There are some interesting points in the Gospels that I have never understood.  We all like to proof-text Jesus’ words to make one point or another, and, beyond that, I really love the Sermon on the Mount/Plain, and the Story of the Ungrateful Servant that follows it in Matthew. They form a significant part of the foundation of my relationship with Christ. At the same time, some of the passages in there confound me and perhaps always will. I’ve never really comprehended the idea that God would reward people who already have everything while taking from those who have little, though I’m pretty sure that this story from Matthew 25 refers to people who reflect the love of God, instead of people with material wealth. So when I think about the idea of “Big Tent Christianity,” one of the more obscure passages of John immediately comes into my head. Peter refers to John and asks Jesus “what about him?” and Jesus responds that if it is his will that John stay until Jesus comes back, “what is that to you?” It lead to some speculation about John’s place in the big picture, which he is quick to clear up, but I find myself coming back to it more and more often these days.

It seems that there are all too many people who cannot accept a faith that will accept people who do not share their values and beliefs. We hear quite a it about how certain people cannot be in a church, cannot be “saved,” cannot be ministers, cannot be married, cannot take communion, or just cannot be as fully “Christian” as the rest of us. If you press us on it, we run back to some Bible text, usually one that, in context, really doesn’t support the situation to which we’re trying to apply it. Sometimes, we can find a text that does perfectly apply, and we climb over a mountain of scriptures that tell us that we have no right to pass such judgment in order to use it. Basically, we make a choice to value one thought over all the others that we find in scriptures, because in doing so we have a weapon against people we refuse to accept.

Worse yet, when we abuse the scriptures in this way, we often do so as a basis for building a belief system that forces our faith into the mold we make with our prejudices. We gather with like-minded people to exclude or otherwise hurt others, but even that is not good enough for us. When we take this as far as it usually goes, we start believing that God must share our thoughts on these people and we cannot follow a God who does not. We start arguing about what constitutes an “orthodox” creed that must be believed by all “true” believers, including how the Bible must be interpreted and what God must be like. It puts us in a trap from which we may never escape, since we have made a stand on what God must be and if that’s not what God is, we don’t really have a God anymore.

So in the midst of this tendency on our part to determine everyone’s place in our neat little faith, Jesus asks us, like he asked Peter.”What is that to you?” A “Big Tent Christianity” is one where people of faith do not feel diminished because someone else is different from them or is “getting away with” something that they feel is a “sin” to them. It’s a faith that recognizes that we really do make our own choices as to what we accept and don’t accept, that other people’s choices will be different from ours, and that we have a common mission that is more important than those things we would choose to separate us. At the end of the day, our faith boils down to the relationship that we have with God through Jesus Christ, and you have no more right to dictate someone my relationships than I have to dictate yours.

If people do not share your way of seeing things and doing things, what is that to you, really? Is your faith really that shallow? Is your God really that small? In a world where there are so many people who are hurting and needing so much, is it more important to be “right” in your own eyes, or be the person God calls you to be?

What is That to You? There are some interesting points in the Gospels that I have never understood.  We all like to proof-text Jesus’ words to make one point or another, and, beyond that, I really love the Sermon on the Mount/Plain, and the Story of the Ungrateful Servant that follows it in Matthew. They form a significant part of the foundation of my relationship with Christ. At the same time, some of the passages in there confound me and perhaps always will. I’ve never really comprehended the idea that God would reward people who already have everything while taking from those who have little, though I’m pretty sure that this story from Matthew 25 refers to people who reflect the love of God, instead of people with material wealth.

So when I think about the idea of “Big Tent Christianity,” one of the more obscure passages of John immediately comes into my head. Peter refers to John and asks Jesus “what about him?” and Jesus responds that if it is his will that John stay until Jesus comes back, “what is that to you?” It lead to some speculation about John’s place in the big picture, which he is quick to clear up, but I find myself coming back to it more and more often these days.

It seems that there are all too many people who cannot accept a faith that will accept people who do not share their values and beliefs. We hear quite a it about how certain people cannot be in a church, cannot be “saved,” cannot be ministers, cannot be married, cannot take communion, or just cannot be as fully “Christian” as the rest of us. If you press us on it, we run back to some Bible text, usually one that, in context, really doesn’t support the situation to which we’re trying to apply it. Sometimes, we can find a text that does perfectly apply, and we climb over a mountain of scriptures that tell us that we have no right to pass such judgment in order to use it. Basically, we make a choice to value one thought over all the others that we find in scriptures, because in doing so we have a weapon against people we refuse to accept.

Worse yet, when we abuse the scriptures in this way, we often do so as a basis for building a belief system that forces our faith into the mold we make with our prejudices. We gather with like-minded people to exclude or otherwise hurt others, but even that is not good enough for us. When we take this as far as it usually goes, we start believing that God must share our thoughts on these people and we cannot follow a God who does not. We start arguing about what constitutes an “orthodox” creed that must be believed by all “true” believers, including how the Bible must be interpreted and what God must be like. It puts us in a trap from which we may never escape, since we have made a stand on what God must be and if that’s not what God is, we don’t really have a God anymore.

So in the midst of this tendency on our part to determine everyone’s place in our neat little faith, Jesus asks us, like he asked Peter.”What is that to you?” A “Big Tent Christianity” is one where people of faith do not feel diminished because someone else is different from them or is “getting away with” something that they feel is a “sin” to them. It’s a faith that recognizes that we really do make our own choices as to what we accept and don’t accept, that other people’s choices will be different from ours, and that we have a common mission that is more important than those things we would choose to separate us. At the end of the day, our faith boils down to the relationship that we have with God through Jesus Christ, and you have no more right to dictate someone my relationships than I have to dictate yours.

If people do not share your way of seeing things and doing things, what is that to you, really? Is your faith really that shallow? Is your God really that small? In a world where there are so many people who are hurting and needing so much, is it more important to be “right” in your own eyes, or be the person God calls you to be?

Learn more about Big Tent Christianity and their upcoming conference.

 

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