During the early portions of 2006, our church read Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. In that book he writes,
For Jesus, compassion was more than a quality of God and an individual virtue: it was a social paradigm, the core value for life in a community. To put it boldly: compassion for Jesus was political.
These words ring true for us and it seems strange that such words could even be considered controversial. Yet, in a world filled with division and political gamesmanship even a distinctively Christian word like "compassion" gets loaded with sectarian agendas. In the church, we can become caught in the crossfire and find ourselves polarized along partisan lines.
Along the way, we miss the point. To suggest compassion is political is to affirm our equality before one another and the level ground discovered at the foot of the cross, a place of no distinction and unconditional forgiveness. Here Christians have found their salvation. Here, all are welcomed. How can Christians operate any differently? How can a welcome in the name of this Christ be held narrowly?
God loves the world and wills for all in it an equal measure of compassion. This is good news: not only a private discovery, but a public declaration. We cannot hide it under a bushel, but proclaim it upon all rooftops. Receiving this underserved mercy freely necessitates offering it to others just as unconditionally. Our welcome cannot be with reservation and still be considered Christian. In other words, if these words are controversial, it is only because we have failed to live closer to their natural and logical implications.
Once Baptists were radical in our strong stand for freedom and the liberty of conscience (the divine right to believe and practice as one saw fit). Even if others disagreed with us, we respected and affirmed their right to differ. In order for faith to be authentic we felt it also must be free. We wondered how could a person legitimately say "yes" to God if not given substantial allowance to equally say "no". In order for the yes to be authentic, the no must be allowed.
At our best, we welcome all in order to love them and not judge them. We respect the rights of each other. Freedom is not an excuse for anarchy. But our welcome is without limits to each person. To behave legally and lovingly is our only standard.
All are welcomed here. No exceptions.