Don't Compare Apples and Oranges

by | Mar 26, 2019 | 8 comments

Satan offered Jesus power over all the kingdoms of the world. Tempting indeed for a person who was here to proclaim the Kingdom. Yet what Jesus meant by “kingdom” and what Satan meant were two entirely different things.   Jesus had to have understood the difference. Otherwise, he would have succumbed to a soul-killing temptation.
Just as Jesus had to be clear about meaning, and to not project his understanding of Kingdom onto Satan’s, so we have to be clear about the meaning we ascribe to words. And to not project our personal definitions onto someone else’s words. Otherwise it’s like comparing apples and oranges and finding oranges wanting because they are lousy apples.
The Traditional Plan and the One Church Plan had different meanings for different General Conference constituents. From what I gather, many delegates who voted for the Traditional Plan were not voting against gays. Rather, they were voting for something else. Likewise, many delegates who voted for the One Church Plan weren’t voting against Biblical authority. Rather, they were voting for something else.
Some people are saying, “The United Methodist Church now rejects gays.” But IS that what happened at General Conference? That depends on who you ask.
I have to admit that as a One Church Plan proponent, I didn’t get why people would vote for the Traditional Plan since it seemed to allow space and grace for theological differences. So, I asked around amongst my friends and colleagues who supported the Traditional Plan. This is what I found:
One friend and colleague believes that the church moves forward only when it is countercultural. John Wesley challenged the culture of his time. Martin Luther challenged the culture of his time. Thus, my friend believes that we must challenge the culture of our time.
Another friend supports the Traditional Plan because she feels it supports a deep reverence for God and the Scriptures.
A third colleague believes that God alone wills human sexuality and that the will of God is delineated through the creation, and union, of Adam and Eve, which was male and female, and thus heterosexual.
When I polled One Church Plan proponents, here is what I found:
One friend supported the One Church Plan because her interpretation of the Bible prioritizes Jesus’ first and second commandments (to love God with our whole being, and our neighbor as ourselves) above any passages related to sexuality.
Another colleague supported it because of his understanding that our United Methodist baptismal covenant welcomes all people —regardless of sexual orientation—into the fullness of the life of Christ, and the fullness of the life of the church.
A third friend and colleague supported the One Church Plan because it would allow United Methodists the freedom to follow their conscience as they minister with the love of Christ in their various settings.
It is tempting to use either Traditional Plan or One Church Plan rationales as justifications to bolster your arguments for why supporters of the plan you didn’t support are wrong. I get it.   I’m quite capable of falling prey to the same temptation.
Here’s the thing, though. Making them wrong victimizes both you and them. Because it’s an “against” position. In the law of emotional triangles, what goes around comes around. Victimizing others because you feel victimized simply reinforces victimization. Jesus put it this way: Judge not lest you be judged. This is a spiritual temptation that will not get us where we want to go, assuming that where we want to go is Christ-like love.
A few caveats: First, to be sure, some folks did vote against gays and some folks did vote against Biblical authority. Second, regardless of why people voted the way they did, votes have unintended consequences which can do great harm. Third, I am not urging anyone to leave the denomination or to stay. That choice is between you and God. What I am doing is encouraging us to expand our powers of emotional intelligence as we traverse this Lenten journey.
Want to act instead of react? Step out of the emotional triangle and self-differentiate. Have the courage and clarity to say what you are for instead of simply reacting against what you oppose. In other words, lead with vision and not from reaction.
Self-differentiation is a key ingredient of emotional intelligence. Jesus shows us how it's done. Click To Tweet Notice that Jesus didn’t fight Satan in the desert, or even quarrel with him. Instead, Jesus simply articulated his own vision again and again. It’s what allowed him to emerge unscathed from his 40-day journey through the desert.
How will your 40-day journey go?

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  1. Rondel Boyd

    It is odd that our Bishops appointed The Way Forward Committee, called the special conference, watched the process unfold, and now unwilling to accept the out come. They also ask that the whole church pray for God’s will to be found. Seems they have no understanding as to how God answers prayer. Now many of the church leaders, “Bishop’s” Are leading protest all over the land. What a great witness, and they are people who have made vowels to uphold the BO. Like a child who doesn’t get their way. Thank The Good Lord, we have a goodly number of Bishops who are past that stage in life. If this few are to act like children, then one would think we should treat them like children. No we just need to keep praying for them that they would help us to do our best to help the church change the world, rather than the other way around.

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Even though I suspect you and I may see the process differently, Rondel, I appreciate your weighing in.

  2. Stephen Pudinski

    I stand for loving my God with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength and loving my neighbor as myself. My God will judge me if I am wrong.

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      It’s really good practice to state what we are FOR, Stephen! This will definitely get you ready for casting a vision and aligning others to it.

  3. Effie McAvoy

    Just one question:When the Central Jurisdiction was formed in the 1930’s to separate white folk and black folk was there a “wrong” or a “right”? I ask because harm was done then and it is being done now. It seems in the UMC someone always must be excluded from the whole of the body…why is that?

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Effie, I have given a lot of thought to “why someone always must be excluded from the whole of the body.” I write about it extensively in “The Jew Named Jesus.” Bottom line is this: I think Christianity is founded in a false dichotomy of a “good Christian Jesus” who stood against “bad faithless Jews.” Thus in order to stand “with Jesus” Christians believe they have to stand “against” someone else. That’s a deadly proposition.

      From The Jew Named Jesus, page 95:
      “Left unchecked, these negative us versus them dynamics will continue to play out: Jesus stood against Pharisees, or Sadducees, or high priests, or scribes, or religious leaders, or the Temple, or moneychangers or righteous people, or people who lived by the Sabbath or purity laws. Therefore in order to stand with Jesus, I, too, must stand against someone else. That by necessity creates enemies. We have rehearsed that all the way to the Holocaust. In our rush to stand with Jesus we have set ourselves against such a wide variety of people that we Christians have isolated ourselves. Who’s left to either stand with us or against us? No doubt our increasingly open society with a growing ethnic plurality will continue to identify new people who are not yet ‘in.’ In the meantime, the religion of love has become rigid and exclusionary. Could this be why church rolls are shrinking while ‘alumni of the church’ are growing in numbers?”

      This tendency to make others wrong or to identify enemies in the name of Jesus is why I am such a proponent of emotional intelligence, of not demonizing the other, etc. Too much standing against others takes us to a place that kills the body and the soul.
      Now does that mean I think the Traditional Plan best expressed how I understand Christ’s love? No, I don’t. At the same time standing against those who voted for it only makes more enemies. Doing it in the name of Jesus doesn’t get me where I want and need to go. It creates less love, not more. Been there, done that.
      Rather than either/or, I advocate a third way. I believe that Jesus–rather than being a good Christian God/guy who stood against bad faithless Jews–is better understood as a passionate Jew who stood WITH and FOR his people–in the best of the Jewish prophetic spirit.Seeing Jesus in this way empowers his followers to stand WITH and FOR ALL people. This is what I advocate.
      As I said in the article: articulate what you are FOR, not what you are AGAINST.
      Hope this helps explain my thinking.

  4. Nancy Peters

    I love your “finding oranges wanting because they are lousy apples.” Yes, I find the GC decision for the Traditional Plan distressing, even incomprehensible. However, I know a few things for sure: 1) I often don’t understand how God uses human actions for His own intents, but He does. 2) I’m not God so I don’t have to make or understand His actions. 3) Not being God, I not only don’t have to be the judge, I’m instructed not to be. 4) Will this divide the church, or will God use it to multiply the church? I vote for multiplication, not division.

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Thanks for weighing in, Nancy. I appreciate your thought process. I think there may be some of both–division and then multiplication.


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