[Follow the link to read Raushenbush’s wise words on the Huffington Post Religious Blog. Everything below are my own words.]
I have attended a fair number of Christian religious services of varying denominations over the years. From Protestant to Pentacostal, Catholic to Evangelical, since my childhood I was read and repeated the same teachings of Jesus as the absolute way which to live my life. Preachers, Ministers, Pastors, and Sunday School Teachers repeatedly taught me to “Let the little children come to [Jesus], and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” (Matt. 19: 14, NIV); and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5: 44, NIV); and “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” (John 8: 7, NIV); and most importantly: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, Deut. 6:5, NIV), and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, Lev. 19:18, NIV). And of all the commandments God gave the Israelites, these last two Jesus deemed the greatest; “There is no commandment greater than these,” he said (Mark 12:31, NIV): “Love the Lord your God”; and “Love your neighbor as yourself”.
Preachers, Pastors, and Ministers go on to tell us that, as Christians, amongst the Body of Christ, the Church Family, and amongst our friends we must “Love the sinner; Hate the sin,” because all Sin is equal in the eyes of God. Meaning that the sin of Pride is equal to the sin of Murder; the sin of Self-Righteousness is equal to the sin of Adultery; the sin of Bigotry is equal to the sin of Lust; the sin of Envy is equal to the sin of Wrath. If the sins are equal to God, and if we rate Homosexuality as a “sin”, then the sin of the homosexual is equal to that of the liar, the alcoholic, the petty theif. The latter we easily forgive as long as they believe, but the homosexual, so many in the Christian community continue to condemn even if they love God and follow the teachings of Jesus.
Why do we so easily dismiss this one sin as if it is any greater than the ones we carry in our own hearts convinced our God is going to forgive because we’ve repented and follow Christ? He who also commanded those following him and listening to his teachings: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matt. 7: 1.2). We are not to judge one another for our sins (hate the sin) and we are commanded to see others as ourselves (love the sinner), yet so many out there, under the guise of the Bible, God, and Jesus are out there condemning their fellow man for what our Holy Books tell us we must overlook. And this vocal sub-group of the Christian community is the squeaky wheel the world hears, and on their words judges anyone who claims a Christian identity. But these groups do not represent the whole.
Jesus’s message was a message of tolerance, acceptance, and love. Repeatedly in the Gospels others lament his tendency to spend time with the lowest of the low, rather than the religious leaders of the times, the Pharisees and priests. But Jesus allayed these lamentations by telling his followers that the leaders can be corrupt and self-righteous [the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)], and that the lowest of the low, the worst of the worst, are the ones who need our compassion the most; the heavy laden and the downtrodden [Jesus heals the blind man (John 9: 1-12), the leper (Matt. 8:1-4), the sick woman (Luke 8:43-8), the Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10)]. Jesus told the “weary and burdened” to “take [his]yoke upon [them] and learn from [him]… For [his] yoke is easy and [his] burden is light,” (Matt. 11:28-30, NIV).
Week after week, this is what our Pastor’s teach us from their pulpits and podiums, divine messages from the Word of God.
They also tell us that God makes no mistakes. They tell us that “God created man in his own image…. male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27, NIV). If God is perfect, makes no mistakes, created us after himself then is not every person on earth equal to the next no matter how they differ in thought, appearance, or action? Are not each of us, then, a child of God, and our brothers and sisters? Who among us would not support our own siblings? We have been charged to “Love one another. As [Jesus] has loved [us], so [we] must love one another, (John 13:34, NIV); we have been given the task to protect each other. We have been told to love our enemies. We are expected to uphold these commandments, but none so important as Loving the Lord our God, and our neighbors as if they were ourselves.
So why do so many of us insist on tearing down our brothers and sisters? Or worse, standing idly by while others cause them harm?