Love your neighbor. It’s the Christian thing to do.

Here’s something you don’t know about me:  I once had a boyfriend who was a preacher for the Christian Reformed Church.  I thought I was in love with him. I thought I wanted to marry him. But what I didn’t understand, was that he didn’t love me. At least not in the Christian way, that is.  And to me, love without the light of Christ is not love at all. It’s just lust. What an oxymoron it is to be in love with a man who considers himself a servant of God, but is unable to do so in a Christ-like way.

Let me explain. When it came down to it, he told me that he couldn’t marry me (even though he said he loved me) because I was a Mormon (LDS), and Mormons are not Christian. As a “messenger of God,” that would just be wrong. I was devastated. It was tough for me, because I even though I never used the word liberal, I did tell him how I struggled with members of my own faith because of our different ways of thinking. And he told me that he loved me because I was so different in the way that I understood God: not like the hypocrites who talked the talk and couldn’t walk the walk. But I was so nervous about losing him because I was a Mormon, I never could come right out and tell him that I was a liberal.  Honestly, I hadn’t come out of that political closet yet.

We had a hard time letting go of each other. He said that he couldn’t let go of me, but he also couldn’t marry me. I knew that his love for me was conditional when he finally admitted to me that the reason he was stringing me along was because he was hoping that he would be able to convert me to his version of “true Christianity”. I had an even harder time explaining to him why it was finally so easy to walk away from him. I tried to use the parable of the Good Samaritan to show how he was like the priest and the Levite who professed to be godly men, but passed right on by the injured man. Although they professed to love God, they couldn’t love their neighbor (Matthew 37-39). I was trying to tell him that as soon as he admitted that he wanted me to leave my church, I KNEW that he didn’t love me.  Not in the way God asked us to love one another. He just didn’t get it.

So when I found this statement from The Christian Left, a group that I follow on Facebook, I was finally able to put my finger on what I was actually trying to say, and why it hurt me so much:

We believe one of the most important things we do here is let as many people as possible know we’re here. When we say “we’re here” we mean all 191,000+ of us. Do you know why? Because liberal Christians are tormented by conservative “Christians.” They are told they “can’t be a liberal and a Christian,” which is saying “You aren’t a Christian,” which is saying “God has rejected you.” Do you know what it’s like to have doubts on whether God has rejected you? We can’t think of anything worse, period. That’s why this community is so important and it’s why we keep coming back. Liberal Christians often suffer the rejection and alienation of friends and family. We want them to know they’re not alone and that God has NOT rejected them, period.

I added my own thoughts in the comment section:

This is what it is like being me. Except add the Mormon part to it, because many Christians will say you can’t be Mormon and Christian, while many Mormons say you can’t be Mormon and liberal. It’s a tough row to hoe.

When I was finally able to put both ideas together I finally knew why it was so tough to admit my liberal leanings to my boyfriend.  If he was struggling to accept me because I was Mormon, how would he handle it when he found out I was liberal too?  If I was afraid of the reactions of my Mormon friends and family when they found out I was liberal, how would my conservative Christian boyfriend handle it?  He didn’t. He couldn’t. It was a doomed relationship.

To be honest, even though I have some very good Christian friends, I DO NOT at all feel accepted by the general Christian public. Not because I am a Liberal, but because I am a Mormon. And once those who understand that I am a Christian because I am a Mormon find out that I am a liberal because I am a Christian, will they reject me too? So let me try to further explain:

Being a liberal Christian means understanding what Jesus meant when he told us to love God with all our hearts and then to “love thy neighbor as thyself”. He told us that there are no greater commandments than these two (Mark 12: 30-31). So why can’t we keep them? If you can accept yourself, knowing all of your flaws and inadequacies, and you can love God because you know that he loves you despite all of your inadequacies (THAT is God’s amazing grace), then why can’t you accept others whose flaws and inadequacies are different from yours?   Being a liberal Christian means knowing that placing judgement on others means asking for judgment upon your own head. Did not Jesus say “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2)?

I just wanted to be loved as God loves me. Unconditionally.  I guess that was asking for too much. I guess that is asking too much. I was hurt. I was rejected. By a human being. I’m not perfect. He’s not perfect. I guess I’ve been guilty of judging too. In the end, I am so glad that it didn’t work out between us.  It isn’t right for me to expect perfection from any human being.  I just wanted someone who was trying. And I have that now.

My second husband was Catholic when I met him. It didn’t bother him at all that I was Mormon. In fact, he was very interested in understanding what it meant for me to be LDS. I was worried that he might join the church for the wrong reason (me). I told him that it was okay with me if he wanted to stay Catholic. I told him that if he was really sure that he did want to be a Mormon, that I didn’t want him to do it until after we were married, and I even went so far as to tell him that I would be angry if I found out he was joining the church to make me happy. And I meant it. It was a year and a half after we were married that Tony “took the plunge”. And today, four years later, he is preparing to be sealed with me in the temple. We don’t always agree, and we definitely have our differences, but I do know that LDS or not, I have a truly Christian husband.

I admit that I still wish for an apology from my ex-boyfriend. It would be nice to know that he understood how he hurt me. In fact, it would be nice if we could all catch a glimpse into our neighbors’ hearts when we hurt them. Even though God can do it, we can’t. So why would we expect an an apology when we are hurt by our neighbors? You can forgive your neighbor when they hurt you and don’t apologize. Perhaps they have no clue that what they have done was hurtful. I was single after a divorce from my first husband for eleven years. He had been a member of the bishopric. It was during that eleven year period that I met that Reformed Christian boyfriend. I took a long time, but I was able to forgive my ex-husband. In fact, I was already into my second marriage before I could truly purify my heart and let go of that hurt. I’ll be able to forgive that old boyfriend too. And it will be a good thing because that is what we have been asked to do (Colossians 3:13).

All Christians don’t think alike.  All Mormons don’t think alike. You will even find differences of opinion from church leaders. It’s okay. You can love your neighbor despite their differences.  It’s what God asked us to do because he loves ALL of his children, Christian, Jew, Muslim, and Atheist. We are all loved equally because that is what God does. It is ungodly to be hateful and judgmental. If you can’t do it on your own, remember, “with God, all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). I am trying, and I have a husband who is trying. You can try too.