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Dear Church,

You and I have had a codependent relationship for a while, but I don’t blame you. I’ve used you to meet my selfish needs just as often as you’ve failed me.

While others may talk about breaking it off with you, I refuse to. Despite the mutually destructive dance we often find ourselves in, I know in my gut that you need me. And as irrational as I occasionally find you, it’s through our relationship that I’ve come to know and love Jesus.

I can’t control your behavior. So I’m going to focus on changing my own as well as setting boundaries that, in the end, will benefit us both.

Here are 20 changes I’m making for us:

1. I will not confuse discernment and judgment. I refuse to devalue anyone based on my convictions or preferences.

2. I will not shy away from being the dissenting voice in order to keep the peace. Majority opinion is not necessarily right opinion, and I won’t be shamed into silence.

3. I will not meddle in the lives of others where there is no relationship and invitation.

4. I will not focus on outward behavior over inward transformation—in myself or others.

5. I will not make conformity, theological or otherwise, a prerequisite for community.

6. I will not treat people as stereotypes.

7. I will not confuse forgiveness and trust.

8. I will not shy away from difficult questions or apologize for my doubts.

9. I will not cultivate a theology that ignores the experience of Christians around the world.

10. I will not get embroiled in arguments that reduce complexities into simple black and white issues.

11. I will not serve or do good for recognition. Whenever possible, I will practice spiritual and benevolent behavior in secret.

12. I will not demand that Scripture conforms to the theological framework I’ve already accepted.

13. I will not succumb to a treadmill of Christian perfectionism, or expect others to.

14. I will not demand that the culture around me conforms to my ideals.

15. I will not idealize the past or fear the future.

16. I will not behave as if truth only exists in my denominational or interpretive cul-de-sac.

17. I will not penalize others for being honest or transparent.

18. I will not promote the idea that Christian community exists for the civilized and dignified.

19. I will not conflate Christianity and nationalism.

20. I will not exalt any theological principle or duty above love.

We both need to quit thinking about our own needs and what’s going to place us in the best possible light and social position. The sorts of people who were attracted to Jesus do not feel safe with the church—and that’s on us.

Love is PhD-level Christianity, and it starts with our relationship. In fact, the way we treat each other is going to reinforce or contradict the validity of our beliefs, and affect whether or not others feel safe with us. So I am laying down my arms. I am calling a truce.

But when it comes to areas where your aims or expectations conflict with these 20 convictions, I will not lie down, I will not be quiet, and I will not concede—for my sake, for your sake, for their sake.

Now that I’ve begun to define these guiding principles for myself, I feel free to be less heavy-handed and demanding with you.