• Steven Marsh

Living with Love and Passion: a Reflection on Psalm 116, Song of Solomon 5:10-16; 7:1-2; 8:6-7, 2 Co

Conspiracy theories abound. President Obama’s leadership is adored by some and despised by others. Trust between humans is waning and questions of character abound. People of color are legitimately angry regarding abuse at the hands of police and an immigration policy or lack thereof continues to oppress millions. Marriage equality is moving forward, yet the evangelical Christian LGBTQ community continues to be pushed to the side and further marginalized as “other.”

Jesus asked a profound question of the chief priests, scribes, and elders. “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” The chief priests, scribes, and elders refused to answer Jesus’ question.

Those who claim allegiance to Jesus and proclaim gratitude for God’s grace must answer the same question. For the answer simplifies the Christian’s dilemma. Professing faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that one’s life has been claimed by God, and beginning to live a disciple’s life boils down the core of belief to one thing: loving God and others.

It is undeniable that followers of Jesus love their systems and litmus tests for orthodoxy. At least I do. But God has been humbling me over the past five years and healing me from the arrogance of dogmatism. So often, those labeled as “other” have experienced the same baptism and declare the same allegiance to Jesus, but their illegal status in our country, gender identity, sexual orientation, political beliefs and the list goes on, disqualify them from Jesus’ family. Or at least that is how the “other” often experiences their lack of inclusion in the church.

The Song of Solomon depicts the amazing gift of the loving relationship we have with our Savior, but can also have with another. The beloved is “radiant and ruddy.” She is a queenly maiden. Love is strong as death and passion is fierce as the grave. This describes Jesus’ love for us and how we are to reciprocate. It is also a matrix for how my love for others should be evident.

Yet, fear keeps me from loving God and others in such a way. Difference is difficult. Behaviors and attitudes that do not match up with my dogmatic system and list of essential Christian litmus tests can easily send me running and disassociating from others who have experienced the same baptism as me. Fear debilitates and creates a faith construct and lifestyle that is other than the Gospel.

Like the psalmist, I love God because God heard my voice. And often my voice is from a place of incredible desperation. Desperation disunites.

We like the chief priests, scribes, and elders refuse to answer the question Jesus asked. Either answer convicts us for our “bad” behavior.

My prayer is that my life in Jesus will engage the “other.” And include the “other” who shares in the same baptism as mine into the full life of the church. Let us declare enough is enough with divisions in our churches that are motivated by fear and exclusion. Jesus lived and showed us otherwise.

Scripture readings are taken from the two-year daily lectionary cycle which follows the liturgical calendar and begins on the First Sunday of Advent.

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