Posts Tagged Christ

The Scars Tell A Story

I don’t remember the flight but I look back on it now and wish I had it on film. The numbers have gotten fuzzy with time but it seems to me that I flew about 100 feet. Ok so I wasn’t challenging the Wright brothers record but in the spirit of accurate comparison, they did have a plane. I was just launched through a bus window doing 60ish mph down a cliff. The bus followed closely and may have overtaken me if it had not been for the very large rock we both stopped at. I stopped at the foot of the rock in a crumpled pile and the bus stopped at the high point of the rock leaning directly over me. I was nonsensically babbling and speaking more incoherently than normal up until the time they placed me on the helicopter to go to the hospital. My head was banged up, my ribs were in bad shape, my shoulder felt like it was no longer attached, and there was a gaping hole in my arm. Beyond that I was ok.

Years later I was reflecting on the scars that were still visible. I have two small lines on my right cheek just below my mustache that I see each day I shave and my right arm has a healthy divot drawing an L around my elbow. They have served as a reminder and sometimes a painful one at that. But one thing is utterly true; they are not something that happened to me, they are a part of me.

I had a history professor in college who said “We are the sum total of our experiences”. At the time I was wondering if the experience in that class would ever be useful but thinking back, I learned far more in the class then just facts about the Maginot Line and Germanys driving tactics. I learned that the scars on my face and arms are not just visual markers; they describe part of who I am.

It is far too easy to deflect pain and sublimate bad experiences into the darkest recesses of our minds but if we do that, we run the risk of letting it shape us without our even recognizing it. We kid ourselves sometimes in the deflection by saying that other people have it worse so we are just not going to let things bother us. Simply put that is scary.

I was in a Pavilions parking lot today and saw a homeless man trying to light half a cigarette that he picked up off the ground in the rain. He definitely has it worse than I do right now. I would be a fool to think anything else. But there is no comfort in that thought. His discomfort in no way elevates my comfort. Knowing that somebody else is in pain does not decrease mine one iota. If we follow this logic that recognizing others have it worse, we also need to recognize that still others have it better. If my load becomes lighter recognizing that someone else has it worse then my load should also get heavier when I see someone else who has it better. The relativity of our position to another person in discomfort has no bearing on how we should feel or the problems we have.

The only way to grow as a person is to allow the problems you have to shape you into a better version of yourself instead of lesser version. This sounds overly trite and almost insensitive but truth is usually blatant, we sometimes just learn to ignore it. We need to become the person we want to be. It is not just going to happen. George Saunders said that character is the total of moments in life that we cannot explain. I love that line. I am not sure I agree with it completely though. Character in and of itself is the thing that comes out of the fire. I cannot explain how it is formed but I am pretty sure I know the ingredients that went in. Character has a direct correlation to scars. The things that form the scars typically form character as well.

When I look at the life of Christ I see scar making throughout it. As a child his parents did not understand him. The educational system at the time was sorely lacking to the point that he was teaching others at age 12. When he started his own ministry, many including the social and religious elite of the time rejected him. He was next to homeless for years and found comfort in having a rock for a pillow. His closest followers whom he called friends ran off the moment things got real. He was a walking scar map in many ways. His scars were just a real as mine. I think he handled them differently though. Somehow by the very thing that caused him pain, he was able to show compassion. By the very things that created scars he healed me. I am not sure I understand the logic but I am grateful that his scars tell a very different story than a lot of mine do. Maybe I should do something about that.

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50 Shades Of Dismay

Somewhere between loss and recovery is a four letter word that both screams into the darkness and relishes in the light. It lays down beside our broken bodies at the worst points of our lives and comforts us. It reaches deep into our souls and pushes us toward rehabilitation and restoration and yet seems to cling to us when we think we no longer need it. It is a universal need and true universal constant that connects all living beings in a way that breaks the bonds of even death itself. It heals like no medicine can and without it no medicine can truly work. It provides the ability to stand against the worst of the world with resolve. It gives us the ability to lay our heads down and find true rest when needed. It’s echo lingers long after the word is spoken and it’s effect has changed the course of history. That word is hope.

Everyone needs it and yet you can so easily see when someone no longer has it. I saw a man in local parking lot recently. His beard was rough, untrimmed, and dirty. His clothes were similar in condition and somehow expressed his outlook but not his character. He struggled in the corner of a parking lot to cover his cart with a tarp to protect it from the rain. Moments earlier the tarp was his blanket but as the day began and people came around he needed to move so he would not draw too much attention to himself. He needed to protect his things. In his mind, that was all that mattered. In his mind, that was all he had. He was broken, whether by the world around him or by his own choice is a philosophical discussion he really didn’t care about. How he got there was academic in relation to where he was was. Each moment hung in the balance between fear and loss. They were his constant companions but offered no solace in their company. He was a man clinging to a rope over a deep pit whose life expectancy was measured in how long he could hold on. He had lost hope and he was merely waiting for his fingers to give way.

Christianity is supposed to be the embodiment of hope. In the first century the biblical writers cultivated the idea and focus around a term that in and of itself was rather mundane and simple. The word was gospel. It simply meant good news. It was the kind of thing that was said about a birth announcement or a wedding. You would send a message of good news to people to let them know there was a reason to celebrate. The early writers captured this term and used it to describe the message of Christ because it was the ultimate reason to celebrate. It was the pivotal point in time where all that was evil collided with all that was good and was obliterated. This meant the chains that held us to death, destruction, and separation from God were now gone. The idea was that we who were lost were now found in such a powerful and overwhelming way that the very core of existence has changed and our souls are now free to be with God forever. This is the truest possible good news. So I have to ask if we have made it something that is less than good?

Today’s message from the global church seems one saturated with political and social opinion. It is one of recognizing so called true strength by becoming enlightened through knowing the way. This “way” includes a structured method of achieving ones goals and desires through naming and claiming. It includes the power to devastate the opponents arguments through use of scripture (whether or not that use is contextual, synchronous with the rest of the church’s teachings, or even aptly applied to the circumstance). It involves social gatherings around music and light shows. Lastly (though I am sure not completely) it involves totems and spiritual symbols that are carried around and venerated at yearly festivals. In other words, it looks a great deal like paganism, idol worship, and gnosticism rolled together and tied in a bow made of new ageism.

Churches even within denominational structures are becoming brands and franchises seeking to be the center rather than reflect the center. They argue within themselves who is better, more accurate, more scripturally relevant, or more seeker sensitive. Or they go the other direction and work so hard to stay out of the arguments they miss the need to unite as one movement. This is truly a harsh message but one that if not heeded will cause us to not only close our doors but to close our hearts as well.

Please understand I know how cynical this sounds. I am not saying it lightly. I am however saying it because it needs to be heard. If our goal is to communicate the good news and have others join us in our relationship with the Creator, we are focusing on all the wrong things. We need to stop focusing on trying to get something out of the gospel message for us and start explaining why it is good news to others. We have built structured self-ology for far too long and need to get back to our theology that God is the reason we are here. We need to stop trying to build castles and monuments to him and start building his kingdom.

The message being heard today is one of control. We need to make it one of sacrifice. It is one of self. We need to make it one of others. It is one of piety, we need to make it one of righteousness. It is one of security, we need to make it one of justice. Simply put, we need to make it one of hope.

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Why Not Hate?

I saw an article about the Coca Cola add aired during the Super Bowl. It discussed how upset people were because it portrayed a representation of America as a multi cultural entity and summed it up by singing America the Beautiful in multiple languages. Honestly it did not decrease my estimation of that company much. Whether the message that it delivered was appropriate/accurate or not was not really Coca Cola’s concern. They just wanted to sell Coke to whoever would buy it. They have been contributing to obesity, diabetes, and who knows what else for so long that in comparison, this is minor. What struck me more was the hate speak that I saw in reaction to it. Many people commented on either side about how much the other side was wrong in a variety of hateful terms. Whether the goal was humor or angst, it was still fueled by hate. So is the real message that typifies our world that it is okay to hate in response to mistakes?

Christian Music singer Natalie Grant was nominated for two Grammy awards this year. She left the event early for personal reasons she did not clearly state. She alluded to not being comfortable with the event. My cynical side immediately has to question her for going in the first place. Did she not know ahead of time what music would be performed and the secular views that would be promoted? It is a secular event. Should we expect people who are not Christian to act Christian? With that said, the responses to her departure sparked nothing short of hate. They accused her of being homophobic, hate filled, and basically stupid for serving an ignorant and prejudicial God. Really? Hate speak is still hate speak even if you are claiming others have done something wrong. I don’t agree with her decision to leave and feel that God could have been glorified even more if she had stayed, but she never truly said why she left. The message to her was you are welcome here as long as you agree with us, or the fans will hate you. Once again, are we saying the choice to hate is okay if it is in response to mistakes?

Kirk Cameron assaulted the Grammy Awards on Facebook for what he called an “all out assault on the traditional family”. He then made reference to lines of separation and that the current world is not one he would want to have his kids grow up in. Responses came back negative and unkind at best. He then plugged his new movie and later deleted his post. I have to admit I am less than thrilled with his voice and feel that he should stand more for God and less for his personal ideals. Choosing to use a public event for self promotion may be effective but it is cheesy at best and in this case uneducated and irresponsible. With that said, nothing he said warrants hate. Are we really pushing a message that says it is ok to respond in hate if we just disagree with an opinion?

Katy Perry performed at that show and provided what she referred to as a spooky themed performance. Others made reference to it being satanic in nature and called her everything from a whore to a fool. Really? The performance was milder than many houses in my neighborhood during halloween. If it offends you, turn the station. A single button push will fix the problem. She was trying to make waves to sell music. Get over it and stop fanning the flames. That is what is done these days, it is not new. Are we really pushing a message that says it is ok to respond in hate if we just disagree with a performance? Are we really responding with hate and thinking that somehow this glorifies God?

When did hate become our go to tool? Is it just because our arguments are too weak to stand and need the extra fuel? I have heard hate from both sides on many issues and frankly, I should not be surprised when it comes from the secular world, not because they are bad people but because the bible clearly tells me to expect it. I should be very surprised however when it comes from the Christian world. For them, that is sin and contrary to Christ. The part that is honestly more distressing is that is shuts down our ability to be heard. I have never been a Katy Perry fan, her music is just not my thing. But to treat her or anyone else with anything less than human respect and the love that God intended is criminal.

If our eyes are filled with hate, how will we ever see where we are going. Why do we think we have that right? If we are so offended by a persons views that we feel hate, maybe the problem is with us. Wait, no, that is wrong. There is no maybe. The problem is with us. If hate is our response, we should lose the right to respond. If we can not disagree with each other without hating each other, we should probably stop speaking all together.

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If Men Are Superior To Women, Then Why Are Men Born From Women?

I sat and watched her fidget and do menial tasks when she was clearly upset about something. She was a fellow student in seminary who had dreams of pastoral leadership and quite frankly was far more gifted than I in several disciplines. But something had clearly rattled her. When I asked she told me about a man in one of her classes who made broad statements to her about how she would be unable to perform certain duties within the church because she was a woman. I told her that was interesting; I didn’t know we had had a clairvoyant in our school but realistically the only thing that would make him correct is if she believed he was.

I think she understood my point but the truth is that the problem here was far larger than my angled quip could solve. There is so much history and tradition infused in the interpretation of the actual text that sifting through it just to reach consensus seems arduous at best. It confuses and angers both genders and at times has even split churches. What I can’t figure out is why.

I guess that is not quite true. I understand the history and see how the pieces to the puzzle have built the labyrinth we now have, I just don’t understand why we don’t tear a few walls down to let the people trapped inside out. Should we blame the old boys club or the male dominated denominational structures? How about blaming women directly for accepting the roles? How about blaming society for adopting a model that the church echoed so easily? How about we blame the Apostle Paul for his misogyny and self centered directions? For that matter, why don’t we just blame God himself, after all it is his book we got it from? Or better yet, how about we take the blame off the table, we re-evaluate, re-vision, re-think, and somehow build a model that not only gives the people hope, but helps heal the evils of the past.

The first step is to understand what the scripture really says. I am not going to attempt a full commentary on Paul or even list out the parts in Ephesians, Galatians, or Corinthians that address this. I don’t think that is needed because there is a larger hermeneutical issue here. The biblical text was never intended to be used in the support of a categorical syllogism to limit the ability of a gender to fulfill their desire for service to God. We cannot take Paul’s statements in one book, add them to statements in another, and conclude that he was misogynistic and that the church should not allow women to lead. This process creates a philosophical and hermeneutical error before we even begin. There is no code in the text and it is not a puzzle to be solved. As clearly as I can put it, if you have to stand on an old chair facing north east while thinking of something angelic to get the meaning out of the text, you are doing it wrong. Instructions given to the church on how to administer the church were aimed at specific churches with specific problems. Whereas that may give information that should be used in modern churches to help administer them, it cannot be taken as a singular contextual statement aimed at the church model 2000 years later without understanding the individual churches in a holistic manner.

Paul’s work was aimed at the unification of believers around the gospel of Christ. He was not setting up a universal church structure. He traveled from town to town and delivered the gospel. That was his focus. He wrote to the churches he had been to with corrective action and support for the furthering of that gospel. He was almost annoyed with administrative items. His statements about those types of items were curt and simplistic. It was almost that he was trying to get past the arguments with the first idea that came into his head. If we take those as direct mandates from God as how women are to be viewed, then not only are we contradicting other scripture that clearly shows equality, but we are placing our own selfish desires in front of God’s and denying his overall requirement to seek justice and love mercy.

We have done such a disservice to God in this arena. I have heard so much heretical garbage proclaimed in the name of tradition that has caused people to accept the inexcusable as the norm. And when we do try to push against it we end up with solutions that are almost as offensive as the problem. I have heard pastors proclaim that Paul was actually elevating the status of women from their even lower place to where we claim he said they should be. That kind of reminds me of a support for slavery from the 1800’s. Sometimes I feel more passion against the church than for it.

We have got to stop defending our traditions and understand that God cares more about our actions. The person who should be leading the church is the best qualified person, regardless of gender. If a man says he cannot learn from a woman, then the problem is with him, not them. Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly different roles intended for men than women. I will never be a mother nor have the nurturing skills that mothers have. But that in no way says that a woman should be silent in church. Simply put, those that feel women should be silent in church should do so themselves before they ever consider speaking.

Changing the world starts with changing ourselves. If we are unable to see through our own walls we build, the image of God we want to show cannot be seen by those on the other side. Sometimes we need to tear down the walls to find truth.

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Opinions Create Truth Like An Actor Creates Reality

A friend of mine and I recently had dinner at a little Greek place we had never been to before. I was unfamiliar with the menu and asked the waitress what was good there. She told us her favorites and we both ordered one of them. When the food was delivered it was a little more like cafeteria food than had been expected. The overall flavors were not necessarily bad; they just didn’t rate high compared to other dining options for that evening. Maybe the waitress and I have differing palates. The real question is why did I accept the recommendation of a person whom I don’t know anything about without looking into it more?

I saw a post on Facebook showing a picture of Johnny Depp with a quote that basically says to do what you need to do and don’t care what other people think. I personally think there is wisdom in this quote. I think that people put far too much stock in what others think about them. With that said, why is this more valuable because a celebrity said it? Johnny Depp makes a reported 100 million dollars a year. I really think he has a far different perspective on caring what others think than I do. Why would I accept this advise without truly struggling through it just because a celebrity said it? Popular thought does not create truth. God creates truth.

It amazes me sometimes how we accept so easily philosophical assertions without truly questioning the supporting ideas. There is a prevalent thought in our world that truth is a relative concept and that absolute truth is at least archaic and at the most completely impossible. It is not a new philosophy. Traces of it date back to Greek thought hundreds of years before the time of Christ (see Al_theia by Protagoras of Abdera or Theaetetus by Plato). It has morphed through history and is now linked mostly to Postmodernism. I believe that concepts of this movement have valuable insight into philosophical thought; however relativism is probably one of the weakest.

We would like to believe that truth is malleable. It is a comforting thought to our souls to believe that we can bring correctness to our actions simply by redefining the rules but overall it falls in on itself. If truth is not absolute and can be interpreted by the user, how can anything be trusted? We want to choose our definitions when it is to our benefit, but not when we need the truth. If a person has a sick child or spouse, the last thing they need is a doctor’s opinion based on a variant definition of health or treatment. If we get a speeding ticket for going 35 miles an hour in a 35 MPH zone because the officer wants to redefine speeding, we won’t stand for it. If we found a one pound diamond in the ground on the edge of our property, we will not stand for our neighbor redefining property lines and making a claim on it. If a scientist tells us that cholesterol levels in beef are lower than we thought, we won’t accept it if he redefines his test parameters to do so. If we go to a restaurant to eat dinner, we will not want the chef to choose an alternative definition of cleanliness and food safety standards.

The problem seems to be that we want to use this philosophy to our advantage but are unwilling to accept it across the board. If that is the case, how can it be legitimate? In reality, people want absolute truth, it just seems they want executive authority to create that absolute when it benefits them.

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The Essence Of Life Is In The Actions Of The Soul, Not The Musings Of The Mind

One of my favorite actors is Peter O’Toole and one of my favorite roles he played is Alan Swann in My Favorite Year. The character is a drunken actor that had never truly been held accountable for his hedonistic actions and had begun to find less and less enjoyment in them. He has a quote in the film that I will never forget. “A rose by any other name will wither and die”. His take on William Shakespeare explained his utter disdain for the fact that he had allowed the studios to make him change his name to brand his image as an action star. I think the essence of this is seen in society today. Many people want to re-brand Christianity to make it more palatable.

It is clear that our world is in decline. For every advancement we make on a technological or scholarly level we move backward on a human level and reduce the value of our own souls. We are aware of the problem and we seek earnestly for an answer. From major religions and secular philosophers to modern day mystics sitting outside the local Starbucks solving the worlds issues one cigarette at a time, we all look for it. Is what we are doing though just rebranding the same concepts under different names or blending the past to build a new future?

Christianity is seen as almost a bad word in our world. The actions of some people who have used that name have caused others to want to stop using the name.  I have to say though; a rose by any other name will wither and die. Christianity has only one meaning. It means the act of following Christ and his teachings. This is an all or nothing gig. A person can find some or even most of the teachings of Christ valuable but that would not make them Christian. It is the same concept in other religions. Personally I find some of the teachings of the Buddha extremely wise and worth following. I feel the Hindu belief in the sacredness of life to be very valuable. These thoughts in no way make me a Buddhist or a Hindu.  It would be insulting to either group to say that. For some reason however people feel that Christianity is different and you can use the name as long as you have heard of Jesus Christ. It really is no wonder people want to re-brand what they see. I would ask though, does that make what they see truly Christian? Not hardly.

We can’t solve the world’s problems by walking through a spiritual supermarket, picking up the items we want and then calling our shopping bag Christian. Rebranding destroys the old and muddies the new. Listening to many opinions does not bring about truth, it usually confuses it. All we end up doing is taking God out of the picture and creating our own religion. But if that is all we want to do, why do we need to invoke the name of Christ? Christianity starts with the mercy and justice of God and finishes with reconciliation. If parts are removed for the sake of modern sensibility, we effectively destroy the whole. Christianity is not based on a mental practice of agreeing with terms. It is based upon the action of doing the deeds. If a person doesn’t do that, they are not Christian.

Seeking the supremacy of proving our work is better than theirs and our blend is smoother and flows better is useless. A rose by any other name will still wither and die.

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If The Journey Is The Goal, Why Not Enjoy The Ride?

I was given a link to a Youtube trailer for an upcoming show being sponsored by Oprah Winfrey called Preachers of LA. I need to start by saying I do not know any of these Preachers personally and have never been to their respective churches so the only thing I have to go on is the trailer itself. With that said, the opinions expressed in the trailer are at the very least far more prevalent in our churches than they ever should have been. Simply put, the biblical message is that Christ took on our sins due to the nature of God’s love to give man the ability to be redeemed and the opportunity to live forever in communion with God the creator of the universe.  The message of this trailer and show appears to be that gift from God is a brand to be sold and make people rich. It made nauseous.

The idea of the health and wealth gospel is not really new; it has been distracting people for decades. It is preached by televangelists, supported by celebrities, and completely and totally contrary to the bible. I know this appears harsh but I have no other way to communicate it. If we centralize the focus of the biblical message to one verse ripped whole heartedly out of context about a minor character in Israel’s history (Jabez) and miss the crystal clear focus of the rest of the text we are clearly not honoring God. The overwhelming message is to love, have compassion and mercy, seek justice, and be content with God’s grace. One of the major character traits of God is justice. How can that be pursued if we are looking for our own reward at the expense of others.

I know that the practitioners of this would say that they do not do this, but in reality, how can that be supported? The bible clearly shows how God rewards people. However, he does so on his desire and not because we “name it and claim it” or “visualize it”. If we are so self focused that our prayer and faith life is structured only on what we want, how can we say we are serving God. I think Peter should feel better about denying Christ in the courtyard of the Sanhedrin than any preacher should ever feel about preaching this garbage. If a person can reconcile owning a Bentley while members of their congregation go without food to help fund it, their moral compass is so off I am surprised they can find their way to work.  I am overwhelmingly concerned that this kind of garbage is seen as acceptable and actually thrives.

The church’s job is to provide a safe place to experience God and support his people’s relationship with him. If people are using it as a venue to make money, they are missing the point entirely. The prevalent idea is that God wants his children to be happy. The Bible never says this. The word happy in modern terms is a state of being. The words used that are translated into “happy” in the bible refer to recognizing the blessings God has given you, not being in a state of continuous reception of good things. God promises to care for us. In order for that to occur, we need to be serving him and following his direction in our lives. If we choose to live outside that direction, we choose to live outside that care. That does not mean that bad things will not occur. Telling a person that bad things happened to them because their faith was poor is frankly cruel and should be condemned. The bible never says that things will always be good, bad things will happen. Our ability to be content in all circumstances is what should determine happiness, not a Mercedes.

I am sure that when I stand before the Almighty God, there will be many things that his presence will expose in me that I will not want to have exposed. I do not see how people who preach this type of gospel will even be able to say they did with a straight face. God expects us to live sacrificially for the sake of others, not build designer kitchens in our mansions while children die from hunger. The simplest way to say it is that we need to focus on God and stop focusing on ourselves.

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The Not So Modest Proposal

Why doesn’t God love gay people? I would hope that Christians would immediately say, “He does love them.” However I am fairly certain some churches would have concerns if they suddenly received a ten percent influx of visitors next Sunday, who happened to be gay.  Homosexuality is one of the biggest social concerns affecting our churches today and it is not a new subject. I adamantly proclaim God does love gay people. Unfortunately, based upon church history in the last few decades, I can understand why people might think the church feels God doesn’t. We have a real problem if our excitement for visitors is truly proportionate to our ability to accept them based on how dirty we think they are. I am certain Christ would disagree with our praxis if we tell God which of his children we want to work with. The church’s stance on the subject of Homosexuality ranges from hypersensitive to possibly sinful, so I am going to suggest we rethink our position on how we address Homosexuality. Now, before you stop reading and dismiss this idea as anywhere from ridiculous to heretical, please take a few minutes to read through this article, think through what I am saying, and decide for yourself. Maybe by the end a voice in your heart will tell you to forget it, or maybe you will find a voice in your heart to help me set a trend that could change our world. I am going to propose we look at Homosexuality, why we say it is outside of God’s plan, and then rethink how the church should communicate that and deal with it.

There are a handful of biblical references that either directly or indirectly address homosexuality. The purpose of this article is not to offer a critical textual analysis of them to attempt to define the ultimate truth. The verses are clear; and simply put, the more we openly debate the biblical text regarding this issue, the more we obfuscate its relevance. We need to review them though to understand what it says. The bible offers direct prohibition of homosexual sexual practice in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). In the same law it also says that if a man commits adultery he should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10), if a child curses their parents they should be put to death (Leviticus 20:9), and if a married couple has sex during the woman’s menstruation cycle, they should both be cut off from the people (Leviticus 20:18). We seem to be very willing to support some laws and not interested in supporting others. I am not suggesting we stop reading Leviticus, but there is a good reason why most churches don’t “preach through” this book. Simply put, it requires a great deal of context and background to understand. Therefore I am going to posit that we should not use Leviticus as the proof text for our arguments against Homosexuality.

Another argument used by the church is from Sodom and Gomorrah. Etymologically we get the word Sodomy from this, and have used the word Sodomites to refer to Homosexuals. Genesis 13 tells us that the people of Sodom were wicked and sinned greatly. Genesis 18 reiterates this but neither explains directly what that sin is. The following passage from Genesis 19 explains the immorality that was rampant in the city.

4Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” (Genesis 19:4-5, NIV)

It is ridiculous to use this text to prohibit homosexuality because it looks nothing like homosexuality; it does however look an awful lot like gang rape. Are we really expecting the world to equate two men or two women having consensual sex with gang rape? There is no comparison. An ancient city full of people willing to commit aberrant crimes of forced sex has no relation to modern people engaging in alternative sexual expression. Frankly Christians look like idiots when we say the two are the same. I think this argument causes more problems for Christians than for homosexuals, as it indicates we are a hypocritical people who don’t even closely read our own bible.

Additional prohibitions exist in 1 Corinthians and 1Timothy. These verses contain the Greek words arsenokoitai and malakoi . These words are traditionally translated as homosexual and effeminate, yet there has been a lot of discussion about their true meaning over the years. Some feel that arsenokoitai is a translation of a Hebrew phrase in the Holiness code in Leviticus regarding the prohibition of a “man lying with a man as a woman”. The word malakoi is generally accepted to refer to the passive partner in the ancient Greek and Roman practice of Pederasty. This practice involved an older man courting and engaging in sexual relations with an adolescent boy.  I personally feel that the latter translations and scholarly views on the terms are actually correct. Beyond offering a proposed solution to the historical conundrum of understanding ancient cultural oddities, this gives us nothing.  Neither reference contextually refers to the modern practice of homosexual coupling. If we need to educate a person on the Hebrew and Greek in order to present God’s take on a modern dilemma, maybe we are trying too hard. These verses seem to be used to try to win arguments more than they are used to save souls. I am quite certain God is less pleased with our practice of arguing with sinners rather than showing them God’s enduring love and pointing them to salvation.

This leaves the most powerful reference in Romans 1. Paul is trying to deliver the message of Christ to a non Jewish world. He begins his treatise by envisioning the world in its infancy stage. He explains that people knew God, but did not glorify him or give him thanks. Because of this, God allowed them to continue the path they were on so their hearts darkened, and their thoughts became futile. They replaced the glory of God with selfish desire and allowed that desire to control them. God did not stop this from happening, because man exchanged the truth of God for a lie about themselves. In simple terms, they rebelled against God and became their own gods. Homosexuality then enters the picture, both for women and men.

“For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”  (Rom 1:26-27 NAS)

This passage clearly states that homosexual behavior is outside the will of God. It is and always has been an act that God wants mankind to steer clear of.  It is not an evil entity by itself; rather it is seen as a byproduct of rebellion. It is a symptom of the disease and not the disease itself.

We use Romans 1 to declare homosexuality to be vile by the nature of this act and demonize it in and of itself. We do ourselves a great disservice by doing that because we miss the fact that it is not the first, last, or even the most prevalently mentioned symptom of rebellion against God. All sexual immorality is condemned by this passage along with idolatry, every type of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. If we as a church really want to honor God by preaching Romans 1 to proclaim his name, why do we solely focus on homosexuality? Why do we not pursue the other condemnations like we do homosexuality? I am ashamed to say this, but it appears we are not as bothered by the other symptoms, so we target a specific symptom, while letting the disease continue.

Homosexuals feel sexual attraction to people of the same sex, and it is irrelevant whether this desire is innate or whether it is learned through societal interaction. They take action on that desire proclaiming dominion over God by saying that their sexual desires outweigh his authority to declare what is right.  Homosexual interaction is not more or less offensive to God than any other sin. The real problem is the abject rebellion declaring God has no right to regulate human behavior. Unfortunately this is rarely the center of the discussion by Christians. Some have branded Homosexuals as aberrant and less than human because of this sin, while other Christians go so far the other direction that they lessen God’s authority themselves in a “more loving” approach. Realistically neither direction is right, as we can neither reject God’s authority, nor usurp his power. We need to stop treating sin like something people are getting away with, and start treating sin like something people need to recover from.

Rather than approaching people who are lost due to their sins, we have alienated groups of people based upon our fear and dislike of a specific sin. We have created so many walls between ourselves and these groups that we may never be able to fully break them down.  Homosexuality is not a cultural oddity that will pass away from our society. While our nation is currently at war with active troops dying in a foreign land, one of the largest social concerns in our country is “Gay rights”. Our world is not thinking correctly, and the Church should be the compass that helps the world find direction, but we are not doing that effectively. The current condition of the world is my evidence.

We need to start by setting our own compasses in the right direction. We can do this by asking for forgiveness from God, and then from the homosexuals that we have persecuted. What do you think would happen if every Christian who knew a homosexual went to that person and asked forgiveness for the bigoted, selfish, hateful, and foolish ways they were treated, or just forgiveness for not speaking out about it sooner? By doing this, we are not changing our doctrine to say that God now accepts the behavior but the act of asking forgiveness could reopen the lines of communications between a group who knows they are lost due to sin, and a group who still needs to recognize that.

Secondly, we should take a special collection from our own congregations and have the money donated to AIDS research. How do you think the world would react if the Christian church donated millions of dollars to research a cure for that devastating disease? I do not think this will fix all of the problems, but I do believe it will tell the world we are serious about what we believe and are willing to do something about it. This act alone may even give us the opportunity to talk to people and not just talk at them.

Thirdly, we should stop trying to fix Homosexuals. They are not broken machines. They are creations of God that have been damaged by sin. This damage cannot be fixed by reforming orientation by our understanding of propriety. We need to be willing to accept that we don’t have a solution. Only God can repair the damage through the love and forgiveness of his son. We can accept homosexuals as God’s children and show them the God who can heal them. This does not mean that Homosexuals will stop being attracted to the same sex. Churches will have to accept that people in their congregations will still be tempted to sin, so we will need to do a better job of supporting them.

Lastly, I think we should actively pray for these people. While the church’s history with homosexuals may not engender an appreciation of our prayers, we should do it anyway.  Start with the people you know and pray for them regularly. Make an active effort in your prayer life to love that person enough to raise them up to God and ask him to intervene in their lives. If we are lucky enough, He will use us to do that.

The church is in crisis mode now and becoming more socially irrelevant daily. We are in a world that is spinning out of our control, but realistically it has never been in our control. We need to stop pointing fingers at other people and spend more time loving all of God’s people, because our actions say more than our words ever could. We are only given so much time on Earth, and ultimately we do not know how much time we have left to address our sins against homosexuals. When we stand before our God, will we be able to explain why we took his impartial and everlasting love and chose to only show it partially and in short supply? God calls us to be the light in the darkness, not to be a cause of darkness. If we band together as brothers and sisters in Christ, taking our jobs as churches seriously, I think we can change the world for the better.

You now have a choice. Throw this article away, dismissing it as heretical garbage, or act on it by helping break down the walls between the church and the homosexual community. Take time to pray about your choice and listen to the Spirit. If we truly listen to the Spirit, He will guide us through all of the world’s challenges. I am confident if we all do that, then we will be closer to each other, closer to God, and closer to tearing down the walls we have built.

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Whether Good, Bad, Sacred, or Profane, Life Can Never Be Inconvenient

Is it ever acceptable for one person to tell another person that their life is too problematic and ill timed that they need to no longer exist? A man sees a homeless person sitting by the doorstep of his apartment complex and can smell their odor each day he walks by. He gets to the point of not wanting to bring friends over or even live in the apartment because the odor is so strong. If he decided to kill the homeless person because they presented too many challenges to overcome living in that apartment, he would be a criminal and rightly seen as morally repugnant and legally culpable. Our country has clear laws regarding such actions. However if a woman chooses to be sexually active and chooses to have unprotected sex or uses contraception that fails resulting in pregnancy, she has the legal right to abort the child due to the inconvenience of having a baby and raising a child. The woman would be legally innocent but I have to ask if the act is any less morally repugnant?

The question of abortion is a moral question being argued in legal terms. The current legal battles are whether to reduce, limit, curtail, increase, expand, or strengthen the current legal parameters. The law currently allows abortion in all states so arguing it in legal terms is similar to searching for a reduced fare on a cruise liner that already sunk. We have given people the ability to kill on demand and allowed them to feel as if it is a women’s rights issue. The window is now open to extend this to euthanasia which looks like the next natural step. Slowing down the process legally won’t stop the problem. We need to be discussing the moral issue with people. The challenge for Christians is that if we convince people to act morally without given them Christ, we are effectively being cruel. With that said, we still need to be able to answer the moral question and be able to defend it viably.

The arguments for abortion early on focused greatly on the question of when does life begin. Is the fetus a human being or is it a parasite. This presented two major problems. The first is that the definition of parasite not only described the fetus but also most children and teens. There has never been a doubt that offspring act in a parasitical fashion until they reach a level of maturity. The science for determining if it is a human being however weighed more and more in the favor of Pro-Life. Evidence showed that fetuses reacted to pain, had brain patterns, heart beats, and even develop patterns of right or left handed behavior.

Ten to fifteen years ago the arguments started shifting to human rights and the human being status of the fetus began to be widely accepted. This brought on new questions. Does the baby have a legal right to life and does the state or anyone other than the mother have the ability to regulate what happens in the life of the mother? A famous argument was provided by Judith Jarvis Thomson regarding a virtuoso violinist with kidney failure. She posits the question that if you were kidnapped and attached to a machine that was allowing the violinist’s body to use your kidneys and were asked to stay there for 9 months to allow the violinist to heal, would you consider that a violation of your rights? If you were given the option to voluntarily disconnect knowing that would kill the violinist, would you? The problem with this argument and those like it is that a person being kidnapped is a victim whose rights are clearly being violated. A woman choosing to have sex is never a victim and is expressing her rights over her own body by having sex. The only circumstance were this analogy becomes valid is if the woman was a victim of rape. The cases of rape resulting in pregnancy were less than 1% according to several studies over the last several years. This statistic has been disputed in the same manner of all statistics. If the test population is not wide enough, it will not accurately support the results. Whereas these concerns hold some validity, even if the percentage was as high as 5%, that would still mean that over a million abortions were performed each year that were corrective actions to regretted choices. I honestly feel that if the only abortions performed were due to rape, the abortion debate would be over.

The real concern is the moral choice to end a life based upon convenience. If two people choose consensually to engage in sex, are they not responsible for their choices? How is it moral to give them a way out of that responsibility by mere virtue of it causing them difficulty in the future? How is it morally acceptable to end a life for convenience? Over 50 million babies have been killed over the last 40 years in the United States alone. How can this be morally acceptable to our society so that people can escape the responsibility of a bad choice? The arguments for abortion rob humanity of its soul. How can we ever consider ourselves moral, if we allow atrocity to be engaged in freely without speaking up? I do not think the law will ever change; how much it is utilized by people can. Lobbying to change the laws will not change the hearts of people that are willing to make an immoral choice. The problem isn’t going to be solved in the rhetoric, it will need a savior. The question Christians need to ask themselves is whether or not that is the message they present. Are we betraying Christ’s grace by blaming the people rather than providing the gospel in a way they can hear it? If our message to people having abortions is filled with words that attack the person and not the problem, I think maybe we are. If people are acting in an immoral way, they do so because that is what they know. It is up to us to teach them something different through love. Christ’s commission to us was to spread the gospel throughout the world. That did not mean to just deliver the package and leave. It meant to explain the gospel in a way it can be understood. If we want this problem to get better, we need to be better at doing that.

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