Don’t you love that headline?
It has a perfect appeal. It makes some people think that a pastor is flying in the face of religion. It makes some people happy that someone is finally speaking truth. It makes some people terrified that yet another pastor has gone over to the other side.
That’s why I made it up.
I am the aforementioned pastor.
I sort of said that in a Sunday school class yesterdat. I put it here to grab attention. But you can never believe headlines. What I really said is more like this:
And that isn’t surprising.
After all, one of the things that many churches and Christians and people on the radio get upset about is when there are attempts to take the ten commandments out of courtrooms and classrooms and village greens. What they mean, of course, is that they want abridged versions of what are known as the ten commandments from Exodus 20 mounted on the walls of those places.
Unfortunately, in addition to that law is something called the law of unintended consequences. When we take certain actions, those actions may have consequences that are the last thing that we desire.
Say, for example, you are told that you are supposed to love God and love other people. Say, for example, you are told that those two things are the centerpiece of following Jesus. Say, for example, that Jesus says that those two things summarize the whole law. Say, for example, that he goes to great length to illustrate what he means, to give many examples. Say, for example, he says that murder starts not when a person stops breathing. Instead, it starts when someone hates. Say that he says that prayer isn’t about public pronouncements, it’s about intimate conversations. Say that he says that loving your friends is nothing. Loving your enemies is something. And so is praying for people who beat you up. And then he prays for the people who beat him up. Right before he dies.
That is a pretty clear expression of something other than rules.
What happens, however, when people begin extended battles to defend putting a list of rules on walls? (Not that those rules are bad, I mean, “go ahead, murder” is a pretty silly command.) What does it convey when you say “we’re not about rules, we are about relationship” and then we say “let’s keep these rules on public walls”?
The unintended consequence is that people begin to identify church as being about the defense of that abridged list of rules.
I suppose what the headline really should say is, “Pastor suggests that emphasizing public posting of rules reinforces a public perception that the brand “Christian” is about rules when perhaps there might be other things to talk about and live about that might be more effective in showing love.”
But that’s not a headline anyone would notice. That’s a headline that takes a long time to read, and to live. That’s a headline that invites conversation.
Of course, maybe that’s the point.