Hi Crazy Quilt!
I was pretty much raised in the church.
One of the strongest teachings was that we were not to offend others and make them stumble. At first this made perfect sense to me.
I’m not sure when I realized I never believed smoking or drinking was a sin. Maybe it was because my mom and dad would drink. I was always around it so it wasn’t a big deal. And many of my friends smoked. I never thought anything of it.
My youth leaders always used the verses about not offending people or causing them to stumble to mean that we shouldn’t drink or smoke or chew or dance with naughty girls that do. Or something like that.
But at some point it suddenly dawned on me… and I was a teenager at the time… that this was being used to keep me obedient, to keep me in line, and force me to conform to the leaders’ expectations. I frankly said to myself, “Heck with that!” and kept believing that drinking wasn’t a sin, and that if it caused someone to stumble it was because they couldn’t handle it.
And I seemed to be amongst people who were increasingly unable to handle things.
This teaching about offending people and causing them to stumble, I came to discover, was not just a religious issue, but a common cultural one. It also dawned on me that our cultures, our societies, our groups, use this peer pressure to make us conform to the community standards and expectations.
But here’s one of the biggest revelations I had while I was still a teenager: Paul, who wrote all that about offending the weaker brethren, was probably the most offensive person on the planet at the time. He was the one who said to be a slave to no man because we were bought with a price! The truth seems to be that I must live free, and how people react to that is their issue. It’s their responsibility how they respond to my freedom. I can’t be a slave to their sensitivities. However, at the same time, I should not intentionally intend to hurt someone. So… I concluded Paul was fierce about personal freedom, but he was also just as fierce about the quality of community. Paul was wrestling with what I wrestle with: How can I be free without violating the freedom of others?
This is why I think TLS is working so well. I think most if not all of us have come to a place where we are not offended by the beliefs of others. We’ve mostly come to realize that how I respond to the differing beliefs of someone else is my issue, not theirs. It’s my response, not their belief, that is key.
Unless they believe I’m an idiot and need to be destroyed.
But you get my point. TLS is what I call a “crazy quilt”. We are a crazily mixed up non-pattern of believes sewn together in a mystifyingly diverse community called The Lasting Supper.
And we’re keeping each other comfortable and warm with it.
I love you crazy people!