Archive for May, 2015


While stopped at an intersection the other day I happened to notice a young woman on the sidewalk, attractive and smartly dressed. I spied her there, walking briskly, as if on a mission, toward the corner of the block.

Almost at once, from my vantage point she passed another young woman heading in the opposite direction who got my attention. The second woman appeared to have been victimized by polio. Her gait was twisted and awkward, her legs of differing lengths, her slender arms thrust down into the braces of metallic crutches as she painstakingly ambled along. Yet, upon her face was a determined and bright smile. In a moment, before I turned the corner I noticed something else. She had in one hand a small plastic bag. With the other hand and with a slow, deliberate effort she was bending over and reaching toward the sidewalk. There she picked up a piece of carelessly discarded wrapper and placed it in her bag.

Her objective was clear. She was cleaning up the litter in that public place. What had taken someone else only a thoughtless moment to deposit, was taking her a good deal more effort to retrieve.

Smiling, I reflected then on the two young ladies I had just observed. The first was pleasant to look upon. The second—more so. For in her example beamed a lovely character and an inspiration. The first may have brightened that corner by her presence. But the second brightened that corner because she left it better than it was. Yes, it was a  little thing, but it seems to me that the cumulative effect of a lot of us doing a little adds up to something pretty great.

A wedding is a society’s shared witness to an institution.
It’s the basic building block of a society and of this generation extending to the next.
It is, therefore, accepted as right and proper—a cause for joy and celebration.
It is the ceremonial observance initiating a relationship set forth and defined by God.
When we attend a wedding and when we contribute to the ceremony we are endorsing it as good.
Therefore, when we accept gay marriage we are declaring all that. We are saying it is right in the sight of God that we participate in and celebrate it.

Most of our gay friends, of course, heartily embrace this “rightness.”  Most consider their attractions as their own immutable identity. They cannot be other than what they are. Nor do they think it appropriate that others should somehow require them to be who they are not. Surely, God, it is reasoned, would not be so cruel has to hardwire them in a way that He himself condemns? So, we must have gotten it wrong, right? With all due respect to those who think so, revisionist biblical theology is an extreme contortion and an obvious exercise is eisegesis. There can be no question that the Levitical Law spells it out, alongside other sexual prohibitions, most of which (at least for now) society still doesn’t question. The New Testament picks it up and spells it out quite specifically (e.g. Rom. 1:26-27, 32).

We mustn’t forget, too, that Jesus grew up an obedient, observant Jew who loved and knew the Law the way King David had, yet even deeper. Jesus expressly tells us that He did not come in opposition to the Law, nor to set it aside. He came, in fact, to fulfill it and write it on our hearts, and cause us to keep it. He told his listeners to take heed to the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees God had placed over them (though not perhaps to how some actually lived). He had no need to reiterate the Law. It was a given.  To say that Jesus approved of something because he never mentioned it would be an argument for pedophilia and rape, which He also never mentioned. What he did mention was this:

Mark 10:6-9 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Consistent with the Law, then, here is what the Apostle to the Gentiles whom Jesus personally selected relates from God.

Rom. 1:26-27,32 “…Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

[here’s the scary part]

32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

We see Jesus in company with many sinners. We know he ate and drank with them. We know he had mercy for them when many others would judge. We know that Jesus told the stuffy religious sort that many of this lawless lot was in fact passing into the Kingdom of God ahead of them. The means of their passage was the universal means that still holds today. Impressed by his tender, pursuing kindness, they came to him in repentant tears and generous, grateful hearts, while the aloof leaders considered themselves too good to repent.  I, and many like me, have had great relationships with our gay friends (and our alcoholic friends, etc.) all our lives (being recovering sinners ourselves) and will continue to do so. Neither Jesus, nor I, would find it necessary to exclude or judge or lecture any particular sinner’s ways (Although there are important biblical exceptions to this, and reasons to do so).

 

PART II

What becomes problematic here, is that there is really no direct parallel to gay marriage in The New Testament to witness. We don’t see in Jesus’ ministry any particular group of sinners declaring categorically that their sin is not sin, per se. Furthermore—it is claimed—not only is it not sin, it is worthy of institutionalizing and celebrating. The closest we could come to this, as I see it, is the Pharisees’ unholy codification of the commandments of men. Jesus reserved his harshest words and tone for such as them. We certainly don’t see Jesus institutionalizing and endorsing a sin as the veritable “building block” of family and therefore society at large.

What we do see is Jesus referring to our evil natures in a matter-of-fact way*. We see Him emphatically warning the masses of the dangerous results of sin*. It was Jesus who told us that if even our hand should cause us to sin, we should cut it off rather then enter into hell with it still intact*. Jesus dealt ruthlessly with sin because he loves us. The measure of his complete resolve against it is demonstrated on the cruel bloody cross*. His last words before his ascension were to bear his message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to the whole world*. Repentance IS the mechanism for believing and receiving Jesus*. We choose Jesus over sin*. He forgives us and begins then, to overcome it in us until at last we are forever separated from it and spared its horrible consequences.*

*References from the Gospels can be supplied upon request.

 

One might say that homosexuals are only choosing to be their honest, authentic selves. I could also choose to declare that my authentic self is, and pretty much always has been, prone to lusts and greed and gossip and falsehood, (among other things). But if I take pride in any of these things; if I declare my intent to continue in and celebrate these things,…what have I done? I have a form of godliness but deny His power to redeem and transform me. Many have experienced God’s miraculous, overcoming deliverance. Many others have attested to a sincere effort to “change” and have come to believe that at least, for them, it’s impossible.

So, there we are. Are we in mutually exclusive categories? Intractable? Irreconcilable? Must one take, in this regard, only one of two diametrically opposed positions? Either (1) homosexual intimacy (copulation) is repugnant sin, and those who insist on practicing it will fall under the judgment of God; or (2) homosexual intimacy is as loving, natural and legitimate as any other union.

Venn LoveHow can we bridge the gap between mutually exclusive firmly held convictions? Well, it should be obvious that it’ll never happen without an additional firmly held conviction. It’ll be difficult and so will not even be attempted by most. Successful relationships are hard and require diligent work. Being patient, and compassionate, and understanding, and gentle doesn’t come naturally for most of us. But, at last, the only reality that overlaps both distant circles is love. Not sentimentality. Not unanimity. But just determined, gritty, rugged love that says, essentially, “In this matter we do not see eye to eye and it looks like we’re not ever going to. But regardless, my friend, I’m gonna love you. Even if you don’t love me back, I’m still gonna love you.”

If there is ever to be even the slightest potential that an occupant of the one circle should migrate to the other, s/he could only pass over by way of love. And that kind of love, my friends, can only come from God.

Hint: Power and How We Use It

judgesandhypocritesPeople who believe the Bible is true have long been asked to be tolerant of those who do not. This was not an inappropriate expectation, since the Bible itself expresses forbearance and patience with one another and a love that accepts and pursues in mercy. For all the faults of these believers, there have been few people groups in all of history who have done so any more than Bible believers. While some religions insist on violence when insulted, the Christian was enjoined by the Christ to “turn the other cheek”, give what was not demanded, and go the surprising extra mile.  The Christ Himself went through a mockery of justice and a cruel execution without opening His mouth in judgment or reprisal. The roll call of the ones who have followed Christ in this way, “loving not their lives, even unto death” is long and distinguished. Yet there were also many who fancied themselves followers who were not. These were filled with malice, judgment, and even violence “in the name” of the One who gave us no such command.

Today, the influence of the Bible and those who claim to believe it has waned. A host of other standards have arisen and are in the ascendency. Many of these have borne with them along the way the ethics of co-existence, toleration, and fairness—the very things they justly demanded from those who claimed to have a Judeo-Christian worldview. When morally objectionable material began to be broadcast and telecast, the Bible-believing malcontent was called upon to “turn it off” or change the channel if they didn’t like it. The believer was castigated if s/he demonstrated a reluctance to accept and tolerate the alternative beliefs and practices of the increasing tide.

And so, believers tolerated. Some, because they loved, others because they conformed.

Now, in America, persons who say they believe in the Bible are in the minority. Even among them, there are many who only accept and practice a selectively approved subset of its teaching. And there is by no means a solidarity and uniformity to the prevailing ethical and moral sensibility of the rising tide. In fact, there is an astonishing variance in belief and practice of these ascending voices. At many crucial points the stuff of their various faiths are ultimately on a crash course. If there is one thing clear from history; if there is something humanity can disagree about and divide over we will not miss the opportunity to seize it. At what point for any zealot or ideologue will they lay aside their forbearance? Most likely when they feel they have the power to force compliance, or conversely, when they sense their power and influence has ebbed to the point that they will no longer be able to believe and practice what they cherish.

So it is, in this latter case, for the Bible-believer, who would like now to be tolerated. The Christian would like the same consideration others were demanding of the Christian. If you don’t like what they believe and preach, turn the channel. If their moral practices seem immoral to you, feel free to practice your own and leave them to theirs. There was never a legal demand for you to participate in their faith. They’d appreciate the same consideration, but know, really, that the prevailing ethic isn’t truly about tolerance at all.  We all should justly expect, in this country, to freely exercise our specific beliefs and practices without toppling the wall of separation between church and state enabling a dominant group to coerce not only the behavior, but even the very thoughts of dissenters. Invading communist North Vietnamese subjected their captives to “Reeducation Camps” in vain attempt to control the hearts and minds of those who held differing beliefs. Hutus or Tutsis. Sunni or Shiite. Catholic or Protestant. Liberal or Conservative. Theist or Atheist. Can’t we all just get along? We seem to be able to make a show of it for a while. But sooner or later somebody starts feeling frisky and moves their tanks into the Rhineland.

God forbid that we should be a country who enforces a dominant worldview at the point of a gun nor under threat of loss. But wait,… we already have been. Every group fancies the notion that “You can’t legislate morality” only up to the point that they themselves gain enough power to do so.  Every law is the legislation of somebody’s morality.

Surely we do not now demand that Jewish delis cater Neo-Nazi events with ham and bacon on the menu? In a free multi-cultural society we can do business with whomever we choose for a variety of personally held reasons. Apparently, a coffee shop can deny me a latte for the lame reason that I left my shoes in the car. If doing business necessarily requires violation of conscience then a line has been crossed. A card-carrying member of the infamous Westboro Baptist should not be denied the basic human needs of an apartment rental or the purchase of groceries at a gay-owned business. They should not deem it a “civil right”, however, that these same business owners accompany them to their rally, participate in it, photograph it, and top it off with a celebratory cake.