One of the things I miss most from my childhood is certainty. There is a security in knowing precisely who was on the side of good and who was on the side of evil. This was especially helpful when it came to the Christian faith. Knowing the difference between good and bad had eternal consequences. For example, people who danced, went to movies, and drank alcohol were evil. Christians went roller skating, attended hay rides and watched “films” in church. This was stuff we never had to pray about; it was simply the truth.
As I got older my world began to shift. I attended a movie and I didn’t lose my faith. As a senior in high school I went to the prom and attempted to dance and never fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In seminary I remember going to a bar with other pastors and their consumption of beer did not seem to diminish or eliminate their call.
There were other things as well; Hal Lindsey, an End Times guru from the 1970’s and 80’s, was wrong about the Russians, the European Union, and the coming “chip” in my forehead.
Many of us have grown up with the idea the Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. To be perfectly honest I completely agree with this sentiment. Knowing that Jesus loves me no matter what provides a tremendous amount of certainty. What I have come to realize is that the certainty of my youth really wasn’t about certainty. It was more about defining who was and was not one of “us.”
This is a temptation that has been extremely difficult for the church to let go of. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden – the desire to eat for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve wanted the same thing I miss from my childhood; they wanted to know what was good and what was evil. This desire still plagues the church. We use better language, we want correct theology, we don’t want to confuse the congregation, and we want to live pure lives. All of these impulses are good and healthy, but when these desires move towards exclusion, condemnation, and prejudice we have moved into dangerous territory. The message of the gospel is inclusion and we would do well to follow Jesus’ example.