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First Congregational United Church of Christ - Jeff Coester

Love changes everything

I’m constantly reading or viewing something about the church or Christianity that gets me going, inspired or disgusted.

Frequently I read articles or see movies that express this sentiment: “ I love God, but I don’t like the church.” It’s a popular thing for many people to say. I understand. The church can be frustrating and aggravating in its slowness to act or change; in its petty arguments, as well as its major ones.

Due to our disagreements about same-sex marriages and being accused of being “anti-gay,” people outside the church are critical regardless of what we say about “all people have sacred worth.” I read a recent article, which was tied to our human sexuality conflict. It had a familiar ring – “I love God, but I don’t like other human beings or my neighbor or the person I disagree with.” It reminds me of a quote by Jean-Paul Sarte which said, “Hell is ... other people.” Somehow that doesn’t sound like the Christian spirit declared by Jesus, particularly in the Beatitudes.

I cannot comment on “younger people, diverse people, and other people,” who are not a part of our faith community. I can understand why they feel that way. And I definitely think we need to demonstrate how we love all people, including those of diverse sexual orientation in our families, churches, communities, and in general.

But those of us who are a part of the church, what’s our excuse for saying, “I love God, but not the church”? For those of us ... any of you who would be reading this anyway ... who are in the church, in addition to showing our love for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning community, we also need to do a better job of showing our love for Jesus in the midst of our conflicts. After all, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

“Each of us who cares deeply about the church, including yours truly, who has a strong conviction about our human sexuality struggles, who gets frustrated with the pettiness of the church, which is composed of human beings with all our frailties, and who want to ‘just do our own thing,” according to United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck, “need to know that love changes us ... our hearts and relationships.”

If we are faithful to scripture, and we can say we love God and our neighbor as ourselves including “enemies” or “those on the other side of the issues,” we will be changed. Love changes everything. That’s the message of Easter.

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