love's the thread & it's stronger than we think

blog love is the thread and its strong than we thinki love the book of colossians; i’ve shared here before that when my kids were little we had the NIV kids club cassette tapes (yes, we’re old) and i can pretty much sing all of chapter 3.  each of these verses is a separate song:

“13 – therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselveswith compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 14 – bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. forgive as the Lord forgave you.  15 – and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

in the wild and crazy conversation last week about equality, the verse 15 song came to mind–“over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.”

my friend & copastor at the refuge, karl wheeler (who just started a new blog–check it out because it’s going to rock, details below), often says that we mistake unity for uniformity.  this is so true!  we think that when we are all on the same page, we have unity. but that not true unity; instead, it’s homogeneity that was never the idea. the kingdom of God is about holding our differences in love.

real unity is honoring our differences and being bound together by love.  

it’s the virtue that binds us all together.

one of the things i most deeply respect about life in our little wild refuge community is that we do not agree on everything.  we don’t have a statement of faith that automatically discerns who believes what (you can read what we do have written down; it’s one of my most favorite things we’ve ever written) and weeds people out.  we don’t espouse a “here’s what we are sure God says about this or that” or a membership class that people need to sign in on before they can be part.   when it comes to some of these tough issues of our faith, we are all over the map, with far left & far right and everything in between all tangled up together.

it’s honestly one of the prettiest things i’ve ever seen.

rich & poor alongside, even though life is so different from each other.  educated & uneducated alongside, because people are people no matter how much schoolin’ we’ve had.  liberal & conservative alongside, because love supersedes political viewpoints.  gay & straight alongside, even with different views theologically.   married & single alongside, because we need each other desperately.  men & women alongside, because friendship is a way to practice & learn the ways of love.

we don’t see each other through any of those labels.  we see each other as human beings, created in God’s image, all with the most important thing in common–a desire to love & be loved.   

when it comes to last week’s conversation, i want to highlight an important point about our life together.  our gay friends aren’t here making sure everyone agrees with them & our straight friends with a more scriptural conservative bent aren’t trying to prove anything. the same is true about any of our other differences.  the reason this works is because love is the thread that binds us all together.  as a leader in this community, that’s what we work our asses off to try to cultivate: a culture of safety (not of comfort but of real safety in a loving, challenging christian community).

and in a true culture of safety, we can disagree.

in fact, disagreeing is good.  when we don’t allow room for seeing things differently then we are in danger of creating more pockets of conformity and not living humbly in the tension of being uncomfortable.  our discomfort & differences force us to rely on God’s spirit to help us let go & trust & learn & wait and love more freely.

the world doesn’t need more pockets of conformity.  there are plenty of those to go around.

what we need are more brave expressions of little pockets of love & freedom, where Christ’s restoration of human dignity and value is at the center despite our differences. where humility is practiced in a very active way. where submission, one to another and not just one-way-that-works-for-those-with-the-most-power, is embedded into the fabric of life together.

but even though i think the refuge is awfully pretty (it’s ugly to the un-Jesus-trained eye, though, i promise), it is also a very tricky space to hold.

some have left over time, frustrated that we hold the tension between differing views on the Bible & theology.  they want us to draw lines in the sand and make things clearer.  some get annoyed at having to make friends with people who aren’t like them.  others really want better music & teaching & comfier chairs & something a little more predictable.

we refuse.

because we think there’s much more to learn about the ways of Love through our differences and discomfort than through our we-all-think-and-believe-the-same-thing and church-is-about-being-comfortable default.

my hope for the movement in the body of Christ and community cultivation is not that we sway everyone over to a new side on any of these issues and then all camp out together.   that would be way too easy (and is what i fear these hot topics will tempt people to do).  my hope is that we find a way to be together in our differences.  to create a culture of true safety that bravely lets go of telling-others-what-to-believe-with-utter-certainty-on-one-biblical-interpretation and instead wrestling with these hard realities of life together.  to see God’s image in each other and have that be enough to keep us united even when we might see the scriptures or life or a whole host of things different from each other.

love’s the thread that binds us all together in perfect unity.

it’s stronger than we think.

* * * * *

ps: karl’s blog is called church dreamer.  check out the about page & his first blog post, Jesus hates flatscreens.  oh yeah, it’s going to be fun.

26 Comments

  • The Spirit has blown us in a like directions this morning:

    The Forbidden Fruit. How we hunger for its evil sweetness. We love to judge, create divisions and then firmly espouse one side or the other while pointing fingers at the other assuming we are on the side of G-d … Then G-d draws a circle of Love which includes both sides and we don’t like it.

    Preach it, sister! *huff, huff … trying to keep up*

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    • thanks, jim, love that faith under construction is beginning, too…love.

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    • thanks, karla. i’m so glad you are part of this wild beautiful experiment in love.

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  • I have never seen anything like this in my whole life, not inside church and not outside of it. I was in a setting where we got partway there, couldn’t quite make it, and that little faith community dissolved overnight.

    I long to see it, experience it, and God bless you for insisting on it.

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    • it is tough stuff, no question. we feel the tension all of the time, and as i always say, it’s a lot uglier looking than people think. it’s so uncomfortable. but so beautiful, tooi i now of other pockets, too, and it does indeed give me hope. on a side note, i hope some day you can come play with us.

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      • I have thought often about whether I might be able to “come play with you” … The longing is getting stronger, and I think it may just happen 🙂

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      • And that is far from being a “side note” …. You’ll just never know what such words mean … Well, maybe you do 🙂

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  • Oh, this is so lovely! Amen to all you say!

    I believe in the Church. With all its failings and frustrations, I believe in the power of community. I believe in how God can work in and through us. I believe that if the world sees people who are so different, yet bound together deeply, they will wonder what kind of Love can do this. I believe that when a true, loving church exists, it is a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.

    Thank you for sharing your vision for your church community. “what we need are more brave expressions of little pockets of love & freedom, where Christ’s restoration of human dignity and value is at the center despite our differences.” Yes, yes, yes.

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    • thanks, stephanie! yes, with all its failings & frustrations, so much is still possible.

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  • “what we need are more brave expressions of little pockets of love & freedom, where Christ’s restoration of human dignity and value is at the center despite our differences. where humility is practiced in a very active way. where submission, one to another and not just one-way-that-works-for-those-with-the-most-power, is embedded into the fabric of life together.”

    AMEN, AMEN, AND AMEN!! The church should be a place that understands the power of LOVE and unity!!

    Oh how this encourages my spirit!! You have served up a big warm spicy slice of hope this morning Kathy! Thank you!

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    • thanks, laurie! i like that “big warm spicy slice of hope” yum.

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  • i will admit, while kathy and i have had an amazing experience as team mates this was a lesson that has taken me a while to get! she has modeled for me this for so long i am close to being able to practice it. thanks for giving me time to get here. love is way…
    i do believe that uniformity is the enemy of unity- if we gather as cliques, i am pretty sure the world does stand jaw dropped wondering how we pull it off!
    the “by this will everyone know you are mine” requires that it be super messy. only Jesus can make a church.

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    • i guess it is so true, just one song played all different ways, eh?

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  • These words have stirred in my heart all day long. I don’t think I quite have ever reflected on how unity does not equal uniformity. It’s part of the reason I still love the church of my youth — the Roman Catholic Church — despite its many faults. There is unity in diversity and inclusion.

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    • thanks for sharing & reading. diversity and inclusion are two of my favorite words.

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  • It makes me happy how you can put beautiful language to…what happens in the life of the refuge community. I can specifically recall a moment in my old church days when I realized *gulp* that if I were to be asked the statement of faith and my current personal stance, I simply could not ascribe to the same beliefs that fueled my ability to sign on the dotted line o’ membership. Rut roh!

    I think that it is almost, maybe, a felt sense of security, to just know that everyone in the directory is on the same page. That for sure allows little to no room to shift and grow, and for me, it was a scary realization that my relationships that I had cultivated were really built on quicksand. Knowing that the depth of love in my community isn’t based on my theology, or my doubts, or even the struggles that test my faith, is so freeing. Hoping for more and more security, one.day.at.a.time. 🙂

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    • i love this: “knowing the depth of my love in my community isn’t based on my theology, or my doubts, or even the struggles that test my faith, is so freeing.”

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  • And so, after a day spent fruitlessly scouring English for something better to post than “YES THIS THIS THIS,” and much reluctance, the commenter was reduced to using Latin instead:

    Ubi libertas et amor, Deus ibi est.
    Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
    Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur…

    (Sorry about that.)

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    • “Where freedom and love are, God is there.
      Love of Christ has gathered us into one.
      Let us rejoice and be glad in it”
      I like it!
      I really appreciate this way into unity. Much richer than our old notions of conformity.

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      • Nothing new (I’m reprising “Ubi Caritas,” which was already a classic 1000 years ago), but glad you like it. *g*

        Adoremus et amemus Deum vivum/ Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

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        • “Let us adore and love the living God / And let us love one with a sincere from the heart.”

          oh, keep these coming. sooooo beautiful.

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  • Ironically, not having “a statement of faith that automatically discerns who believes what and weeds people out” in itself weeds out those who think we must believe a certain way on women, LGBTs, creation, evolution, abortion, Obama, certain Bible verses and so on or they cannot associate with us.

    To those “Christians” who tell me I MUST think a certain way on these and other issues (which means I must agree with them, since they know God does), I say “I don’t have a problem with you believing that. Don’t worry. I’m not going to try to get you to see things the way I do. But I do expect the same courtesy from you.”

    I say that, but few people hear it. Uniformity of thinking and belief are de rigueur in their system. I cannot think of any group of which we have been a part that ever mentioned striving for unity.

    The churches we have known have been more political organizations than groups of those who follow Jesus – “Join us if you agree with our political beliefs on X” seems to be their unspoken but clearly understood mantra.

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    • your first sentence is so true, that automatically people disqualify themselves when there’s not enough “in and out”! i have so many funny stories of people going “so, what do you believe about….”

      Reply

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