Use My Voice

Speaking up about the issues I can't get out of my head or heart.

To Evangelical Leaders

I have never before written an “Open Letter” but the feelings on my heart are strong and they are strongly addressed to one group of people specifically. Those people are the leaders of the Evangelical Christian community.

Dear Leaders of The Evangelical Community,

It is Sunday morning and I know you are busy. You are focusing, praying, teaching, preaching, and singing. You are doing your very best to share the love of Jesus with the world. I know you do this everyday not just on Sundays but Sunday is the big day. I know you all well. You were my world growing up, in college, and for the first part of my adult life. I keep trying to give up on you because of the areas that I disagree with you on. Yet, in the deepest part of who I am I still want to be able to claim you as my own. I want to be able to stand with you and say, “These are my people.” I want to love Jesus by serving this world with you. I want to worship with you and study with you. I want to argue with and learn from you, and maybe for you to learn from me a little too. See, I never expect us to agree on  everything. God’s world is to big and complex for that. However, there is one thing that we can not disagree on because it is perhaps the most clear thing in scripture:

Mathew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We are to love God and we are to love people. We aren’t just to tolerate people. We are to love them the way we love ourselves. We are to want for them what we want for ourselves. I think we can all agree on this.

This brings me to the point of my letter. There is a new round of laws and proposed laws making their ways through different states. These laws are called “Religious Liberty Acts”. They are laws that say it is OK for any person or business to refuse to serve or work with people or groups that would cause them to “go against their religious principals”. Well, at first that sounds alright I guess. I mean nobody wants to go against their religious beliefs.  (The Arizona Bill can be found here here:http://azleg.gov/DocumentsForBill.asp?Bill_Number=1062&Session_Id=112&image.x=0&image.y=0) Under these new law  a restaurant could refuse to serve a same sex couple (or indivdual) , a taxi cab driver could refuse to give them a ride, and yes medical processionals could refuse to treat them, they in fact voted down an amendment that would prohibit this.

So here is my question, if the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, can we honestly do this and say that these bill are acceptable? I am not saying we have to agree on if homosexuality is a sin or on marriage equality, there is a lot of space between these laws and those issues. Evangelicals are big on saying “Hate the sin, love the Sinner” . Well, can you honestly saying these laws do this? Is it truly loving someone to tell them, “I think you are sinful so therefore you can not eat here?” What if a business owner witnessed me being selfish towards my husband should he be able to tell me he wouldn’t let me shop in his store? If I am heard gossiping at the local coffee shop should they tell me I am no longer welcome there?  Where do we draw the line? How are we showing the radical, transforming love of Jesus if we are saying, “We are so much better than you that you can not even be here.”

I know most Christians would probably say, “I wouldn’t do that but it’s not my place to tell someone else what to do.” Well, I’m sorry that’s what we do all the time. We are always telling people what we think (or what we say God thinks) they should do. We just don’t want to come into conflict with our Brothers and Sister in Christ over this. We don’t want to be seen as “forsaking God’s word”. And maybe for Evangelical leaders, you don’t want to risk losing your influence.

I am asking for Christians in general but especially leaders in the Evangelical community to speak out against these laws. Say that they are not right. Say that your people can hold to their beliefs and still truly love their neighbor. I applaud Andy Stanley (who leads the second largest Evangelical church in the country) for saying, ” “Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”( He also tweeted some comments on the bill but later deleted them).

Finally in deciding if this is an issue we should stand up on I think we should read some other words of Jesus in Mathew 25:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fireprepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

I started this letter by saying that I still want to be a part of the Evangelical world and I mean that. Evangelical Christians have done some mighty things throughout history. The best of these have come when we have stood up against injustice in the world. Let these be one of those times. Let us be on the right side of history. Let us show that we their is no separation in loving God and loving our neighbor.

Because of Jesus,

Ashley

Advertisements
Leave a comment »