Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Drop the Handful of Stones

There is an interesting discussion here about this

I have too many thoughts to post in the comment section over there so here I am instead.

This is a personal story and somehow in life personal crap cures black and white thinking in such a hurry. It doesn't change what Scripture says. It just makes a person scratch their head and wonder what exactly did God mean in certain verses and who the hell knows what Jesus would do. I know Jesus loves and loves perfectly. What that love looks like in practical terms is a question I ask myself nearly every day.

My brother-in-law Abe lived common law with his partner for 6 years. He came from a faith background which dictated that you followed all the rules of the church or you couldn't be a part of it. I think his parents had the first inkling that he didn't want to be a part of the church when they decided to put him on tranquilizers when he hit adolescence (30 years ago). They just couldn't get him to follow the rules.

Abe got grace. I have never known someone who understood it as well as he did. He knew he was either at the mercy of God's grace or he was screwed big time. He levitated between accepting God's grace and feeling condemned because he couldn't follow church rules. He couldn't get the two to mesh. His personal choice for tranquilizers became booze as he tried over and over again to get what he knew in his heart to mesh with the childhood messages about (lack of saving) grace in his head.

His family didn't know what to do about his lifestyle. In the beginning they wouldn't invite him to family get togethers because to do so was to invite Abe's partner and well, that would be condoning their cohabitation, and they couldn't do that. What would people think? So we went through years of family gatherings without him there. I think eventually they would invite Abe but made it clear his partner wasn't. Would you show up? I wouldn't either. Screw them.

They must have changed the rules somewhere along the way because there was one Christmas family gathering where Abe and his partner showed up. They didn't stay long. It was too uncomfortable. For everyone.

Here is the short story. Eight months ago Abe was tragically killed. One of his drinking buddies ran over him and left him there. Abe's partner left the funeral arrangements to Abe's brothers - all of whom, except my husband, are in "the church". (Years ago my father-in-law's exact words to my husband were "If you were really a committed Christian you would be in the one true church cause you know better.")

It really pisses me off that death somehow absolves crappy behaviour. I mean on the part of the church not Abe. It was a very touchy thing to have a funeral in a church for a man who was not a member. But before his death not one of his family members in that church would have embraced Abe's struggling faith. The fact that he was not a member of their church was enough proof that he truly couldn't be saved. After all if you are, you know better and are a member. But at the funeral one of the preachers got up and said that in his estimation Abe had been right with the Lord. They could extend grace after death but could never do it before death.

His family really struggled with Canadian common law partner legislation after Abe died. Some thought they had every right to Abe's belongings. My husband had to advocate for Abe's partner over and over again because in his family's eyes they weren't married so how could she keep all Abe's stuff? It actually took a phone call from the cops to get that message straightened out in their heads.

So what would I do if there was a couple in my church who was living together, had a baby and were planning on getting married? Embrace the good in the situation. Celebrate the love. Drop the handful of stones.

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