This post is the twentieth in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998.
My father was a conservative Baptist pastor in the sense that he was traditional in most of his theological beliefs.
On the other hand my father also rejected being called a fundamentalist. He had many close friends who embraced this label for themselves, but not him.
Persons who called themselves fundamentalists during the end of my dad’s career in the 80’s and early 90’s, were black and white in their beliefs and my dad was a much lighter shade of gray.
Don’t get me wrong, my father certainly preached about heaven and hell.
But when it came to condemning an individual he chose love instead. He drew the circle wider and more inclusive than many of his friends who were pastors. When some of them would challenge him, he would say “it’s not my job to judge, that’s God’s job. I’m just suppose to love people.”
All of this is to say he chose love over hate, gentleness over damnation, and forgiveness over blame. Every time.
When I became a chaplain in an HIV/AIDS clinic in 1994 and worked with hundreds of persons who were gay, I asked him what he thought of it. He said without hesitation, “Malcolm, everybody needs love and forgiveness.” That part was easy for him.
My conservative father taught me to be a liberal. Liberal in love and liberal in forgiveness.
My liberal loving father also taught me to be a conservative. Conservative in judging others and conservative in drawing the circle too small.
Thanks be to God.
My father taught me so.