Celebrate With Me
By Anthony Casperson
A note before I begin the blog for today. You’ll probably notice that in today’s post I remain kinda nebulous about the specifics concerning events in the story. This is intentional.
I started this website so as to create a safe space for people of various nerd-doms to talk about God’s beauty in the midst of our fallen world. This means that I don’t want people who disagree with me to feel antagonized in their beliefs. (I hope that all people come to accept Jesus and the bible’s call in our lives [in that order], but this should come about in as loving a fashion as Jesus did for the people around him.)
As I began to write for this week, I realized that the specifics of the events that follow could cause some discomfort for those who hold certain beliefs. Not wanting to marginalize or disrespect those who hold those beliefs, I junked the file I’d started working on and began anew. Thus, rather than junk the entire idea for this post, I just moved to speaking in more generalized vocabulary.
Back to your regularly scheduled post.
A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through my Twitter feed and saw someone I follow post a celebration of something that their work engaged in. The particulars, in this case, were outside of the godliness set forth in the bible.
That didn’t really surprise me. This person (and I assume many in their company) has not claimed to be a follower of Jesus and thus should not be expected to act as though they believe the things that I believe. After all, I don’t typically act in accordance with the belief systems of those who disagree with my beliefs either.
But what did surprise me was the level of distaste I felt toward the celebration of this less than biblical engagement. It wasn’t quite hate, but it was certainly more than a thought of “I disagree.” And I immediately felt uncomfortable with myself. The taste of my own disdain souring the moment.
I sat there thinking about two truths of the bible. First, the actions being celebrated by this person were certainly outside of godliness as the bible mandates. But second, all human beings (regardless of their system of beliefs) are made in the image of God. We are all worthy of the type of love, respect, and concern for our welfare that God gives.
What this meant in my head is that all people are worth celebrating, even just for existing, yet I am unable to celebrate with them for this thing with which I disagree.
I had to ask the question, “How do I love and respect those who disagree with me while remaining consistent with my beliefs of godliness?” How do I celebrate someone’s personhood without celebrating the things they stand for?
(Seriously, if someone has a good and practical answer to that question, let me know.)
To live in this manner is difficult. The Christianese way of talking about this is “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” but I don’t think this really helps. A person’s belief system is highly connected to their understanding of themselves. To show hate or disdain toward an action or choice that someone else views as perfectly okay makes the person feel hated or disdained. It doesn’t make them feel loved and respected.
And it certainly doesn’t make them want to listen to anything else that you have to say.
We can’t show hate for something that others hold as integral to their view of themselves, and expect them to feel anything even close to love from us. It just doesn’t work that way.
So I return to my question. How do I celebrate the person without celebrating their belief system? I don’t really have an answer. But I think it begins with celebrating the person.
Look to any event in the gospels directed toward a sinful person who’s not self-righteous (any event not directed toward a Pharisee). How does Jesus deal with these people? Every event I can think of shows Jesus speaking toward the person, not their beliefs. He shows the value of their humanity. He raises them up beyond even what they feel that they deserve.
Jesus does speak concerning the errors of people’s beliefs, but only after they have been shown respect beyond their belief. It seems necessary to follow this order.
Now, some might say that showing love and respect to the person before showing the stance of disagreement for their beliefs can cause confusion about our own beliefs. And that’s true. Jesus was called a glutton and a drunkard because he sat down and ate with so many people that the self-righteous disdained. He was hatefully called a friend of “sinners” because he was truly a friend of them. The problem with this falls onto the self-righteous, not the one called such names.
Many of those shown such love came to see the rest of the truth of God and changed their life to match their new system of belief. And it started with being shown love and respect.
So, this is where I think that we should begin as we deal with people who disagree with our understanding of the bible and Jesus. The rest of the answer, I guess, has to be left to future discovery. But until then, let’s begin to celebrate God’s handiwork in the lives of those who don’t yet understand what that means. Let’s raise up the level of love to what we all deserve.