With Charity For All: An Introduction to the Series

I am a murderer, or at least I am complicit in the murder of millions of children. That’s what a Catholic leader and friend that I respect wrote on her blog this past week. I am aware that there are a few people I wouldn’t mind sending to Guantanamo Bay on my worst days, but I am not aware that I have committed murder recently. According to her though, I have. I voted for Obama. So did 25 % of evangelicals and 50 percent or more of Catholics, but she believes that we all are complicit in the murder of millions of aborted children because our candidate is pro-choice.

Most of my readers know that I am strongly opposed to Proposition 8, a California ballot measure that would remove the right of citizens to same sex marriage. I spoke with one woman working against the proposition who asked me to come make phone calls to undecided voters because “those monsters” want to remove the legal rights of citizens to get married by a simple majority vote. While I didn’t disagree with her objective (for reasons I’ll detail in a later part of this series), I took great issue with her characterization of anyone who supports Proposition 8 as a “monster”. Actually, some who support Proposition 8 are good people who sit across from me in the pew on Sunday. In fact, I’m pretty sure she would be referring to my late grandmother, and my Mema was no monster.

Both my Catholic friend and my Proposition 8 friend are amazing people and Christian believers. Yet, they seem incapable of holding to their own values, liberal or conservative, without holding the motivations and character of others in judgment. Yet, if I understand the way of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount and the whole witness of Scripture, this is exactly how God intends for us to be in the world. Why? Freedom and nonjudgment are the ways that God treat us. These values are rooted in the character of God as revealed in Jesus. That’s something that most Christians don’t hear too often these days.

I am going to write my first book on this issue of nonjudgment and conviction, and for now, I am entitling it “With Charity for All: Nonjudgment and Freedom as the Way of Jesus”. The book will explore: How does one give freedom to others to choose goodness or evil for themselves without being complicit in their evil? Is this possible? Should people of faith seek to impose their moral standard on those who have not signed up for the lifestyle where those are the values? What happens to “good news” when it becomes a legal or political agenda? It seems like a topic that the Christian community desperately needs to discuss as we seem to get caught in a false choice between choice and freedom, and between nonjudgment and values.

This past election gave me clarity, both about the need for such a book, and the need for a book that addresses the way of Jesus for a contemporary audience that is seeks to live its values, but seems incapable of doing so without binding those values on others. I see the church innocently desiring to live as “aliens and strangers” in a world foreign to its ethic, and yet incapable of communicating those values in a way that is good news, that is life-giving (not life-restricting), and that offers true freedom. To give this freedom to others is to love. It is impossible to love if love is conditional on compliance with my moral demands. Looking at the elections of the past decade, and at the great struggles of the Christian world over topics like abortion and gay marriage, it occurs to me that theological and practical reflection is badly needed.

I finally decided that I have something to say, and perhaps I need to say it. I would like to begin the initial exploration of these ideas on this blog by opening up the discussion to all of you so that you can assist me in clarifying my thinking as well as providing new ideas that might be useful to others. I take seriously the free exchange that takes place in the blogosphere, and I invite all of you to enter into this conversation with me as we grow together in knowledge … and grace.

I look forward to the discussion and the journey. It could not be more timely. Stay tuned for Part I, “Common Grace”.

One Response to “With Charity For All: An Introduction to the Series”
  1. Jordan says:

    Hey Todd,

    Love your post man. Especially this line,

    “It is impossible to love if love is conditional on compliance with my moral demands.”

    In my time here at Hilltop, I’ve preached a few times on this topic of loving free from pushing moral rules and regulations. I think we typically understand freedom in Christ as freedom from sin, and we focus so much on claiming that freedom by following moral values and rules that we cultivate a self-righteousness in our churches. Consequently, we easily miss the freedom to love unhindered by demands and value judgements.

    I agree that these moral rules and regulations have good intentions, but they are so dangerous in how they move us to stigmatize those around us, like you mentioned with “monsters.” Lately, i’ve noticed that the church’s motivation seems to be to communicate Christian values in an effort to clean up the “mess” that is people’s lives and their surrounding culture.

    To me the actual reality is that spirituality is messy, and unless we as the church embrace our own messiness and meet Christ in our own brokenness we will never be free to truly love liberated from stigma and moral agendas.

    RIght on with your book. I’ll read it!

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