A call for unity in the midst of differences

  • Thursday, March 28, 2019 10:54am
  • Opinion

By Jenny Smith

I remember sitting in a friend’s dorm room in college and a few of us got to talking about homosexuality. I quickly realized we did not see eye to eye on it. Each friend shared how their faith communities and families had shaped their perspective and what they understood to be true now.

I said: “I was raised with the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a discernment tool when trying to make decisions. We were taught there are four elements to consider: Scripture, Reason, Tradition and Experience. We look to our sacred stories first for where the Word of God speaks. We also deeply consider what reason tells us. We don’t check our brains at the door. “Does this make sense from what we know about humanity? We look back to our rich historical tradition to see what others have learned along the way. We’re not starting from scratch now. We consider our human experience. Does this connect with how we’ve experienced love and grace from God in this world?”

You can imagine that’s not what my friends were expecting. But I didn’t know how else to answer because I simply had a different experience and practice growing up in faith.

Isn’t it amazing that so many self identify as Christians or Jesus followers and yet, we see things so differently at times? We’re all reading the same book, right?

Maybe you’ve been a part of a church where some thought homosexuality was a sinful choice. Others have come to believe it’s above your pay grade to make that decision and you’re struggling to reconcile what that means for your faith. Still others have carefully and prayerfully discerned God created all humans and called them good. And that we’re invited to love, welcome and honor all the ways love shows up in our world, even if we don’t always understand it.

It’s not easy to figure all this out when it comes to following Jesus. It’s a journey we’re each invited to make. We dig into history and ancient Christian understanding and what we’re learning about the human body now. We get to know someone we might usually shy away from. We ask new questions. We challenge our assumptions because God can handle it. We doubt, wonder and reflect. You may have seen in the news lately that my tradition, the United Methodist Church, took some contentious global votes on human sexuality. It’s been a difficult season to watch as the denomination I love continues to fight about this. I think we’ve lost our founder, John Wesley’s, perspective: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? As Jesus followers from many traditions and understandings, may we do the hard work to see our unity even in the midst of difficult differences. May we love God and neighbor, even if they don’t look or love like us. May we name our belief and experience of God while honoring another may see it a different way. May Marysville continue to be a safe, growing, loving and gracious community because we each show up to each other in beautiful and kind ways.

Jenny Smith is pastor of Marysville United Methodist Church. Her faith column runs monthly.

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