Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

Recently, there have been a flurry of articles, videos, and books regarding the church's stance on homosexuality, and more specifically....homosexual marriage, crowding social networking sites. Unfortunately, most of them are pretty extreme, and often very divisive...and that's honestly a problem, IMO. Now, bear with me here...

Churches and "Christian leaders" seem to be taking a couple of stances on issues regarding homosexuality and homosexual marriage. The first stance (and the most harsh) is, "It's the biggest sin issue facing our world, and we have to eradicate this problem at all costs" or something in that realm. The second approach is the "Just ignore the issue, and we do not have to deal with it" approach. I do not see many articles or stories out there that differ much from one of these two lines of thought. Of course, some are not quite at the polar extremes that these are...but they normally lean heavily towards one of these two camps. Obviously...the ones that seem to pop up the most are the "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" postings. Honestly, this just grieves my spirit.

Jesus told us to go into this world and literally "as we are going," MAKE disciples. Right here in Matthew, He says:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -- Matthew 28:19-20

What is a disciple? A disciple is simply a follower. A follower who learns (emphasis on the word "learns" here) the ways of the one they are following. Another word for follower is "apprentice." No apprentice masters the craft he/she is learning overnight. It is a long process, often full of failures and problems.  It is through the gentle and patient teaching of the master craftsman that the apprentice hones his or her craft.  Becoming like Jesus is not an overnight process, either.  Jesus does NOT tell us to get people to "sign up" for church or "register" for His kingdom. He tells us to make followers....or to apprentice people in the faith of God.  Inexperienced people, learning to walk with the Lord. 

How can we have a conversation with someone, let alone apprentice them in the faith, if all they ever hear from us is what we are against? Somehow we have come up with a system that assigns a "value" to different types of sin. Some sin, we simply brush over, as it may be more "socially accepted." Lying, cheating, slandering, gossiping, stealing, even sex outside of marriage (all of which are defined by the Bible as sin) are often overlooked by those of us in the church. Why? Honestly, I believe that it is because we are more prone to publicly condemn sin that does not effect our own lives. I am guilty of this...it's easy to tell someone to stop drinking alcohol, because I have not ever been tempted by or addicted to alcohol. It would be much harder for me to write an article or present a message at church on selfishness, pride, anger, or any of the other things that I struggle with every day. The truth is, I believe we make issues like homosexuality/homosexual marriage a big issue, because it takes the focus off of the sin that muddies our own lives.

I am not the definitive scholar in seminary circles, but I find that God views sin in the Bible as just that...sin. Sure, there are different consequences for different sins, but from my experience as a believer in Jesus, studying the Bible, and working in ministry for nearly 20 years....to God, SIN IS SIN.  He doesn't like ANY of it!

We need to be more about showing and teaching others about the character of God, than which store we are boycotting this month. We must stop tryout to simply shout louder than those that we disagree with.   Instead of the world seeing Christians a venomous activists, they need to see Jesus. The same man who spoke these words in Luke,

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." -- Luke 6:41-42

We tend to forget that Jesus didn't hang out in the temple most of the time. He didn't spend all of his time chatting about the latest cause. The Jesus we find in the Bible spent the majority of his time investing in HIGHLY imperfect men and women. Crooks, salty fishermen, doctors, tax collectors, prostitutes, and even church officials who were only interested in making themselves great, rather than God. Jesus loved the people around Him.

However, we can't just leave it there. You see, Jesus never compromised his own morals or beliefs when He was with people.  He didn't join these people in their sin, but His love and compassion were so evident that He was able to speak the truth of God's word into their lives.  He was the same man with his closest friends and family, as He was when teaching to large crowds. He never gave them permission to continue sinning. In fact, He called on people to repent (or turn) of the sin in their lives, and follow Him. To die to themselves and follow Him. If you continue to read in the Bible, you see the changes that come about in the lives of those He was around. They changed because of their faith and interaction with Jesus, and that was the birth of the church.

Never should we as Christians condone, or ignore sin. However, we MUST be careful not to label others or condemn them based on what they struggle with in their own lives. Jesus died on the cross for each one of us. We have to constantly remind ourselves of this. Jesus was called onto the carpet by the religious leaders of that day for spending time among tax collectors...who were common thieves in that society. This was His response:

"On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” -- Mark 2:17

Romans 3:23 tells that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." All of us...ALL of us are sinners by nature. The difference in the life of a follower of Christ is this...we are sinners that have been saved from our sins by God's grace.  If it were not for the grace and love of God, I would not be any different than the worst sinner that you can imagine.

God likes to remind me of that fact every day. I'm grateful for this reminder. It helps me remember that I am not the center of the universe, that what God has for me is so much better than anything I could ever come up with on my own.

For many these days, homosexuality would seem to be that elephant in the room that no one knows what to do with. It has become the emotional issue that sparks endless debate.  However, I would submit that the true Elephant in the Room is our own sin...the sin (in whatever form it takes) that blinds and distorts our own view of God.   Sin that might even be deemed "socially acceptable" in our society.  Perhaps we need to focus on that first...and let God bring people into our lives that we can help along in the journey of faith that is being a disciple of Jesus.   Follow His footsteps...and He'll take care of the rest...

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