#TheGreatest is the reflection for September 20, 2015.  What does a gay rights columnist point out that all Christians should know and listent to?  Find out how in “The Greatest”, the podcast for this week.  Download it into your phone.   #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Love #Sacrifice #BeingGreat #Service #MartinLutherKingJr #JulieBindel #LGBTQ #MensRights #BlackLivesMatter #ISIS #WestboroBaptist #MemoriesPizza #SeektoUnderstand

For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   9/20/2015 The 25th   Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Mark 9:30-37.

         You may not know Julie Bindel, but she is a lesbian activist who writes a column for the United Kingdom newspaper “The Guardian”. I had no idea who she was until last week when I was cruising my Facebook feed and saw that someone had posted a video that caught my interest. The video featured a man who is clearly a conservative on the opposite end of the spectrum from Ms. Bindel.

         The man in the video was emphatically decrying Ms. Bindel’s views as he saw them. He said that she had advocated segregating heterosexual men in internment camps and allowing women to check them out like books in a library. That would be something to get worked up about and, if true, I am glad that someone is speaking out against it.

         I say, “if true,” because it is important to look into the sources of claims of anyone on the internet. So, I went in search of these quotes on The Guardian webpage. I had to read a lot of articles about why lesbians should live in communes and raise each other’s children, why Ms. Bindel feels heterosexual men are the cause of the world’s ills, and why gay parades and activists have become too tame for her. Amidst all of her philosophies and points, there was one article about an African village made up of only women, where men are not allowed.

         As I read the article, incredibly well written stylistically, I was aghast. I wasn’t upset by Ms. Bindel, but I was clearly upset by what she reported. The reason the women formed their own village is because they were people who had been cast off by society due to rape, abuse, and neglect. These women were also systematically segregated from opportunity. The stories were heart breaking. It is very clear why these women would want to form their own village and not allow men into it. Yet, I was clearly appalled, too, at the neck stretching that Ms. Bindel went through to show that women didn’t need men. The village, to her, was an example, in my estimation, although not explicitly stated, that heterosexual men were not needed because of their abuse of women.

         What is important here is something that I think we in the Christian community need to hear and speak up about: no one should be treated as badly as these women. No one should have to face institutionalized prejudice that harms them physically and brutally. Yet, where Ms. Bindel goes wrong, in my estimation, is that the people who should be screaming the loudest about this ought to be heterosexual men. In particular, Christian men should be screaming loudly about the poor treatment of these women.

         Why? As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” When men use power anywhere, it can, and it will, be ascribed to all men. Furthermore, we ought to be concerned because it is loving to be concerned.

         Sandwiched between two stories of how Jesus healed the sick and others healing in Jesus’ name, he tells the disciples that he is going to be betrayed, killed, and then rise again. Jesus tells the disciples about all the sacrificial things he is about to do. The disciples respond by fighting amongst each other about who is the greatest within the inner circle.

         There have been legitimate concerns raised by women and members of the gay community. The women in that African Village have been treated abominably. The people of Syria regardless of religion or sexuality need our help. Christians in Iraq are being killed. People in Gary are caught in systemic poverty. Gay rights advocates are desecrating Christian symbols. Black Lives Matter groups are rudely interrupting speakers at the speaker’s own event. Christians are haunting graveside services of military to decry homosexuality. Women in Africa have to set up villages because they are cut out of a society because someone else decided to rape them. What do all of these things have in common? They are all results of the misuse of power.

         Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, the one through whom all things were made, who could squash anyone, demonic or otherwise, like a bug on the window sill, comes and does not fight the forces of evil with powerful shows of force. Instead, he sacrifices himself for the good of everyone-even those who do not believe in him and hate him.

         Is it lost on everyone but me that when Jesus wants to tame the twelve, he takes a child in his arms and tells these grown masculine men that they must be like that child? Is it lost on everyone but me that he tells these men that they must welcome children, a job that was set aside for women in the culture of his day? What is the commonality? It is love.

         Men’s movements, racial equality movements, gay movements, women’s movements, any movement of the oppressed anywhere begin with the articulation of grievances. Usually, those grievances are legitimate. People should not be killed because they are gay, transgender, black, Hispanic, etc. People should not be put out of business in small rural communities because they are attempting to live out their Christian faith. People should not be killed because killing is not an act of love. Love is an act of sacrifice. Active love paints a stark contrasting picture that exposes the abuse of power.

         As I have said before, 1 Corinthians 13 should NOT be read at weddings to describe romantic love. Romantic love is easy. It is the infatuation with another person or thing that makes sacrificing for them easy. All the talk of love in the Bible covers stuff that is hard for us to do. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not necessarily agree with anyone. Love acts in such a way that the dignity of a human being is respected as we articulate where we disagree. Love heals. Love forgives. Love reaches out to our enemies, those with whom we most fervently disagree and seeks to understand them, their cause, their pain. As you can see, love is never about who is greatest.

         In fact, love is never about prestige, office, or privilege. Love is never about using power to force others to do what we want. Our best example is God himself. When people say to me that God is not just because he doesn’t force other people to be just, those people have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to love. God is not going to force anyone to do anything. That would be a violation of their personhood. In the end, when we face the final judgment, when our existence moves from the impermanent physical state to the permanent spiritual realm, then we will be held accountable.  Until then, we are in the time of salvation, the time of forgiveness, the time of repentance, the time of opportunity to love others as we wish to be loved.

         Rape is wrong. Killing people is wrong. Treating a person badly is wrong. If it is because they look differently than us, act differently than us, even to the point of sin, treating them badly is just wrong. So, anyone who thinks that being a Christian is about the elevation of office so that they can Lord it over the others, they are wrong. Unfortunately, we have been dealing with this for millennia. ISIS is wrong to force others to believe what they do by the sword. How do we Christians know? We know because we did it and it is wrong.

         The reason the attendance at Christian congregations is down is because Christians thought that they could create a society with rules and power structures that would influence people to be Christian. When I look at it, it is no different than the apostles squabbling about which of them is greater as they walk behind and stand in the shadow of Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

         So, Ms. Bindel, we may disagree about a great many things, but we can agree on one thing: there should never be a power structure that is based upon who is in and who is out. Or, do we agree? There should always be a power structure based upon love. It should be as gentle as one that welcomes children and fosters their healthy growth by a leader who serves even unto the point of giving up his life for his people. We who follow Jesus ought to take stock in our lives and ask where we are doing the same. We who follow Jesus ought to rejoice that we follow such a leader who shows us the way and opens his arms for his children every moment, every day. Amen.

         This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2015.