in praise of a faith without litmus tests

At five I asked Jesus into my heart like a proper pint-sized evangelical.  Jesus saved me from my sin and the B-I-B-L-E was the Word of God.

That was what it meant to be a Christian. Sure, what came next might turn your life upside down, but being a Christian itself was pretty straightforward.

Believe in the Bible?  Check.

Believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life?  Great!  Now let's reveal God's love and make disciples of every nation.

Christianity was a big tent.  If you loved Jesus and wanted to serve him, we were on the same team.  Team Jesus!  Faith or belonging never boiled down to infant baptism, evolution, women's ordination, dancing, predestination or denominationalism.  It was never about politics, either.

I thought evangelicals were those who believed the good news of the gospel--all Christians who took their faith seriously.  Only more recently did I realize that some American churches have narrower ideas of who's In and who's Out when it comes to having real faith in Christ.  To them, I would never even have had a place as the Table by virture (vice?) of having grown up in a Mainline denomination.

The internet and our own communities are bursting at the seams with stories of the walking wounded:  Christians and others burned by churches and believers.  Those made to feel unworthy because of questions or doubts.  People who walked away--or were chased off by lack of grace.  People who love Jesus but couldn't accept what other Christian tacked onto "orthodox" faith:  Jesus AND a Young Earth.  Jesus AND complementarianism. Jesus AND the Republican party.

I'm learning that my story is different than many.  The Church has been kind to me, even when I didn't toe the line.  She has loved, challenged and supported my faith and growth, and my heart breaks that my experience is rare in certain circles.

I've worshiped and served in myriad churches, youth groups and campus ministries.  I've worked in camping ministry and been in more bible studies and small groups than I can count with believers of varied denominations and demographics.  We made it work, together.  Redemption and a shared love for Jesus were stronger than any theological nuance or political position.

Christians far more conservative than I have loved me fiercely and humbled me with their generosity and hospitality.  Though I long for kindred spirits and peers at this place in my life, I've never been made to feel second tier among Christians because I didn't fit their mold. 

None of us was created to image God in the same way.  God's Truth will not be hemmed in by any one school, denomination or figure.

We have so much to learn from each other.

The broken, beautiful Church is full of sinners who do--and will--get it wrong.  We will miss the mark and hurt each other.  But we are also a beautiful Bride, and the Kingdom of God is growing in, through (and despite) us sometimes.

The ideological and theological differences that separate pale in comparison to the common heritage we find at the foot of the cross.

Jesus prayed that Christians would become one and said that our unity would draw the world to faith: 
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Let's dispense with the litmus tests and lines in the sand.  May love be our legacy as we follow after Christ.

How good and pleasant it is
   when God’s people live together in unity!

 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
   running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
   down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
   were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
   even life forevermore.
                                                  (Psalm 133)

shared with emily's imperfect prose.
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