Friday, October 9, 2009

A STEP IN FAITH

Sherry sent me a link to an article with the above title in NEWSWEEK (http://www.newsweek.com/id/216910). She simply said, “Your Thoughts?”

The article begins by telling us, “Evangelical Christian Brent Childers explains his journey from believing that homosexuality was an abomination to marching in a pro-gay march on Washington.” We’re told that Mr. Childers is “speaking out against the harm caused by religion-based bigotry” and that he was once “one of those bigots … a man who condemned homosexuality as a threat to children and society, told his own son that being gay is a ticket to hell,” and that “once I walked away from the Church’s teaching of rejection and condemnation, my relationship with God transcended to a higher spiritual plateau.”

Mr. Childers is now the executive director of an organization devoted to promoting understanding in this area. The article is worth reading by every evangelical Christian who is concerned about these issues.

I am in sympathy with Mr. Childers and agree with much of his argument. However, what causes me discomfort is that although he is labeled an evangelical, he doesn’t base his argument on Scripture, but on an inner voice. In fact, he pretty much ignores Scripture.

In his book, THE TRUE BELIEVER, written well over a half-century ago, Eric Hoffer deals with a phenomenon seen in mass movements. He tells us that, “All movements, however different in doctrine and aspiration, draw their early adherents from the same types of humanity; they all appeal to the same types of mind.” He also says that, “The frustrated predominate among the early adherents of all mass movements …” and that “… frustration of itself … can generate most of the characteristics of the true believer …”

Now, I’m not a psychiatrist, nor a sociologist like Mr. Hoffer, but I am very tempted to label Mr. Childers as a “true believer,” one who is totally committed to his cause or “movement” and yet one who can, once convinced of the error of his cause, do a complete 180 degree turn. As Mr. Hoffer says, “It takes a Saul to make a Paul.” There is no middle ground. There seems to be an inability to live with tension or unresolved conflict. I’ve been around long enough to see this tendency in history and politics and even in my day: many European Communists were former Nazis; many Neoconservatives were former liberals. I’ve seen it as well in many of my own acquaintances (and in myself to a certain extent), as well as in movements within the church, having to do with theology and practice.

I believe the problem that Mr. Childers is caught up in is really much larger than the question of gay rights. If I may oversimplify, it is the perceived tension between the ethics of Jesus and the ethics of the whole rest of the Scriptures. It may be stated in many ways, such as “love versus doctrine,” “Jesus versus Paul,” etc. It is sometimes stated as “What would Jesus do,” versus the clear commands given elsewhere in the Scriptures.

But is there really a conflict? Am I forced to choose between marching down the street in a Gay Pride parade and standing on the curb holding up a placard stating “God Hates Fags”? I don’t think so!

Over and over in the Gospels, we see Jesus rubbing shoulders with sinners in apparently an unjudgmental manner.
 “And it happened that He was reclining (at dinner) in the house and many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were reclining together with Jesus and His disciples” (Mathew 9:10). I wonder if there were any homosexuals in that crowd.
 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look a glutton and a wine guzzler, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Mathew 11:19).
 “Amen! I’m telling you (the religious folks) that the tax-collectors and whores will get into the Kingdom of God ahead of you!” (Mathew 21:31).

Is this a conflict with what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived, neither fornicators nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor perverts, nor homosexuals (or a whole bunch of others) … shall inherit the Kingdom of God”?

If we believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and inerrant then we have to say no. But we also have to interpret each in the light of the other. We don’t need to become “red letter Christians.” We have to recognize that the red letters are no more and no less inspired than the black letters.

We should notice that when Jesus socialized with sinners, they were still sinners; He himself even referred to them as such. He was not condoning their behavior, but neither was He condemning them. He told a woman caught in the act of adultery (a capital offense under the Old Testament Law), “neither do I condemn you” – though He did add, “Go and from now on sin no more!” (John 8:11). Rather than condoning, He was transforming.

Though Paul wrote about different topics, there is no contradiction with Jesus’ ministry. One could even say that it was assumed that Christ’s followers would behave as He did.
 “If someone of the unbelievers should invite you over and you want to go …” (1 Corinthians 10:27).
 “I wrote to you in my (previous) letter not to associate with fornicators. However, I didn’t mean the fornicators of the world, or greedy people or swindlers or idolaters – because then you’d have to get out of the world!” (1 Corinthians 5:10).

He goes on to say that his readers should disassociate from people like that who claim to be “brothers” (verse 11). In other words we should be doing like Jesus did – hanging out with sinners, but avoiding religious hypocrites!

So what should we say about Mr. Childers’ change of heart? Should we have a similar change? If we are card-carrying gay bashers, yes, I believe we should. Nowhere in the Gospels, nor anywhere else in the New Testament are we given the right or responsibility to hate people that we perceive as sinners. We are to love them and seek their transformation through faith in Christ.

As far as the church, we already tolerate, even ignore all sorts of other sexual misbehavior – adultery, fornication, unbiblical divorce; so why do we get bent out of shape about this one? Shouldn’t we be dealing with the sins within the church? Shouldn’t we be helping sinners to recover?

And, as I’ve contended before, the church and America are two separate entities. I believe we need to reconsider our “stands” on issues. Should not the homosexual citizen have similar rights to those of the heterosexual?

As for myself, I won’t be marching in the parade, nor will I be carrying a placard!

See SIN, POLITICS AND RELIGION.

Bill Ball
10/9/2009

3 comments:

Sherry said...

Paul followed up with 'AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU".

Sinners of all stripes are already condemned because they don't meet God's standard. We don't need to condemn them. We need to accept them as people JUST LIKE US.

And I have often wondered why one sin means you should be denied your inalienable rights by others with their own sins.

Homosexuality may not be the monkey on my back but, trust me, I struggle with pride and other sinful tendencies that have a lot more verses against them in the NT. God showed me grace and mercy, how can I not show grace and mercy to all others?

As a friend of mine once told her mother, the non-believer is incapable of being a sinner becuz s/he has no indwelling Holy Spirit. What's our excuse for the sins of pride, judgmentalism, and downright hatred when we are indwelled by a God desirous of loving all to Himself?

AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU.

Bill Ball said...

AMEN

Sherry said...

OOPS!!!
I meant to say in that last full paragraph: the non-believer is incapable of NOT being a sinner. (One word sure changes the meaning of a sentence, doesn't it?!)