The NY Times carried a story today of a United Methodist Church struggling with how to maintain its stand against the death penalty, while mourning the murder of three of its members — a mother and her two teenage daughters.
Members expressed concern that their previously unquestioned opposition to the death penalty might be hurtful to the surviving husband and father of the murder victims. This church is dealing with the reality of an abstract issue that tragically has become concretely personal.
What about you and your church? It’s very easy to be the church that condemns everything from the death penalty to homosexuality, depending on your church’s positions. But it becomes another matter to hold those same positions as stridently when a church comes face-to-face with life in all its messy imperfection.
“But,” many will protest, “the Bible says….” and the quotation of texts begins. Our best example of how to reconcile what the Bible says with real life is the example of Jesus.
Remember the story of the woman caught in adultery? Presented with a woman caught in the very act of breaking Levitical law, Jesus should have cited chapter-and-verse, and turned the woman over for appropriate punishment — death. Instead he stalled for time, challenged the accusers, and forgave the adultress. “Neither do I condemn thee,” he said. “Go and sin no more.” That is how real faith confronts real life in the real world. At least, according to Jesus it is.