A Scriptural Love Shield – March 27

A sermon based on 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

given at Mount Vernon, Ohio on March 27, 2022

by Rev. Scott Elliott

A few weeks ago, just before I was about to start work on this sermon, I received hate email from a preacher regarding the pamphlet you can find in the entry hall and on-line called “Ten Things People Think Christians Have to Believe, But Don’t.”

Hate mail – especially one containing homophobia as this one did– does not,  to use our lesson’s language, evidence a sense of new creation in Christ, nor does it come from ambassadors for Christ. It starkly evidences the opposite, an old way human point of view of hating that does not represent the Christ of the Gospels, nor the love we are commanded to provide one another.   The preacher boasted in their email that they’d read the Bible dozens of times and claimed the words they’d sent me were written in love. Here are some of those words,  “you are absolutely wrong,” “homosexuality   . . .  will damn a soul to hell forever,” “you are truly just another average believer, ” “you are not going to make it,” and “I’ve been where you are and it does not work IF you are claiming to be a true Christian?”

Sadly, the hateful emails I get tend to be from homophobic Christians and raise a red flag of possible security threat so I often Goggle  the author. I learned the author lives faraway– an unlikely threat. I also learned that a few years ago they explored another  faith tradition because Christianity did not appear to be truth to them, in their mind it created dissonance.

I don’t usually reply to hate mail but I prayerfully felt a spiritual pull to reply.  So, I did. While I didn’t write back intending to preach on it, I have since  felt a pull to set out in this sermon the gist of the exchange which outlines the Love shield found in Scripture against this sort of hate. I say gist because I’m only summarizing the emails I received and I have redacted my replies to protect the sending preacher’s identity and gender, and correct some grammar.  Here’s my first reply:

“Dear [Leslie Doe], I received and read your recent email. It saddened me to learn a . . .  preacher boasting to have read the Bible numerous times failed to acknowledge that Scripturally ALL God requires of me and you and everyone else is “to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” 1.  It’s even sadder that a . . .  preacher would appear to forget that according to Jesus we are judged by whether we tend to the well-being of the least among us, not by how a . . . preacher believes they get to judge us.  2.

“You claim to have written with “love” yet you[r] email is the very definition of unkind, boastful, arrogant and rude, as you insist on your way while rejoicing in the wrongdoing of asserting that people goodly made by God as LGBTQ+ (and Christians like me who love and support them) are profane and unclean. 3.  The words in your email are the opposite of love as defined by Paul. Their unloving and violent nature also violates the Greatest Commandment, as well as God’s commandment to Peter to call no one profane or unclean.   4.

“I have no fear of God (who is love) judging me now or in the afterlife. In this life I do, however, fear Christians who troll and attack with false assertions that their hate-mongering violent acts are love– acts like harassing communications and homophobia that are nowhere near the teachings of Jesus, acts of Jesus, or the person of Jesus set out in the Gospels. “I fear such hateful Christians because they have a history of hurting others and hurting Christianity and hurting God with violent words and deeds. Instead of worshiping God, they worship the idols of hate and hateful use of the Bible and drive more and more people away from Christianity with their unloving witness.”

“Jesus, for Christians, is the decisive revelation of his God, our God who is love.  “Jesus declares that the greatest commandment is to love God and others, surely you know that.  5. “That commandment clearly trumps anything in the Bible, dogma, or tradition of the Church, or anything else that makes you think it is somehow loving to troll and send harassing emails to other Christians, and to judge and declare whether they are “true Christians” and/or pound on them with violent demeaning, hateful words about LGBTQ+ and their allies–whom God loves unconditionally, just as God loves you.

“Having received and read your hard-hearted hate-filled email and theology I can see why [a few years back you appear to have let leaders of another faith community know that you were unable to say that Christianity is the truth and you find it creates dissonance for you]. Any such dissonance you may have experienced may come from not fully grasping the Truth that Jesus is the decisive revelation of God,  and that Jesus reveals that love of God and love of others must always be His followers’ primary directive. I suspect that once you grasp that, any such dissonance will likely fade. It’s not that you’re not a Christian, or that Christianity is not Truth, it’s that your acts toward me and LGBTQ+ folk suggest you appear to be missing [that] the primary point of Jesus’ Way is love.  A consequence of missing the point is your lack-love missive to me, to paraphrase Paul, is no more than a noisy gong or clanging cymbal, out of which you and I and others and Christ gain nothing. 6.

“Because you publicly posted on the internet what looks like a sincere effort for more understanding (with [another faith]),  and an indication you have done caring work with “the least among us,” I hope and pray there is a chance for you to repent and be saved from any lesser way of being lack love causes. So, after prayer and thought, I am writing back (I usually just don’t reply to lack-love noisy gonging Christians because in my experience they tend to be violent, close-minded and unwilling to love). My hope and advice for you [Leslie Doe]–which I provide with love as it is meant in the Bible, i.e., the care and desire for the well-being of others like you. (see, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms)– is that you consider praying and working to find out the Truth about what love on Jesus’ Way looks like. It’s never trolling or hating or violence (by any name, including “love”).

“I strongly encourage you to be as honest as the post in your name with your email address was [a few years ago] and either explore [the other faith] if that helps you stop being hateful . . .  or start reading some mainline theologians who might help you find Christianity is Truth when it is love-centered as Jesus meant it to be. “Here are some books on Christianity that might help you get centered on love: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and The Heart of Christianity, both by Marcus Borg  . . .; The God of Jesus by Stephen Patterson . . . and Jesus a Revolutionary Biography by John Dominic Crossan. If you cannot find the books at your alma mater[‘s . . .] library, or at a library closer to you . . . or if you need help buying the books . . . let me know and I’ll see if I can get them to you.

“In closing, I offer this prayer and hope,  that even if you do not follow my suggestions that somehow God leads you to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God and discover how to love your neighbors, all of them.

“Finally, I forgive you for trolling me, but do not do it again or otherwise send me harassing or violent communication(s).

“May God help you find the meaning of love, and Jesus’ Way to love,

Rev. Scott Elliott, a Panentheistic Christian pastor”

Shortly after I sent that sermon-length reply, the preacher responded with an apology claiming, among other things, that they meant no offense and indicated (so I would not think they were a hateful person) that they worked in threatening conditions talking to LGBTQ+ individuals in another county.  I wrote back (don’t worry it’s much shorter):

“Dear [Leslie Doe], When you first wrote me could you really not see how these words of yours to me are not love but very offensive: “you are absolutely wrong,” “homosexuality . . . will damn a soul to hell forever,” “you are truly just another average believer, ” “you are not going to make it,” “I’ve been where you are and it does not work IF you are claiming to be a true Christian?”

“ And forget about offending me, please consider just stop being a part of the violence to LGBTQ+. Please. For. The. Love. Of. God. The type of homophobic theology you dumped on me is part and parcel of the violence toward LGBTQ+ people you claim to have protected. That lack love theology feeds and justifies the violence over and over and over again. It chases people away from Christianity. It hurts and kills people.  It is not love. It is not Jesus. It is not God. It’s hate.

“I am sorry that your quest for a better Christian theology has stopped at a place where you do not know when you offend and do not know when you are being violent and feeding violence. I pray somehow [your] other loving work puts you more fully on Jesus’ Way that is all love[,] all the time.  Please don’t stop study[ing].  If you need help buying those books I suggested do let [me] know.

May you find the love of Christ for others fully, Scott”

May we, along with the preacher who wrote me and every other Christian,  find the love of Christ for others fully. May we gain a sense of new creation in Christ, and be ambassadors for Christ, the One through whom God reconciled the world– and did so and does so with love. AMEN.

Endnotes

  1. This of course comes from Micah 6.8. I did not cite the location of the Scriptures referred to in the emails assuming the recipient knew their location.
  2. Matthew 25: 31-46
  3. I Corinthians 13
  4. Ibid., Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-35; Luke 10: 25-28; John 13:34; Acts 10: 28; Romans 13:8-10; I John 4: 7-8.
  5. Ibid.
  6. I Corinthians 13

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