This past week, on my Facebook feed as well as other news sources, there was one primary subject that just got everyone all riled up. I just have to say the words “Chick-fil-a” and everyone’s got a reaction, and opinion, or a story.
This is not a sermon about the evils of homosexuality. This is not a sermon about how homosexuality is a lifestyle that needs to be eliminated, as sinful. Neither is this a plea for acceptance, or a lesson in biblical interpretation regarding hat one Biblical scholar called “the clobber passages” of the Bible with regard to homosexuality.
It’s also a moot point as to whether anyone here participated in the day of support last week, because there’s only one Chik-fil-a in the Scranton area, and it’s in the food court at the Univ. of Scranton.
What matters here is that there are Christians on all sides of the issue, and that they are all earnest and seeking to do their best in witness.
And there are just some times when we’re going to differ.
Paul writes in his letter to the church at Ephesus, which is in what we know as Southern Turkey, along the trade road between Athens and Antioch, that “Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift…The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to maturity and to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4: 7, 11-13, NRSV)
In there is an allusion to the Body of Christ, which Paul says elsewhere (1 Corinthians 12) that the whole body of Christ needs parts that do different things, ears and eyes and feet and stomachs.
There’s a reason why there are so many denominations in the world—they all have different ways of understanding the word of God, the call from God, and how that is to be lived out in this world. For Methodists, our “23 herbs and spices”, our “special sauce”, is our understanding of salvation. We do not believe in “once saved always saved”. We believe in three ways of understanding God’s grace. There is prevenient grace, in which we are guided by God before we even acknowledge God’s presence. There is justifying grace, which is the moment when we accept that God’s grace works in our lives, we become one of God’s own and begin our journey to deepen our faith. That lifetime journey toward what Wesley called “entire sanctification” (which he believes he never himself reached), is led by what he called “Sanctifying Grace”. This is the journey toward resembling Jesus in our hearts and actions, becoming fully human in the process.
But because we understand salvation this way, it does not mean that others must agree with us, or be lesser. Presbyterians have a slight different take, a different recipe, and so do Roman Catholics, southern Baptists, and Egyptian Coptics. And all of us together make up the Body of Christ.
What is also true is that that same difference making up the whole is true of individual congregations.
To fill out that allusion, there are parts of the body that not only can’t do others’ jobs, there are also parts of the body that when they have come to contact, do not do well together. When blood comes into contact with brain cells, the result is not very healthy for the brain cells.
There may be Christian beliefs that you disagree with. It may be the church’s position on homosexuality. It may be the position on war. There may be some Christians whose beliefs you are “allergic” to, some that make you angry, and some that you merely consider less important than others do.
But to follow Paul’s analogy, they are no less the body of Christ for all their differences from you. And in the midst of all this kerfluffle over Chik Fil A last week, it is good to remember that those you disagree with are still children of God, and have within them a spark of God.
Even if you think they are flat wrong and dangerously misguided. We can argue, we can plead, but what we can never do is dehumanize them; we can never deny the spark of God within them.
So your “homework” this week, your growth in discipleship, is to go to lunch or have a conversation with someone who makes you nuts.