My faith: Strong and Benevolent (a nod to Brian McLaren)

  S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

O (Observation):  Paul reminds the Christian community in Corinth that without love at the center of their thoughts and actions, what they say and what they do will be void of any effect in the world.   Everything is to be said and done in love.    

Even if a disagreement exists between members of the faith community, the tensions is to be managed through love.   For in these days, no one has all of the truth, no one has all of the answers.  For now, we see, as through a mirror indirectly.   We will all soon know the truth. 

Paul approaches the truth boldly, and with humility, so that love wins out.  For without love, we are just a bunch of noisy gongs.  

A (Application):  Brian McLaren sees a false dichotomy in Christianity.  He sees two views of Christians in the world, but he believes there is a third way.  

The two existing views of Christians in the world, he proposes, are these: Strong and Hostile, or Weak and Tolerant.  

Here is a blog post of his explaining the differences (

First, some of us know how to have a strong Christian identity that responds negatively toward other religions. The stronger our Christian commitment, the stronger our aversion or opposition to other religions…. Alternatively, others of us know how to have a more positive, accepting response to other religions. We never prosyletize. We always show respect for other religions and their adherents. We always minimize differences and maximizes commonalities. But we typically achieve coexistence by weakening our Christian identity… I’m convinced that neither of these responses is good enough for today’s world. (Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? p. 9-10)

His proposal for a third, middle way is convincing to me:  Strong and Benvolent.   One site describes this view of McLaren’s as such:  His middle way is a strong, benevolent identity that does not compromise on its Christian thought but is rooted in compassion and respect for all humanity.  (

That is where I engage the world – Strong and Benvolent.  I think this falls into the category of having both a strong will, and a sense of humility.   In this, for me, is love.  I want people to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, but that will be an invitation, not a threat. 

I will not share the details, but TWICE in the last TWO DAYS, this ugly sense of Strong and Hostile reared its ugly head in our church building. I think I reacted with grace, but also a with clear sense that I am called to love my neighbor as myself.  My heartbeat rose dramatically in both cases, especially because these folks were speaking on behalf of those of other religions and speaking about the “weakness” of my faith and that of many in our denomination (if not weakness, then naïveté).

My hope is that the love of God shapes me and molds me to be a witness to Jesus Christ as my Savior, and that my invitation for others to believe in Jesus comes as both an invitation and a challenge.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, you call us to be your witnesses to the end of the earth.  Help us to live out that call with grace and humility, showing great love to our neighbors, just as you show great love to us. Amen.  


4 thoughts on “My faith: Strong and Benevolent (a nod to Brian McLaren)

  1. I love the idea of Strong and Benevolent. I think you can see this path modeled in the actions and words of Dr. Martin Luther King. He showed incredible strength and benevolence in his choice to employ non-violence.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Amen. Strong and Benevolent is indeed a position of strong faith and love. In the establishment of a faith community based on Strong and Benevolent, all feel welcome, and all can be challenged. The problem with Strong and Hostile is that NO ONE will listen to you. I want people to listen. That takes relationship-building first. But to those who are Strong and Hostile, I’m being weak and tolerant. Oh well. I will sin boldly : )


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s