Saturday, June 9, 2012

BLESSED BY AN ATHEIST


A while back, I made a comment on one of the posts on this blog, relating how I had changed my position on a certain social issue.  After I had done so, I had some second thoughts, not on my position, but on whether I should have mentioned it.  I feared I might offend some readers who hold to the position I had abandoned.

Then the other morning I found a comment on my comment.  My friend, Canadian Atheist, simply repeated what I had said and remarked, “Bless you Bill.”  At first I was elated; I had never to my knowledge, been blessed by an atheist before!  But immediately those fears came back.  What would those other readers think of that?  Not only might I lose readers, I could lose friends.

Almost immediately as I sat down with my New Testament for my morning reading, I came across Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:

31.       “Whether then you eat or whether you drink or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God.
32.       Don’t become a cause of stumbling – to Jews, or Greeks or to the church of God,
33.       just as I also please all in all things, not seeking my own benefit, but that of the many, that they may be saved.”

I asked myself, Isn’t that what I’m doing?  I had removed a stumbling block from my friend’s way.  As far as those others, they can keep holding to their position; if they take offense – well?

Of course, this brought a number of thoughts to mind.  Why do we who claim to be followers of Christ do so many things to turn people off?  We hold others to moral positions that we ourselves have difficulty with.  We argue with little provocation with those with whom we disagree.  We hold and defend positions that aren’t really worth defending.  We call people names.

Brothers, it ought not to be this way!

The message we believe and proclaim is enough of a tripper-upper; we don’t need to add other things in the way.  Paul said it clearly earlier in this same letter:

1:18.   “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing …
21.       … God was well pleased through the foolishness of the proclaimed message to save those who believe.
23.       …but we are proclaiming a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”


Paul is not contradicting himself in chapter 10!  In chapter 9, verses 19-23, he even says that he became “all things to all.”

If I can restate these apparently paradoxical thoughts:  Paul was absolutely unwilling to compromise his message, but he was willing to compromise himself.  I’m not saying he compromised his ethics or morals.  But he was willing to leave himself behind and enter into the thoughts and needs of others.  He was living out the life and love of Christ.

I believed he lived this way because, like the One who was his Savior and Master, he genuinely loved people; and because of this love, he desired to see them come to know this same Savior.

Are we like Paul in this?  Or are we more willing to compromise our message rather than ourselves?

4 comments:

Canadian Atheist said...

I hope you don't lose readers or friends. No offense, but it would alarm me to even have to consider that having someone of a differing opinion read your blog would result in people being angry enough to not read your stuff or de-friend you. Seems mighty intolerant and I'm not entirely sure why someone would feel threatened enough by me to go to such lengths.

I liked your post though and I'm glad your stance on same-sex marriage is evolving.

Canadian Atheist said...

Oh and to help your evolution, here's a sermon about homosexual marriage:

http://uureading.org/worship/worship/sermons/sermons-archive/1188-god-and-gay-marriage-what-the-bible-really-says-about-marriage-equality

I also have a Jewish Chaplain friend who wrote about the same thing and pointed out the same translation errors. Hope you enjoy it.

Bill Ball said...

C.A.
I listened to the sermon and found it quite interesting. Some points:
-- His argument from silence means nothing. There were many matters that Jesus did not speak to. And the fact that neither the Hebrew nor Greek used our English word homosexual is irrelevent.
--He makes a valid point that the sin of Sodom was homosexual rape, though his assertion that Lot's actions were "approved" has no backing. As I've said, simply because actions are reported in the Bible does not necessarily mean they are approved. (By the way, he missed a similar incident in Judges 19:22ff.)
--I also believe he's made a valid point as to Deuteronomy speaking to both male and female prostitution.
--The passages in Leveticus 18 and 20 include homosexual acts with many other forbidden sexual acts, including incest, adultery, bestiality. These seem very clearly to be more than just ritual taboos, as the preacher insists. The Hebrew word to'eba used in Leviticus 18:22, translated "abomination" occurs 117 times and is used in both a ritual and ethical sense. It is used in verses 26, 27, 29 and 30 to describe all of the above acts.
As to the word arsenokoites, I found nothing to back up his claims for it meaning something like pedophilia or consorting with a boy prostitute. As far as I can find, it was not even used previously to Paul's usages. It is made up of two words, arsen (male) and koite (lie or lie with). These are the words used in the Septuagint (2nd Century BC Greek translation) in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. It would seem to be best translated "homosexual."
He also ignored what is regarded as the strongest passage regarding homosexual acts in the New Testament: Romans 1:26-28 -- in context.
So while I agree that homosexual behavior, including marriage, like many other acts, can and should be permitted by our secular government, I cannot change my mind about its being considered a sin according to the Scripture.
But all sins, including my own can be forgiven in Christ, based on His sacrifice on the cross.

Sherry said...

One think I appreciated was how the speaker CA referred us to enumerated how many times certain sins are listed. He pointed out that heterosexual sins get a lot more time than homosexual sins.

If we want to use the number of times as an indication of how much God doesn't like something, then I think that greed must be right up there. Yet the same society that condemns homosexuality worships the greedy.

Also, I think abomination is given way too much power by some in the church. No one sin condemns any more than any other.

It's just easier to pick on the sins we don't personally commit.