Unified by Love Not Doctrine

return of prodigal - Rembrandt

return of prodigal – Rembrandt

This last weekend has been a garden weekend for me. I have planted the early garden with cauliflowers, cabbages, broccoli, lettuce, Chinese greens, carrots and beets. I use the square foot method – lots of diversity close together for maximal yield and minimal pest control. I start with well composted soil and try to balance those crops that need lots of fertilizer and drain the soil with those that need little fertilizer and are a net gain to the soil. Monoculture demands more fertilizer and pesticides.

At my Spirituality of Gardening seminar on Saturday I will tell participants that one of the most nutritious plants in the garden is the dandelion. The roots can be used for tea, the leaves for salad and the flowers for jelly. It helps to hold the soil together and to bring nutrients up to the surface from deeper down within the soil.

In the garden variety is the spice of life and weeds are an important part of that variety. I think that it is meant to be the same in the body of Christ. We need variety of belief, doctrine and understanding of the truths of God, to build up the soil and reduce the pests so that we can get the best harvest. We need the death of our old understandings to create the most precious nutrient for our soil – compost. And often some of the most important plants (read people here) are those at the margins, the ones that we want to yank out and get rid of, the ones that disrupt our doctrinal certainty and make us uncomfortable – like the mentally ill, the gay and lesbians, the doubters, people of other religions and even the atheists in our midst.

It is no wonder Christ emphasized the need for love not doctrine to hold the body of Christ together. He knew that we were not all meant to think alike or look alike. A variety of doctrines are not only acceptable to God but necessary for God’s family to be healthy. The more alike we all look, the more we insist that there is only one acceptable doctrinal viewpoint, the less adaptable, the less healthy and the less productive we become. The more alike we look, the more “fertilizer” we need and the more “pests” attack us. As Samir Selmanovic says in his fascinating book Its Really All About God we need atheists to ask the questions we are afraid to ask ourselves and we need people of other faiths to broaden our understanding of God. And we need those at the margins to pull us out of our self righteousness and remind us that we are all sinners, only acceptable because of the grace of God. Christ came to the unacceptable and those outside the synagogue, not to the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. 

Jesus reached out to the unacceptable – the Samaritans, prostitutes and lepers – and did unacceptable things in the spirit of love and asks us to too.

Unbind us Lord that we might live,

Unbind us from our sins,
From our prejudices
And our lack of love.
Unbind us Lord that we might live,
Live in unity,
and in peace,
and in love.

This post is now part of a Synchroblog  centered on Bridging the Divides and ideas and perspectives that different bloggers might have on ways to heal these divisions in the church. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Christianity is continually dividing these days. Huge chasms have formed between conservative and liberal camps. Theological positions are becoming more solidly entrenched. Differing views on biblical interpretation are separating us, creating walls that separate us from living in community together. Churches are splitting. Organizations are finding themselves in the middle of the fray, unsure how to proceed because of the cost of landing on one side or the other. We hope these posts will bring a healing balm this Easter season.

Here’s the list of other bloggers contributing posts related to healing the divides this month: