I will start with a quote from Zack’s response to my last post on cross-gender friendshios (which is worth reading, giving a good explanation of the things I was talking about, from the perception of the culture he was born into):
“We don’t often find Jesus bending over backwards to not offend His culture. On the contrary, He went against the grain precisely to demonstrate how backwards their culture was, and to reveal to them what God’s love looks like in society.”
That’s the context in which I would place the whole subject of cross-gender friendships, but this topic of subversive love is so much broader that this, and it must have a central place in our Christian life if we want it to make any sense at all. Jesus, Paul and the early Christianity did not only summarise the whole law in the ‘Love God above all and you neigbor as yourself’, but they also lived that way, which was not just a choice, but also an orientation, and a lifestyle, a transformation, a whole new way of being and relating to the world.
So when we look again at the story of the woman at the well (see john 4), we clearly see this revolutionary way of lovingly relating at work. No jewish rabbi at that time would ever even think about being seen with a woman of questionable reputation, even if she wouldn’t have been samaritan. There was a great segregation of the sexes, and a looking down on sinners, and the way Jews reacted to samaritans would be considered racist by todays standards. But against all those cultural taboos, Jesus just talked to her, in a friendly and egalitarian way. No matter how we try, we will not realise how subversive and not done such a thing was. And we are called to follow Jesus and do likewise as He did.
The well-meaning intentions of people who are abstaining from stuff like being seen with people of the other sex or sinners or other wrong company might stem from an honest trying to do good, but it’s far away from Jesus’ teachings and example. And it may be much closer to the one kind of people Jesus always rebuked: the religious elite of his time, like the pharisees and sadducees. He was the one who hung out with sinners and the pariahs of his age, with litteral lepers and traitors of Gods chosen people. We are not called to carefully watch our reputation, we are called to embody christs love, and we are called blessed when we are persecuted for that (see the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5)
In our christian communities we should be one, without distinctions based on race, gender, age, musical preference or social class. Neither greek or Jew, male or female as St-Paul calls it. The first christians lived that way, and so did countless other christian communities in all kinds of situations in the last 2000 years, from old to new monastics, from anabaptists to Jesus people communes. And those communities were not only focussed to keep thier love inwards, but also to sharing it with the world, with hospitality, generosity, charity.
A comment here is that, while I do believe that we have to contextualise the gospel and translate it into each culture we are in ourselves, we do not have to let the culture and it’s definitions and taboos, or even definitions alter the gospel. Au contraire, we should let the gospel transform the culture, just as we need to be transformed ourselves! We come as we are, but no way that we will stay as we are, otherwise our good news does not make any sense at all…
And this may come down to something you could call christian anarchism, or better Love-archy. We don’t listen to then written or unwritten rules that try to put boundaries on our love, just like Jesus who talked with the woman at the well as if it wasn’t special at all to do such a thing…
And I know that I fall short in any way. Both in my personal life and in communal life with my brothers and sisters in christ, and I want to repent of that. I don’t want to see the prayer of st-Francis as inspirational but faraway from my daily life. I don’t want 1 Cor 13 and verses like ‘perfect love drives out all fear’ to be hypothetical theory, but I want to learn how to live them.
This is my new motto for my life:
I want to learn how to love, the rest are details.
will you guide me, Spirit of love?
will you join me, my brothers and sisters?
will you be my all, Christ?
ps, for some inspiration go look at the revolt collective or read shane Claiborne’s book ‘the irresistible revolution’. Or look at those countless hero’s and examples that we have in the history of our faith who lived a life of subversive love. We are surrounded by a witness cloud!!