A couple of months ago I went to hear a new favorite author of mine speak. His name is Peter Rollins. He talked about how we often deceive ourselves and live in the realm of the “Acceptably Unacceptable.” It’s like this. Take the Civil Rights Movement for example. Our cultural values were that all people were created equal. Everyone deserved to be treated with equality and respect. Everyone deserved the same rights under the law. It was unacceptable to treat people any other way. It was unacceptable to use violence to oppress people. Those were some of our cultural values. But, even though that is what we said, a whole race of people were being treated in a way that was unacceptable, a way that was in direct contradiction to our stated values. We just turned our heads and pretended it wasn’t happening. We still treasured our values but in practice did what was unacceptable. That’s called the Acceptably Unacceptable. We do things we know are wrong, but everyone just pretends it isn’t happening. But, then someone like Martin Luther King Jr. and others come along and point out the truth about our game. It still goes on today in so many arenas. The church is not exempt.
The truth here is fairly simple. It doesn’t matter what we say the rules are. It doesn’t matter what values we get all emotional about. What matters is how we actually treat other people.
At the heart of the matter, it is about how we see ourselves. If we are grateful that God would love us and allow us to be a part of his family then that gratitude spills over into acts of love. If we think we are wonderful people who God is lucky to have on his team then we miss the gratitude and often lose the desire to serve others.
It isn’t about who is a better or worse sinner. It is about a proper understanding of grace. We live in a time where we feel good about ourselves and others celebrate us if we say we believe the right things, if we get all emotional about the right values. We pretend that is enough. But following Jesus is not about those things. It is about loving others. That is the bottom line. That is the final answer; love.
There is an ancient legend that speaks of the god’s failed attempts to guide humanity. Mortals were constantly getting lost and making bad choices. So the gods got together and took all of the wisdom of the world and put it in one library. Now the humans could go to this library and find the answer to any question and know exactly what to do in any situation. They would know how to live peacefully and joyfully. The problem was the library was so large no one would ever be able to use it. So they had all of the wisdom and guidance of the world condensed down to a single book. Unfortunately, the book was so big and so heavy that no one could open it. Finally, they condensed all of the wisdom and all of the guidance needed for humans in this world down to one word. They sent a messenger throughout the land to whisper the word. The word was “love.” (Peter Rollins)
How much do we love God? The answer is, how much do we love others?