Acting Like Jesus
by the Reverend Dr. Michael Piazza
In a conversation with my mother many years ago, I gained some insights about why people resist changing their minds about social justice issues, and I tried to explain to her she really doesn’t take the Bible literally.
For example, she was completely ignoring many of the Levitical laws. The ONLY part of that code she took seriously was the two verses about a man lying with another man. She lived near the coast of Georgia, and not a week of her life passed without eating pork and/or shellfish. (There are many more biblical injunctions against what she eats than against homosexual acts.) She taught a Sunday School class, cut her hair, and opposed slavery, all in opposition to certain teachings attributed to the Apostle Paul. She didn’t want to exclude people who had been divorced from leadership of the church or from heaven, though Jesus himself talked about divorce.
Time after time, she interpreted what the Bible said for the circumstances in which she lived. Why was this issue of same-gender love so different? After a pause, she said to me, "You went to seminary and know how to evaluate scripture and its context, but I do not. If I start randomly pulling out one brick here and another one there, pretty soon the whole house of my faith might come tumbling down. I have to trust what my pastors tell me because I don’t have the tools to build another faith by myself."
She was afraid to question what she had been told her entire life or to dispute what her southern Methodist church still held to be true. This fear has been used by the church to control people for centuries.
The turning point in my conversation and, ultimately, in my adult relationship with my mother was when I said to her, "You know we might disagree on how to interpret Leviticus, or some of the things Paul wrote, but I want to challenge you to see if we don’t pretty much see eye to eye on the words of Jesus."
Reflecting on their many visits to the Cathedral of Hope, which I pastored for a long time, my mother told my niece, "I don’t know about the gay stuff, but that church does more of the work of Jesus than our Methodist Church." So, she decided that acting like Jesus was more important than anything Paul might have written.
Rev. Dr. Michael Piazza
© 2023 Michael Piazza
Rev. Piazza is a nationally-known author, activist, and church growth consultant.
He is the founder and president of Agile Church Consulting and the senior pastor of Arlington Congregational Church in Jacksonville, Florida
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