lessons in love

Yesterday Jerry Falwell died. I never liked the guy for all the stupid things he said in public, but I learned an important lesson from him. If I can't extend grace to him, and instead slander him, I'm no better than what frustrated me so much about him. On the other hand, and this is not to excuse my attitude but to explain it, I read in the gospels that Jesus constantly held the religious leaders to a higher standard than those who were "sick" (Luke 5:31). In Matthew 12:33-37 He spoke to them directly about the words they spoke. "Whatever is in your heart determines what you say....You must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak." One of Jerry Falwell's most upsetting statements, to me, was that 9/11 was caused in part by the homosexuals, abortionists, etc. He later apologized, saying he didn't mean to say that...Out of the heart the mouth speaks...

I just didn't like how he represented Christ to a watching, wounded, skeptical world. Maybe he did a lot of good things and said a few dumb things, but the world will be impacted by the controversial, offensive things unless you are so consistently humble that you're known for your service (e.g. Mother Theresa). In a poem prophesying Jesus' ministry, Isaiah said, "He will not fight or shout;/ he will not raise his voice in public./ He will not crush those who are weak,/ or quench the smallest hope,/ until he brings full justice with his final victory."

Jerry Falwell was a divisive voice in the Church and between the Church and the world. But I must be careful the words I speak about him to a world hungry for consistent, unconditional love and grace in this society gone mad. I can't preach love and grace toward the world if I cannot live it toward my fellow believers, no matter how widely our philosophies differ. If we believe Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father, that is all the common ground we need, right? Even though Jesus railed against the religious leaders, none of his followers did so to that extent.. They were bold, yet respectful. Only Jesus truly knows the state of anyone's heart. Any other person, outside of the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit, risks the sins of judgmentalism and slander.

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