Posts Tagged witnessing
The rumble and roar of evangelicals could be heard around the internet. People boldly went to their nearest social media outlet to proclaim to the world, or more realistically their social circles, that they disapproved of the SCOTUS decision that marriage in the United States is now federally approved to include people of the same sex. One post even declared “we are followers of Jesus Christ first and foremost. Unto Death a Christian”. In response people from the opposite side of the argument posted pictures of the White House filtered through a rainbow and rainbow flags and images. The battle lines are being drawn and the newest Civil Conflict is being declared. One truth stood out above all other. Both sides feel it is us against them and the first casualty is communication.
The Church is preparing for the conflict, but in a unique way. The modern Church in general would consider themselves a New Testament Church but for some reason we are greatly modeling our actions out of Old Testament thought. I am not referring to the assessment of whether Homosexuality is acceptable in God’s eyes. I am referring to how we are responding to the perceived threat from the “gentiles” or more specifically, those outside the body of believers who support this ruling. We are calling out to God for protection from our enemies and seeking his strength for vindication as David did. We are gathering supporters and preparing for action as Gideon did. We are making stands for ourselves and our houses like Joshua. We are preparing our battle cry to call out like the army surrounding Jericho, “Marriage is between one man and one woman!”.
I think that is where we have missed the mark. We have been preparing for a fight for so long we forgot to check our facts. The Bible does not teach that marriage is between one man and one woman. Out of the 100 or so times marriage is mentioned, only a handful of verses mention anything in the way of instruction. Most of those instructions are about how to act between spouses and not who to marry. The statement “Marriage is between one man and one woman” comes greatly out of inference. In the garden when Eve was created she was given to Adam and the two became one flesh. Ok, I see the inference in the story but I don’t see the mandate. If you look at the rest of the bible the practices of marriage were steeped in polygamy and a brokerage system that involved purchasing a wife.
The standard response to this is that God tolerated these things but did not support them. I think this is where the real problem lies. We are inferring what the correct standard should be from the bible. We are allowing it to change to meet the social structure of a modern world based upon our understanding of what God intended. We have adopted that structure within our bodies and are encouraging our congregations to honor God through their involvement in that practice. All of that makes perfect sense within the church and we have every right and reason to create mandates for membership in our churches surrounding those inferences. But how exactly do we think that gives us any right to place those mandates on the rest of the world? How can we expect people who are not following God to sacrifice there personal desires to approximate a relationship with God without actually having one?
We are throwing around the word love and telling people that it is our responsibility to warn them that they are headed down the wrong path. I am not sure I can even fully agree with that sentence but even if I do, how exactly do we feel that legislation to prevent people from doing something we don’t agree with is warning them? We are not warning, we are preventing. How does lovingly warning turn into policing? That is clearly not our job yet for some reason, around this subject specifically, we not only want to take it on, but we are claiming God is requiring us to.
We have been so caught up in our preparations and supplication I have to wonder if we have forgotten invocation. Have we truly sought guidance from God on this and truly asked for his presence in our actions or are we running as fast as we can like a child with scissors in their hand. We are doing horrific damage to our own witness and causing people to turn away from the church, not because they are rejecting God, but because they are rejecting us. We need to stop this train before it permanently derails and get back to a focus of letting God be God and being happy with being his people. We have every responsibility to regulate actions within the church. We seem to have forgotten that responsibility stops at the church doors.
When I was much younger I knew it all, or at least I thought I did. I took all the classes and read all the books I needed to form the most infamous weapon ever to be used against mankind, the opinion. It was like a logic puzzle, all I had to do was find the right ways to shape the right scriptures and support the right views to make myself feel right (read superior). There wasn’t a subject I wouldn’t tackle because I had all the information I needed in the bible. It was simply a matter of how I used it. I cant claim I was alone in doing this or even that I was the best. I was taught well by many before me but I was quite good at it. If an argument against God came my way it had to go through both barrels of my baseball bat theology (I know I mixed my metaphors but it made about as much sense and some of the arguments I would use). It is almost as if the book itself was a cacophony of magic spells that I just needed to decipher to defeat evil (read anyone who disagreed with me). The world was my battleground and all who disagreed with my God were my target, and frankly my soul has been paying the toll ever since.
This was how “witnessing” was taught and this is why it has become malodorous in today’s world. I am not owning that responsibility but I certainly played my role. So many years later and many miles wiser (hopefully) I am sickened when I see my younger self in people today. How can we ever believe we are honoring the Creator of the universe by dishonoring his creations so entirely? A persons voice or view is an extension of who they are. It may be right at times and wrong at times and somewhere in between at times but it is always part of who they are. Dishonoring that dishonors God.
This happened within the church as well as without and still happens unfortunately. It seems like the epitome of Christian growth is the ability to understand (read control) the text. That then leads to instructing (read control) others within the church body and directing (read control) the church body and where it focuses its attention. All of this happens under the umbrella of being lead by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately I have heard far too many things that he would he not take credit for and he shouldn’t be blamed for either.
The real problem is not so much that this makes us look like arrogant fools (which many times we deserve) but also effectively removes the ability to speak cogently on issues that are truly facing the world. Here is a perfect case in point. Ellen Page recently came out of the closet and announced to the world that she is gay. This brought almost immediate support from many celebrities and thankfully Christian groups have not said anything stupid yet. Here however is the concern. I watched her speech and was genuinely moved by her view and experience when dealing with gender and role expectations and the hypocrisy and atrocities associated with that. Of which the church has historically been part of and I feel the issues she raised are large value points we should address. She said “If we could take just 5 minutes to recognize each others beauty instead of attacking each other for our difference…..ultimately it would save lives”. I think that is brilliant and something the church should spearhead instead of attack. At the same time I couldn’t care less what gender Ellen Page wants to have sex with or couple with. I was never on the short list for that role so my opinion on the fact is irrelevant. (Ellen, if I was and I missed your calls, I have really screwed the pooch on this and am sorry) As a matter of fact, I don’t think anyones opinion on that is relevant beyond her and her partner. I think that this personal choice of hers should be private and not something that should be seen as a badge of courage for proclaiming. Why does sexual choice have anything to do with human rights. The two things are not linked unless we make them so.
Christians however have almost lost the ability to speak on this because we have been the major voice in linking these things. We have abused human rights because of our opinions and now we are seen as the villains instead of the voice of reason. People are far less willing to listen to a view if they don’t understand we respect them for listening and see the beauty in them that God created. Why do we think so negatively about people when God spent so much effort building them for positive things?
If we do not change out tactics, our message is going to be heard less and less and eventually maybe not at all. I am not a pessimist who believes the church will cease to exist, but I do think we are in danger of ceasing to be relevant on the most important topic ever. God loves us and wants us in relationship with him. How can we ever believe that any other message could be more important than that?