This week I’ve been hanging around at home with a few grad students as they stay at my house.

It’s interesting! They’re fascinating as representatives of new perspectives on lots of things, coffee, float spas, Confucianism, pedagogy (the art of teaching), gender sensitivity, racism, children’s literature, body shaming, academic culture, LGBTQ issues, Christianity.

There’s been a cultural shift that they represent. Many of our young adults are disillusioned with institutions, hard-and-fast rules, black-and-white thinking, moralistic traditionalism, judgmentalism. Of course, I am friends with other young people who remain quite conservative, comfortable with the conceptual categories and ethics they’ve been taught, but I to gravitate toward these more open thinkers. I have made the journey with them.

Why? Why do I like the questioning, the openness, the desire to move beyond our past understanding.

Because I think they treck a wiser path, and I think Christians in particular should listen to them.

One of my young moderns told me recently she was doing yoga and that her Catholic friend told her it was from the devil. Of course that’s not true, and of course she found that offensive and ignorant. She also told me that she had been raised Catholic but she decided she didn’t want to hate gay people and so she left the church. Of course, not all Catholics hate gay people, nor does the pope, but she was describing a kind of intolerance that didn’t seem loving or wise to her.

Another of my young progressive friends told me recently that he was reading Confucianism. I’ve read Confucius. I like him. Some Christians categorically oppose all eastern religions and philosophies. But there is another way to look at this. There is an ethos in Confucius that aligns with the ethos of Jesus. Confucius emphasized respect in relationships, filial piety, righteousness, human heartedness, goodness, benevolence. These are good things, Jesus things; these create good relationships. Christians can honor these teachings without turning them into religion, without abandoning what Jesus taught.

And one other of my young friends can’t seem to find a church where women are equally respected with men in pastoral and leadership roles. She wants that. She won’t compromise. I respect her for that. There is good Biblical support for that, if you want to see it. But in her community, that’s not to be found. I suspect many modern young women feel the same.

It’s good to remember that Jesus is simple. He taught us to love our neighbor. He taught us to love God. He taught us to be friends to strangers, to include the alien. When Jesus told us to go into all the world to represent him, he didn’t mean to go out and beat people up with morals, systematic theology’s or our preferred culture. I can imagine Jesus, even Paul, having a respectful conversation and debate with friendships with people of our worlds many different traditions. Jesus was motivated by love, not hate and he wanted to have dialogues not just preach sermons.

I’m not at all suggesting that there isn’t ignorance and falsehood and misinterpretation and oppression in the many philosophies and religions of the world. We all error in our thinking and believing. Christianity itself has often been mistaught, warped beyond recognition. And I’m not suggesting we l don’t contend for what is valid, true, wisest the best we know.

But consider Paul. When Paul went to Athens he identified with some of the things the Athenians believed. He started out with the truth that in God we all live and move and have our being. He honored their thinking.

In approaching our faith communities, other lifestyles, in approaching people on the other side of a political line, Christians need to remember that the people in all other groups are created in the image of God, God sends his sunshine and rain and blessings on them too, they too live and move in God, aware of that or not. They too have truth.

Let’s not turn Christianity into a bunch of rules, a raft of intolerance, a bunch of propositions or judgements we write on slate and present as a systematic theology that all others must accept to be loved by God or to be spiritual. That’s not working. Many modern people are abandoning the church because of that very kind of thinking. Intolerance isn’t attractive. It isn’t the mission Jesus started. He himself said he didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it.

Humility would suggest we go out into our world to learn, to listen more, to realize that truth is often a balance between two extremes, to realize we are the not the only ones who know stuff. How fascinating to explore, to better understand. How wise not to be threatened, to be willing to accept new interpretations, new perspectives, a different way of looking at the same old thing. How fascinating to be like Jesus. to love people.

Here is what we were taught to do.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:7-8

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