Originally published August 2015.
Sitting at Starbucks with a young friend we talk about faith. I will call her Leane.
She tells me about a past Bible Study teacher. He put his hand on the Bible and said, “If you don’t believe everything that is in here from start to end, even the homosexual part, then you are not a follower.” Leane is new to the faith and she thought to herself, does this mean I have to hate my aunt?
Does this ring an alarm bell to you? It does to me. If I listen to my gut, it tells me that something is terribly wrong when a newbie Christian asks:
Is hating expected?
Jesus said two amazing things: love your enemies and love your neighbors. To the church he said love one another. There is no room for hating. Hating is not expected, encouraged, or endorsed.
The Bible teacher asked Leane to take sides on a theological topic that is greatly debated these days. He used all-or-nothing thinking, which allows only two options: his way or the highway.
The kingdom of God often works the opposite of what you might expect. What if God is not asking for commitment?
What if God is asking for surrender?
Surrender to his goodness, kindness and love. An encounter with the love of God transforms you in a way that commitment alone can’t.
I am not saying we should abandon all Bible study and just go with feelings, which is another way of using all-or-nothing thinking. What I am saying is that:
Commitment is all about me. How committed am I? Prove it.
Surrender is all about letting go of me. Will I open myself up to God?
Isn’t that what the Christian journey is about, opening your heart to God?
When you move from a commitment-frame to a surrender-frame, the expectation for the newbie is simply to come and experience God. I invited Leane to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Together we watched Graham Cooke’s Inheritance video. She opened her heart. She became vulnerable and shared all the ways she feels unworthy of love. Don’t we all?
Instead of telling her what to believe, I listened. She talked and cried.
My conversation with Leane went in a wonderful direction, from theology to vulnerability.
A theological conversation stays in the mind. A heart conversation touches the deepest parts of our being. One is information, the other transformation.
The conversation was real and deep. It was amazing to see how quickly she opened up.
Which is more loving? To only discuss theology or to help her open her heart to God
How many vulnerable conversations are we missing because our frame limits us to conversations about right and wrong beliefs? What if people want to talk about what is real and raw? Let’s go there.
Next blog will explore more about how I define myself as a Christian.
©2016 Belinda Perez McDanel
2 thoughts on “Is Hating Expected?”
Belinda, this was a wonderful affirming encounter you had with Leane. Thanks for sharing it with us. Your sensitivity in listening, affirming, and relating to her deeper feelings is exemplary. Thanks for that example.
Her Bible Study teacher was exhibiting what I call a transactional approach to the Scriptures; rather than a relational approach which you guided her to.
Jesus modeled for us the relational approach in his interactions with people. He related to needy people in the most intimate and culturally rich and appropriate setting–the table–around a shared meal and intimate, nonjudgmental fellowship.
This, of course, has rich implications for us as today as we gather around the table with Him as He shares himself with us in the Eucharist.
May you have more precious encounters like this one with Leane.
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Thank you John. I love the picture of the Eucharist as a table that brings everything level. All are invited to the table.