Yep. That’s the one. You did, in fact, read that title right. This blog is about Jesus.
Now, don’t worry. If you’re not religious, I’m not going to preach at ya here. Believe me, I’m the last one to do that. I’m not sure I fall in the ‘religious’ category myself (whatever that word means…). To be honest, I’m not sure what I believe at all, so I’m sure as heck not going to tell you what to believe. I just want to tell you about something that caught my attention yesterday. And maybe, just maybe, it might mean something to you, too.
First, a little background.
I was raised in a Baptist church. Southern Baptist at that. For most of you, no further explanation is needed here. For the rest of you: let’s just say that it is thoroughly ingrained in my brain that pretty much everything I do is going to send me straight to Hell. And with that being the case, it’s also ingrained in my brain that I better have my heathen butt in church every Sunday morning in order to atone for everything I’ve done throughout the week, and to plead and beg for the Big Man to reach down his big, scary, arm of fear to alter my Hell-destined course at least long enough for me to make it back to church the next Sunday to start the process all over again.
You follow me?
Ok. So, as you can probably tell from my veiled bitterness in that last paragraph, I’m sure it’s needless of me to say that some of that ‘teaching’ is starting to fade a little as my adult mind starts to mature somewhat past all this (somewhat). In fact, I have turned into what some (read: my grandma) may refer to as ‘rebellious.’ Pssssh. Innocent lil ol’ me? Rebellious? But alas, ’tis true.
Yet, rebellious little heathen mind and all, I still feel that incessant pull to go to church. And, most of the time, I still heed to that pull. Why is that, I wonder? Eh, that’s a topic for another blog, I suppose. The point is this: even though I don’t do the “resolution” thing per se, the New Year still comes tapping on my shoulder every year reminding me that it’s time to reassess and maybe work on a few things here and there. And, in this case, 2014 seemed to be reminding me that it was time to get back to attending church.
Now, as luck would have it, Richard and I finally found a church that felt like ‘home’ to us a little over a year ago. Even though we’re not the most regular attenders there ever were (see above: I’m working on that), we still both feel like we’ve found a place that feels a little more comfortable to us than most. They just seem to be focused on that whole “love thy neighbor” stuff, rather than hell fire and brimstone, and we both seem to like that. We like that a lot actually. And, since our kids loved going to Sunday school, we even managed to find our way into our own adult Sunday school class. After a somewhat prolonged absence, we all trudged back yesterday to work on this ‘regular attendance’ thing, and were greeted with hugs and a genuine collective “welcome back” that made us realize how much we had missed it. (And, incidentally, there were no “Where have you been?”s at all. Imagine that.)
So, there we sat in our Sunday school class, studying the book of James, when something seemed to absolutely jump out of the Bible at me. (Me! Heathen rebel and all!) Sitting right there in the second chapter was this phrase:
“…mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13, NIV
Wait…what? Did I just read that right? Mercy? You mean that whole “It’s ok, I understand that you’re human and you’re going to make mistakes” thing? THAT is going to win over “You messed up chick, pack your bags for your trip to Hell?” Surely not.
Yet there it was, people. Right there in black and white.
Now, granted, these weren’t actually Jesus’ words. But they came from James, who was Jesus’ brother. And by brother, I don’t mean “brother in Christ” or whatever. I mean, brother. Brother as in, “Moooom! Jesus turned my water in to wine again! Make him stop!” That kind of brother. James actually grew up with Jesus. Physically grew up in the same house with the guy. So, if I were a betting woman (which I’m not, betting is a sin…), I’d say that James probably knew where Jesus stood on things. Wouldn’t you say? And according to James, that’s how it works – mercy TRIUMPHS over judgment.
So, why did that affect me so much? Here’s why.
Most of you who know me, know that part of my…um…issue with church, the Bible, religion, etc., lies in the fact that some people tend use this book as their weapon when suppressing the rights of some of the people I love most in this world. Who am I referring to, you ask? Oh, I’m so glad you brought up that question. [*drags out soapbox*] My gay friends, that’s who. I’m not sure why gay rights is such an issue to me…I mean, I’m not gay. As far as I know, my children aren’t gay. No one in my immediate family is gay. And yet, for as far back as I can remember, I have felt such a stirring in my soul that gay people are not “sinners” and therefore, should not be treated any differently than me. And yet, how could that be? The Bible says so right there in black and white that they are. How could I have been brought up the way I have, and yet still feel in my gut that something somewhere isn’t right with all of that?
Well, there you go. Maybe James just answered that for me. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was not sent to judge us. What? No judgment? Maybe he was sent to show mercy. To ALL of us. Maybe he was sent to remind us that it is NOT our place to make rules or judgments on people based on what ‘sin’ they are or are not committing. In fact, maybe it’s not up to us to hypothesize on what is or isn’t a sin at all. Whether you are a firm believer in the Bible, or the biggest atheist that ever walked the planet, either way you HAVE to admit that there are inconsistencies in that thing. Right? Come on, don’t lie. You know they’re there. One page will say one thing as plain as day, and then you turn the page and there’s the exact opposite. And you’ll have people say that the inconsistencies just lie in differences in ‘interpretation’ and blah, blah, blah. Ok, I get that. But I don’t think James left much for interpretation, do you? Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
To me, not only does that mean that’s how God will treat me, but that means that’s how I should treat everybody else. It is not my place to judge. It’s not your place to judge. It’s not the government’s place to judge. Why is that so hard to understand? Could someone explain that to me, please? What am I missing here?
If you still fall in the category of belief that homosexuality is a sin, then that’s fine. You believe what you believe. But let me tell you something. As for me? This girl is a Sinner with a capital “S.” I mean, I’ve sinned a BUNCH. I mean a friggin major TON of sins. I could fill this blog for YEARS with all of them. But you know what I get to do? Marry the man I love. One day (yes, maybe against his will, but whatever…), I’m going to marry Richard. And no one is going to stop me. Scarlett “S” emblazoned on my chest and all, I will still get the chance to say “I do.” And it is so incredibly unfair that my gay friends have to travel to other states to be afforded that same courtesy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Man. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone lived by that part of the Bible? Oh hey – since picking and choosing which parts to go by seems to be the norm these days, is it too late to cast my vote for this verse? I’m straight so I still get a say in the matter, right?
I know, I know. My SPF 250 is packed and ready to go….
“Let’s make a law that gay people can have birthdays, but straight people get more cake–you know, to send the right message to kids.”
– Bill Maher