For those freaking out about Rick Warren’s comments about the Catholic Church, MAYBE you didn’t read them. He is talking about a joint purpose in terms of supporting the family and traditional moral values in the public square.

If you are going to make theology a point of division on that, then no wonder our culture is in the position it’s in.

Such a stance (against what Warren is saying) is stupid, both as an abstract idea and a practical reality. We can have different theologies and the same, or very similar, values.

I’m tired of theology being used this way. We use it as a litmus test in truly idiotic and counterproductive ways that are not biblical. Doing good has no limits placed on it by theology. Jesus kind of blew that whole thing away with all that “Love your enemy” crap.

But of course, I don’t think it’s crap, although I’m inclined to think you do if you think working with people who love and value and cherish the family just like you do are somehow unworthy of working with you in pursuing its realization in public policy, because of theological differences. If Jesus commands us to love our ENEMIES, how on earth could such a stance be justified?

Many know this, but in case it has been forgotten, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, beyond exemplifying acts of extraordinary kindness between strangers Jesus redefined as “neighbors” (after commanding “Love your neighbor as yourself”), is particularly noteworthy for one very important reason: The Good Samaritan was a Samaritan, who in Jewish eyes at the time were the most heretical of the heretics. Samaritans did not even consider the Temple to be holy, nor did they engage in many other orthodox Jewish practices (though the first century was certainly a time of great religious diversity within Judaism prior to the advent of Christ). They were not considered “Jews” by Jews, and for this they were despised. But the commandment Jesus delivered to the lawyer who was trying to weasel out of loving his neighbor as himself by asking what Jesus meant by “neighbor” (some things never change) was, for a Jew at the time, literally unthinkable: Act like the Samaritan. Of course, he didn’t say adopt the Samaritan’s theology, or begin worshiping like the Samaritan. But he said to love his neighbor as the Samaritan had done, and thus concurrently extended the idea of benevolence beyond simply to one’s family, nation, or religion – to everyone.

Can it really be believed that Jesus would have objected to a Jew working with the Good Samaritan to help the stranger who had been mugged on the road in that parable? No, it cannot. And what Rick Warren was saying about the Catholic Church was not, as far as I can tell, intended to minimize genuine theological differences between Catholics and evangelicals, but rather to show that, at least within the paradigm of the Good Samaritan parable (my paradigm, not his), evangelicals have far more in common with Catholics than Jews had with Samaritans. And yet Jesus commended the Jewish lawyer to act like the Samaritan. We have theological differences, yes, but our values are so utterly similar, if not identical. Even if you believe, as some do, that the Catholic Church is utterly heretical, Jesus himself took that issue off the table when it comes to simply doing good to others.

And here is the thing: The Samaritan in that parable was a good man because he recognized the damage and he did something about it. Catholics and evangelicals both recognize the same damage that is happening to the family, to morality, to sexual ethics and to many other cultural concerns in our time. We both see the same man on the side of the road, mugged, injured and in danger of death. And the hard facts (for some evangelicals) are simply this: Some of the best, most amazing and most fruitful people in the world are Catholics … and I’m not even a Catholic.

So we have a choice to make, and not only when it comes to Catholics, but all those who, even if we have theological disagreements, share our same values, see the same problem, see the same injured and dying man on the road and desperately want to help him: We can either be the orthodox, theologically straight Levite, or we can be the Good Samaritan, join with other Good Samaritans and live out the true theology Jesus the Messiah laid out for us: Love of God and love of neighbor.

What will it be?

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