What do we Stand for?
A while ago, I began pondering the question of "What are we?" As a church body, how do we identify ourselves? Well, obviously, we're not catholic, since we don't answer to the catholic heirarchy. We're not orthodox for the same reason. We never broke away from the catholic church, since we were never part of it, so we're not protestant. That leaves only one major branch of the church: baptistic. And when you think about it, that makes sense. We have an autonomous local church. We are neither charismatic nor liturgical, but we strive to maintain a healthy balance. Our statement of faith is based on one belonging to a baptist church. While we are happy to accept people who identify with any branch of the church personally, it would seem that the Christian Furry Fellowship itself is definitely baptistic. This is something to be proud of. Baptistics have stood firm in their faithfulness to word of God and the true spirit of Christ's teachings during ages when the "official" church was plagued by heresies and nominal believers. They also held fast when those who claimed to be followers of Christ were literally murdering them, thinking that they were doing God a favor. As a body, we have a noble herritage.
But what, specifically are we? We don't officially have a denomination. Not yet, at least. But if you look at baptistic denominations, each one of them has a specific, particular purpose. The Christian church is dedicated to following and preserving the true teaching of Christ. The Berean church is committed to planting churches. The Evangelical Free church exists to unite fellow Christians in love. The Conservative Baptist church is there to send out missionaries grounded solidly in God's word. What is our purpose?
When the first Christian Furry Fellowship was formed way-back-when, the idea was to unite Christian Furries in order to foster friendships, create an environment of encouragement and love, and generate an atmosphere where one is free to be himself. The second CFF, this CFF, was created three years ago for the same reason, and unlike its predecessor, has been phenomenally successful. But remember that a church has two purposes. One is to build up its members and nurture them as they grow into the image of Christ. The other purpose is to reach out to the community and share God's love with them, most importantly, by sharing the gospel.
The Christian Furry Fellowship has taken up the role of one who loves its neighbors. In the tradition of our "patron saint", we love people just the way they are and accept them for who they are, not for anything peripheral. Now a lot of people get confused on this point. They think that because we are committed to accepting other as they are that we tolerate every kind of behavior. This has never been the case. Unconditional love does not mean unconditional tolerance. We've never put up with those who come in here thumbing their noses at God or at us, making trouble, talking trash, advocating sin or pushing some other religion. No. There is a very big difference between accepting someone just as they are and accepting just what they're doing.
The great news is that this works both ways. Some behaviors are unacceptable no matter who they come from. But you can turn that around and say that all people are lovable no matter what they have done. They may not be very likable, but they are special, unique creations of God. Every one is a one-of a kind individual. There has never been another just like them and there will never be another one just like them in the future. And yet, unique as we are, we are all created in god's image. We're all like Him in that we have minds that think and feel. We have a free will, we have emotions. We can imagine and create. We can love or hate as we choose. Every one of us, even those who choose to do wrong, is a reflection of the creator. Not a piece of Him or a copy, but still, created by Him with the purpose of being His children and being like Him. Many choose not to, but we all have that potential. For this reason, every soul is considered precious. Precious enough that Jesus would pay the ultimate price for any one of us, even if that person were the only one who needed it. He loves us that much.
I think Saint Fred said it best. "What is behind your face is what is essential". It is the person himself who is important. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in loving God, which is very important, of course, since God is a person and the one most deserving of our love, but some people forget that God also loves the people of the world. It's rather sad, but even baptistics sometimes get wrapped up in the peripherals. They worry about how long your hair is or whether a woman wears pants or what style of music you listen to. I hope I am justified in saying that we know better. One of my favorite children's songs, also by our good old Saint Fred goes "It's you I like". I'd just like to go over the lyrics to that song, but instead of "like", let's use the word "love".
It's you I love
It's not the things you wear
It's not the way you do your hair
It's you I love
The way you are right now
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you
Not your toys, they're just beside you.
But it's you I love
Every part of you
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new
I hope that you'll remember
Even when you're feeling blue
That it's you I love
It's you, yourself
It's you I love.
This is what we stand for. We are here to look past the outside, and this electronic meeting place affords us a wonderful opportunity to do just that. We are here to love the people that God created and tell them that God loves them. Not as doddering fools or doormats who will let people get away with anything, but as the kind, caring people God intends for us to be who have learned to disregard the things of no consequence and love the person's soul.
Today's reading: Romans 13:8-10
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.