jesus wore loose pants

5 10 2009

Maybe it’s a boy thing. Maybe you misjudged your new purchase, or you’ve had them too long and they’ve shrunk – or, of course, your waistline has grown. But there’s nowt more uncomfortable that pants that are too tight. That constant sense of discomfort, wriggling around to ease the pressure. Getting irritable. Searching around for the reason why and missing the simplest answer. Just loosen your pants.

lovely pants

lovely pants

There are many people who follow Jesus, but who seem to have their pants on too tight. People who are so utterly convinced of their rightness, having sat down with Jesus and had the “so what is the definitive answer to…” conversation I obviously missed out on. People who seem to take certain parts of their religious convictions way, way more seriously than others.

The issue of homosexuality is a big one at the moment, with many groups making definitive pronouncements. And for some, this issue defines everything. Along with, of course, 7-day creation, that defines everything. And penal-substitution, which defines everything. And all the other things that define everything. In his book Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell uses the image of dogma and theology needing to be more like a trampoline, that flexes and bends to a certain degree as we discuss things, rather than being like a brick wall that is solid, immovable, and collapses if we take some bricks away.

I find that helpful. Otherwise, we are in danger of ending up down a theological cul-de-sac. Here’s an example. In this post the tornado the lutherans and homosexuality, author John Piper justifies a tornado hitting a convention of evangelicals, who were simply discussing pro-gay issues, as a ‘judgement from God’. That sort of thinking seems to be so un-Jesus-like, whatever our views on the sexuality issue. Maybe it is peculiarly American; it is certainly less prevalent here in the UK. For thinkers like that, because their views are so fixed, everything else revolves around those views. Had the sun shone, would that have been a positive judgement? Has it shone at previous conventions? There are so many holes in such a ludicrous pronouncement.

theological cul-de-sac?

theological cul-de-sac?

I remember when I was researching  a project on the theology of contemporary worship songs, and came across Christians who would not sing any Graham Kendrick songs – not because his particular lyrics were ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’, but simply because he came from the ‘charismatic movement’. Their view was that as good fruit cannot come from a bad tree, his songs must be avoided. Theological cul-de-sac? Pants on too tight? Someone need to chill out?

Yes, we are called to make decisions on some issues. Yes, we cannot be endlessly flexible – but then, a trampoline isn’t, otherwise it is not a trampoline but a tarpaulin on the floor being stamped on. But we can still talk, and meet, and worship together. At the recent Southwark Diocese Clergy Conference, we had Bishop Graham Cray (former Bishop of Maidstone, now leader of Fresh Expressions) stating a conservative understanding of human sexuality, yet saying he was open and willing to talk with people who think differently, and help to resource their churches in ways that he can help; and we had the Bishop of Maryland Eugene Sutton stating a liberal understanding, leading a church gathering resources (but not yet endorsing them) for same-sex blessings, yet saying he was wanting to build links with more conservative people.

For me, this is not about leaving the gates open so wide that ‘anything goes’. But it is about wearing loose pants. Not getting so up-tight so quickly; not becoming so entrenched that the only voices we hear are those that agree with us. This way, hopefully, if and when we do have to make unpopular choices, we can do so in  the context of friendship, not of proof-texting one-up-manship, which seems to me such a public-school past-time with posh boys shouting “my daddy’s car is bigger than yours and here’s the measurements in Latin”.

We loosen our pants in the context of worshiping the same Lord, Jesus Christ. In the context of there being a whole lot more important issues on the agenda, like global poverty, local poverty, depression, loneliness, and lots of people thinking that God hates them or simply doesn’t notice them. And we should remember that sometimes, to quote Rob Bell again, from his thought-provoking talk the importance of beginning in the beginning, we might just need a group hug. And sometimes, we just need to have a giggle. So let’s lighten up, and watch this:

.

Let’s loosen our pants, but please remember to keep them on.

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2 responses

15 11 2009
Tim Richards

Hey Kevin,
this is quite a delayed comment back!
just wanted to say i really enjoyed reading your blog (and the video is class too!)
God really has blessed you with the ability to speak truth on so many issues, i couldn’t agree with you more-sometimes we get so caught up arguing that on inward focused arguments- such as should we allow homosexual vicars that we forget the more imporant issues going on out there, Jesus loves everyone equally right so who are we to not, thanks alot Kev-
keep loosening your pants!

1 06 2010
10,000 thank you’s « the blog of kevin

[…] of my favourites: beatiful.sparkly.graffiti.people a slumdog sent(i)mentality jesus wore loose pants i am the vicar i am how to look good […]

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