First came the news that World Vision U.S. was changing its policy and would from here on out allow for the hiring of legally married, gay Christians.
Progressive Christians applauded World Vision’s stance, fist-pumping that this is what Jesus would do too and “take that you Conservative bigots who hate gay people,” while Conservative Christians denounced the decision as an unbiblical, cowardly kowtowing to popular culture and called for World Vision sponsors to prove their commitment to Jesus by withholding food, shelter and education from the poor to advance a political agenda.
Then came the news that World Vision U.S. had reversed it stance, issued an apology for causing global consternation, and would return to it’s previous policy of abstinence for all unmarried Christians, which by definition includes gay Christians because they believe gay marriage is a biblical oxymoron.
Conservative Christians took over the fist-pumping, with “well duh’s” being sung stridently to the choir and “thank God I can keep feeding my World Vision child with a clean conscience” while Progressive Christians threw around a lot of WTFs and demonized the Christian Establishment as a money-grubbing patriarchy that hates gays more than it loves poor children.
It’s been an awesome couple of days in Christendom, don’t you think?
The irony of course is that the stated reason for World Vision’s inclusion of married gay Christians in their employment ranks was to model Christian unity.
I was awake a lot last night — you know that fatigue that sets in when you are so freakishly tired you can’t even sleep? That’s me these days.
I pondered a lot of mundane things during the dark hours of last night: I need a new title for my book. Does the concussion band my daughter wears in soccer games really protect her noggin, and why oh why does an 8 year old have homework?
But mostly I thought about Jesus and World Vision and I kept picturing this scene in my head where we are all there, standing around in a big dusty circle pointing fingers at each other and loudly making our arguments, all shaky on the inside because the adrenaline is pumping while the camera crews film our Atticus Finch-like epic takedown of the opposition and because this matters and then … then He squats down and draws in the dust.
What is he drawing? We don’t know. We didn’t know then and we don’t know now. What we do know is that everyone walked away that day from that dusty circle needing to repent.
The self-righteous needed to repent, and for them Jesus modeled humility and grace.
The sinners needed to repent, and to them Jesus offered forgiveness and healing-in-community.
The religious needed to repent, and to them Jesus offered unfettered freedom to be a blessing to the nations.
In other words, Jesus surprised everyone. He took people where they were and to each He gave an essential vision of His Father’s Kingdom — and that small, incomplete glimpse changed the self-righteous into humble servants, the sinners into bold evangelists, the religious into risk-takers.
How did we come to the place this week where we hurl insults at each other right over the head of our Lord and Savior while he squats in the dust to show us a different way?
I’m guilty too. I have started and then edited and then erased more comments on more blogs on this World Vision fiasco than I care to admit. I have spoken in self-righteous anger. I have felt myself justified by the Bible. I have fist-pumped and shaken with adrenaline and what I most need to repent of is this notion that anything about how I think and behave reflects the face of the One I love most in the world.
Yes, ideas matter. Yes, theology matters. Yes, there is room for a hearty discussion about World Vision’s policies and decisions — even hand waving and hand wringing and disagreements and “OMG you can’t possibly believe that!” with (gasp) even raised voices and red faces. Yes, there is room for all of that. We must learn to trust each other and hold discursive and emotional space for each other along this journey toward shalom.
The question then is, how do we function in the midst of our disagreements, as profound and essential as they are, and live up to our calling as the arms and legs and feet and face of Jesus in this cultural moment? Big question, and I don’t have the answer, but I think part of it is this:
knowing we will be misunderstood, knowing we will be betrayed, knowing the tension will not be resolved, knowing what comes next will hurt, knowing that something far bigger is at stake than our theological framework, we pick up the basin and the towel and we kneel before our brother and even before our betrayer and we wash their feet.