“Liberal” Christians are those who refuse to park their brains at the door when they go to church. No doubt other Christians say the same thing about themselves (who wants to admit to being brainless?) while at the same time teaching a faith of blind and often witless obedience.
Take this week’s Gospel reading, for instance: Matthew 5:21-37. An extension of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we hear that divorce is a sin and marriage to a divorced person is adultery. Quite apart from the damning consequences for a good number of Christians we know, such teaching chafes at our moral sensibilities and asks us to dig deeper.
Is the God of love really consigning to hellfire those whose marriages have broken up, both those who have been devastated by the desertion of a spouse, and those who have themselves painfully left a failing marriage? Are we to accept as literal, as many churches do, that divorce is inherently evil and that divorcees—and those who marry them—are sinners?
In 1977 the Anglican Church of Canada took a more conciliatory approach, citing God’s grace as prevenient to God’s judgement. While divorce must be seen in the light of broken promises, hence as moral failure, the Church took the stance that where sin abounds grace abounds even more. Since that time we have permitted the remarriage of divorced persons. It’s not rocket science. The good news we preach is not about sin and about its consequences. It’s about God’s grace!