How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?
I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it.
Christians are expected to be a people who bless. We were commanded so, in fact. Luke 6:28 goes so far as to instruct Christians to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”; Romans 12:14 echoes this, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse”. The Christians closest to Jesus were instructed to bless in even the most extreme sense – those that would later torture and murder them for their very own Christian beliefs. How ironic then that bishops from the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches recently ousted the Archbishop of Centerbury for offering blessings to gay couples. A harmless gay couple looking to participate in the church hardly sounds like a threat to the faith – yet scripture would still insist we bless them even if they were. Anyone looking to be part of the church should in fact be welcomed with open arms. This matter is not one of a liberal or conservative posture. This is a matter of basic Christian love and grace – actually acting like a Christian.
While there’s a lot of room in the Anglican community for differences of opinion, it is within the very fabric of a Christian to be a people who bless. Christians are called to love as Jesus has loved us (John 15:12). Blessing others is one of the ways in which a Christian mimics Jesus; “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? If you do good to those that do good to you, what credit is that to you?” Refusing to bless others who don’t meet your bar of acceptability is not only inconsistent with the Jesus of scripture, it is exactly the kind of behavior Jesus railed against in the religious leaders of his day.
The church has taken the common practice of blessing others and wrapped it into more formal liturgy, which is fine. Building fences around these man-made constructs, however, is playing with fire, at best, and at the end of the day any theology that inhibits doing one of the most basic things that defines a Christian is just poor theology. In my opinion, such disobedience to the Christian ethos has no place in the church. What troubles me is that not only should these bishops know this, it should have been written on their hearts. We are not the gatekeepers of blessing, we are the salt of the earth.
Since when did Christianity become such an entitled religion? What the world needs is more blessing. More peace. More of God’s outpouring. Not less. I am grateful that in all of my failings as a Christian, God has still had his hand of spiritual blessing on me. It is the infinite grace of God that transforms people’s hearts and lives, yet that grace seems to all be forgotten when you put on a funny hat. It is apropos that during this Lent season, we should be remembering the ashes from which we came, and just how wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked we all are without God. It is only by his grace that any of us should receive any blessing at all. As another Anglican bishop recently wrote, “we can only fully embrace God’s love and mercy when we come to terms with how completely unworthy of it we are.” Perhaps these other bishops – and maybe the rest of us could use a reminder from Matthew 10:8: Freely you have received, freely give.