As I hope is evident on this blog, I am passionate about our communities being hospitable and open to diversity. I think hospitality is a non-negotiable of living in the way of Jesus. And I believe that we are called, as part of that hospitality, to engage those who are very different than we are with the unconditional acceptance and love of Christ. (Note: unconditional acceptance does not equal unconditional approval – within this kind of diversity there may be any number of ideas and behaviours that another given individual disagrees with – but the welcome and acceptance is unconditional none-the-less) I really value Paul’s teaching about different parts of the Body – I think we need one another, I think we learn and grow from rubbing against one another’s different thoughts and ways of processing.
But I don’t for one minute think that this ideal is easy or simple to live out.
In fact, I have times I just want to check out of the whole thing – because navigating difference with patience and grace can be just exhausting sometimes. Trying to explain nuance and embracing uncertainty and ambiguity to someone who sees in black and white, at times seems to be an exercise in futility.
Now, for a moment of transparency, I am an INFP. That means that on the Myers Brigg’s personality profile, I am someone who:
• Is focused on making the world a better place for people
• Does not like conflict – and in conflict places little importance on who is right or wrong – but focuses on how people are feeling – and can be a good mediator because of intuitively understanding people’s perspectives and feelings and genuinely wanting to help them.
• Is flexible – unless one of my values is violated – then I become an aggressive defender, fighting passionately for my cause
• Doesn’t like to deal with hard facts and logic – hates impersonal judgment because things are about real human beings
• Finds rules and regulations restrictive
• Has a high capacity for ambiguity
• Has a big focus on feelings and experience
These particular traits make me well suited to be a bridge-builder. But they are also traits that make it challenging to engage those who want to make logical decisions (that can seem impersonal), that line up with a set of rules (aren’t rules made to be broken?), and have matters settled (shouldn’t we keep an open mind here?).
This morning I was reading the Agenda for Synod for the denomination I’m a part of. In June I will be a delegate from my geographical region to the annual meeting where big decisions are made. Reading through overtures and arguments ….. I wanted to scream. It seemed pretty obvious to me that the NFP’s were all out at Starbucks engaging in deep conversation while the STJ’s in the group put all that stuff together. Then I read an article about the whole controversy around John Piper inviting Rick Warren to some big conference thing ….. and I wanted to scream again. The endless arguments, the forensic sifting of exegetical details, the defending and guarding of the truth …. They all make me tired. Given my awareness of my preferences in processing and decision-making, I have always told myself that these things are important for someone (else) to do ….. but some days I’m just not so sure. Not that I think the church needs to bend towards an exclusively NFP motif (I’m sure that would be a disaster) ….. but when I consider the lives of real people that somehow seem to be so easily missed in the midst of the arguments and debates and evidence and research ….. I have to ask sometimes whether we’ve completely missed the point of being the church.
After reading about Piper and Warren, I read Christianity Today’s interview with Jennifer Knapp. I haven’t commented on her coming out to this point – others have done so at length and I didn’t need to add my two cents worth particularly given that I hadn’t listened to her music up until this week (to my loss I might add). But as I read the interview, I was so struck by the humanness of it all. She didn’t have big theological answers. She didn’t fit into the “what side are you on” rhetoric – despite the fact that people would assume and declare that because she is in a same-sex relationship, she is on a particular side. But she says, “I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can.”
And the admittedly INFP in me asks, “If we do not make space for someone like Jennifer, in the context of our faith communities, to keep on exploring the life of faith, to keep on living in the way of Jesus ‘the best I can’, how will we respond to Jesus when he asks us why?”
I’m sorry – at least for today – I don’t want to argue the exegesis of arsenokoite or malakoi. I don’t want to want to rummage through 2,000 years of church tradition to dissect why the conversations around engaging our gay brothers and sisters didn’t come up sooner. I don’t want to fight about the place and weight of cultural context in our hermeneutical grid. I don’t want to endure accusations of compromise and relativism.
I just want people like Jennifer to be able to find a place where they can engage with Jesus and the Scriptures through worship and relationship with other followers of Christ.
I know that’s overly simplistic. I know that doesn’t answer all the questions.**
I’m an INFP – shoot me.
Jennifer said, “The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I’ve been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I’ve always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace.”
You know, the church needs its detail-oriented folks. It needs the folks who are logical. It needs the folks who like to follow the rules.
But I hope that the church still has room for the INFP’s too. Don’t be too quick to assume we don’t care about Scripture or the purity of the church or speaking truth about sin. Don’t be too quick to write us off as feel-good, wishy-washy, weaklings.
You need us. We need each other. And we all need to make room for the “other”.
** Note: This doesn’t mean I will never wrestle with those questions – I wrestled a great deal in the past and will inevitably do so again in the future ….. There IS a time and a place for those conversations …. But there is, I would suggest, also a time to stop and see one another’s humanity – each on our journey toward God, entrusting one another to the direction and guidance of the Spirit of Christ.