“What caused you to change your mind….?
It’s a question I’m often asked.
I wish I had a deep, philosophical answer. I don’t.
When I was “called to the ministry” at the age of 15, it was basically a “call to preach” – to tell people the Truth. I had it. I knew it. The truth. At least I thought I did.
For most of my early years as a pastor, I didn’t do a lot of listening. I did a lot of talking. Telling people the truth.
Then around the year 2000 several members of AA began attending the church I was pastoring. I became friends with some of them.
Friends listen. Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”
I listened to them. I heard their stories. As I listened, the boxes into which I had placed them began to open.
In 2008 I delivered a sermon on “The Hot Potato of Homosexuality.” Before I “told” my understanding of “truth” on that issue, Denise and I were compelled to “listen” – to listen to dozens of people in the LGBTQ+ community.
What I heard over drinks shaped what I said that Sunday morning.
What I heard changed what I believed. The theological and sexual stereotypes exploded.
“The first duty of love is to listen.”
Listening changed me. I found myself putting Love above Truth – or at least my version of the truth.
As a young pastor I wanted to be a great preacher. A persuasive defender of truth like Billy Graham. Today, I want to be Mister Rogers.
It’s like Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “ Let love be your aim” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
As theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar put it, “Love alone is credible; nothing else can be believed, and nothing else ought to be believed.”
Did he get that from Carole King’s “Only Love is Real”?
One more quote and lesson from von Balthasar, “Lovers are the ones who know most about God; the theologian must listen to them.”
“What caused me to change?”
I started listening.
I’m learning to love.