Recently I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine about some of the issues that this blog has been attempting to address. During the course of that exchange the concern was brought up that the LCMS has a tendency toward a prideful church culture that values the purity of its doctrine over and above a church culture that shows the kind of simple, accepting, even nonconformist love that our Lord modeled.
It is not the first time I have heard the concern from someone. Nor, sadly, will it be the last. It grieves me each time I hear it. Perhaps more so this time because it came from a very dear friend who has become disaffected with the LCMS. He is a brilliant and talented man, who loves his Lord, but sadly, he has been hurt by the prideful church culture and experienced, at least from his perspective, so little of “the kind of simple, accepting, even nonconformist love our Lord modeled.”
I hurt for him, as I do for our church body, because I know there is truth to what he expressed to me. I have witnessed it myself; Pride in the rightness of our theology turns into arrogance, which gives way to belittling, which in turn leads to the dismissal and discarding of the person in the wrong as unworthy of affection. Perhaps Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 13 are more properly suited for these situations rather than at all the weddings I hear it read:
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ESV 1 Corinthians 13:1-6
The whole premise of this blog has been to move past the vitriolic and unloving practices that have plagued us. Its aim is to talk openly and honestly, all in Christian love, about what it means to be a faithful Lutheran in the 21st century.
After all, for all of the richness and treasures of our Lutheran theology, I do not want us to become, as Paul says, “nothing” because we “have not love.” But, I remain hopeful. As Paul notes, one of the characteristics about love is that “6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” And to be sure, there is need to repent of arrogant and hurtful pride. But not of true, honest, and faithful biblical theology. As such, the unloving nature of sinful, “wrongdoing,” and prideful people does not then negate the truth and love that is boldly present in our confessional Lutheran theology.
True, it makes it very difficult for people to witness the love of Christ in us should we let pride trump our love for our neighbor. But, as noted in a previous post, true theology is meant for proclamation, and the truth is that Lutheran theology does clearly call us to such repentance and does clearly call us to love our neighbor. That various Lutherans, whether pastor or parishioner, do not (at times) practice this when they should, only reveals the desperate need we sinners have for a Savior. And the awesome thing about Lutheran theology is that it never stops pointing us to our Savior! Here we can “rejoice with the truth” that the Savior who calls us to love others will never stop loving us, even when we selfishly fail to love others.
My prayer continues to be that we might be able to “rejoice with the truth” of our Lutheran theology while still “loving” those of differing perspectives.