So what’s the purpose of ‘the missing peace?’
This blog is committed to providing a safe place for questions to be asked, for voices to be heard, for conversations to be initiated – on the subject of homosexuality, particularly as it intersects with Christianity. My prayer is that this forum will become a place for thoughtful, meaningful dialogue to occur, no matter how differently we may view this issue. And hopefully, as Christ calls us into fellowship together at the table, we can find the peace that we’ve all been missing.
The Missing Peace is linked to the ministry of CenterPeace, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to opening dialogue on faith and sexuality. We build community for deepening the spiritual lives of LGBTQ+ individuals. We also provide resources for families and churches to facilitate greater understanding. For more information about our work or to check for upcoming events, visit our website at centerpeace.net.
Ive never read anything like this before. this is so good.
Glad you found us, Margaret. Welcome.
But didn’t Jesus Say ‘Love Your Neighbour?
Ask most Christians what was the centre of Jesus’ ethical teaching, and they will probably say it was ‘Love Your Neighbour’. For instance, they might cite Matthew 22:36-40:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40, NIV)
But two points must be noted.
First, ‘Love Your Neighbour’ was not a new command. Not all Christians realise it, but ‘Love Your Neighbour’ comes srtaight out of the Old Testament Law:
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:18, NIV)
In fact, in the various times when Jesus mentions the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28), each time it is explicit that what is being discussed is “The Law” – that is, the Old Testament Law.
But the second point is: how did Jesus interpret the law? Jesus made it clear that “neighbour” did not merely mean people living close by. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said:
“You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NIV)
Even clearer is that most famous of parables, the story of the Good Samaritan. The whole point of that story was to answer the question “Who is my neighbour”:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,’ he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:25-37, NIV)
Why was the story so significant? It was not because one man was so compassionate to the man in distress. It was because that man was a Samaritan, a people despised by the Jews:
“(For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).” (John 4:9, NIV)
If Jesus told the story in a Western country today, he would probably tell the parable of the good Muslim or the good homosexual or the good republican or democrat.
So we see that, for a follower of Jesus, ‘Love Your Neighbour’ means ‘Love all people’. And because our enemies, or those you perceive as your enemies, are the hardest people for you to love, this command is especially for you.
I found this and wanted to share. He is such a gentle teacher.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Mark 1:35-45 NRSV
Our scripture begins with Jesus, while it is still dark, leaving the house where he is staying to go out and pray. He needs some alone time with God. He needed to draw on those spiritual resources that come to us through prayer. Once the sun rose, all the demands, all the needs will be knocking on his door again. “Everyone is searching for you.” Imagine what it is like to be the one everyone is searching for. You wouldn’t have a moment’s peace. The needs are so unrelenting.
We see an example of one of these needs in what follows. A man with leprosy comes to Jesus, probably on the outskirts of a village. People with leprosy were quarantined — they couldn’t live with everyone else in the village. Imagine his skin all discolored, his hair disheveled, his clothing old and torn. He kneels before Jesus, a posture of humility and request. Then he says, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Interesting. He is unsure, not that Jesus can heal him, but that Jesus would want to. The leper in this day was ritually unclean, a social outcast. He has internalized this condition to the point that he doubts anyone would do anything kind for him. But Jesus is kind. He reaches down to the man’s shoulder and raises him up so that they are eye to eye. Then he says, “I do choose. Be clean.” The disease leaves him, and with it the ritual uncleanness. He is no longer an outcast.
I have a couple of coats here that I picked up at the dry cleaners on Friday. Two black wool coats. It was embarrassing to take them in for cleaning because both were covered with cat and dog hair. We have animals at home, and clean as much as you want but the animal hair still gets on things. Also, I am not known for putting coats away in the closet. Often I throw it over a chair, and within two seconds a cat lies down on the coat, settling in for a long winter’s nap. I am tempted to leave these two coats in their plastic covering, to protect them.
There is a basic law in life that we all know. The clean and the unclean should not touch, otherwise they will both become unclean. This law holds in all areas of life except one: Jesus. With Jesus, it is the opposite. He is clean, and whatever he touches becomes clean too, like this leper. Jesus contaminates him with his own purity and goodness. Unfortunately, the wider society of his time did not see it this way, which is why at the end of the reading Jesus cannot go into villages anymore. They have heard about him hugging lepers, and they think he is unclean now too.
I have one question about this reading. Why didn’t the man, after he was healed, do what Jesus asked him to do? Jesus told him to go to the Temple and have them validate the healing. But he didn’t go. This puzzles me.
I have a possible answer to this question. But first let me show you something. [Hold up sign with handwritten words ‘Intrinsic Worth’] This sign comes from Chris Momany, chaplain at Adrian College. The handwriting, though, belongs to Asa Mahan, one of the founders of Adrian College 150 years ago. Mahan was an abolitionist; he wanted to end slavery because he believed all human beings, regardless of race, have intrinsic, undeniable worth. Chris Momany is continuing this legacy in his work against human trafficking, and he passes out these ‘Intrinsic Worth’ signs as a reminder.
There is a basic part of the Christian worldview that says all human beings have intrinsic worth because we are created in the image of God. We are God’s children, God’s offspring. From our first stirring in the womb to the moment we take our last breath, all human beings have undeniable value and intrinsic worth. This is a radical idea when you think about it, and it comes to us from Jesus. He dropped this belief into our gene pool. In his day the Romans and the Greeks did not believe all people had intrinsic worth. The Jews were closer, but even they didn’t know what to do with lepers. It was Jesus who modeled the belief that all people, regardless of who they are, have intrinsic worth before God. Jesus shows us this belief in his encounter with the leper.
Back to my question. Whey didn’t the leper go to the Temple to perform the proper sacrifices and have the priests validate the healing? As best I can tell, he didn’t go because he didn’t need to. There were protocols the priests would have gone through, and the process would have taken several days, and when it was done they may or may not have validated the healing and declared the man now clean. At any rate, their whole religious system was what made him unclean in the first place. Why would he want to go back to them? He already has all the validation he needs. Jesus touched him. No one in that time touched a leper. Jesus healed him. Jesus through his actions communicated to him his intrinsic worth as a human being created in the image of God. That knowledge went down inside of him and exploded on his consciousness. That’s why immediately he went out to tell people about Jesus. He couldn’t not tell them. He was so ecstatic with joy, so changed from the inside out, that he wandered around practically delirious as a babbling evangelist for Jesus.
So what does all this mean for you and for me? At least this. Maybe you are here tonight, and you have been looking for validation for years — validation from your family, from your church, from your society. You will have learned by now that they may or may not give you that validation. Perhaps they never will. But in a sense, that’s okay. You don’t need their validation. All you need is Jesus. Everyone is searching for him — this is why! Jesus is the one who communicates to us our intrinsic worth before God. Jesus is not with us physically anymore, but he is here in spirit. The Spirit of Jesus (which is the Holy Spirit) is with us in this room right now. The Spirit of Jesus can touch your shoulder, raise you up, look you in the eye, and say to you,”I do choose, be made clean. You have intrinsic worth. You are a beloved child of God.”
Once you know this, the knowledge seeps down into you and explodes there. It changes you from the inside out. Then it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or says about you, because you know the truth. And the truth will set you free.