In the preceding post, I surveyed the positive evidence showing the Christian religion is not homophobic and that its core teachings contradict homophobic ideas and tendencies.
We defined homophobia as fear, hatred, aversion, or violence directed against a person because they identify as LGBT.
In this post, I am playing defense, answering some common objections I've encountered against the idea Christianity is not homophobic.
This was not an easy post to write, as I am keenly aware many will not find these answers satisfying.
However, I hope the reader will render judgment with an open mind and heart, focusing on the logic and coherency on the statements made, and not personal feelings or political leanings.
Here are the four objections:
In Leviticus 20:13, does not the Bible say homosexuals should be put to death, and is that not a clear example of homophobia?
Firstly, even if this passage could be understood as homophobic, the Levitical laws were never intended wholesale for all times and all people (e.g., 4:2-3, 7:28-29, 12:1-3, etc.) and have no intrinsic application to Christians today. For this reason alone, this passage is irrelevant until proven otherwise.
Secondly, the text attacks a behavior, not a class of people, condemning same-sex sexual relations, not those with same-sex attraction. So it is not "being gay" that merits death, but contravening God's laws.
Thirdly, pursuing or actuating capital punishment is not a Christian practice. As one Christian brother has noted...
Paul says:—"If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for, in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good." [Romans 12:20-21]
Would it not sound strangely, for the Apostle to say, in the next words:—"You christians, hang all murderers! for you are God's ministers waiting continually upon this very thing." Such is the position of the abettors of capital punishment amongst christians. (Tolbert Fanning, "Capital Punishment No.2.")
Leviticus 20:13 is not an easy verse to wrangle with, but when taken at face value, it does not promotes homophobia (i.e., negative feelings or actions toward people because of their same-sex attraction).
You say Christianity refutes homophobia by teaching love, respect, and peace for all people, but the Bible in Romans 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 condemn homosexuality explicitly. Is this not homophobia?
The passages in the New Testament about homosexuality are not homophobic because (1.) they do not promote fear, hatred, aversion, or violence toward LGBT individuals (2.) affirm the basic humanity of all people (3.) and are given with a view towards reconciling all people, gay straight, etc., to God through Christ Jesus.
For example, following Romans 1, chapter 3 says, "There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (23-24) (Emphasis mine)
Furthermore, while 1 Corinthians 1:9 prohibits homosexual behavior, verse 10 says, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (Emphasis mine)
Therefore, we see the Bible does not condemn for the sake of condemning, and that all people are equal of sin before God.
God's judgments are based on truth for the sake of revealing to man his sinful condition, that he might understand his need for his Creator and come to know Him.
That is love, not homophobia.
The next objection goes as follows: "The hard reality that...all Christians need to face up to is that the Catholic Church along with every other church whether Orthodox, Protestant or Catholic has been horrifically, persistently and vehemently anti-gay for almost all of its history." (No Cardinal Dolan, the Catholic Church Wasn't 'Outmarketed' on Gay Marriage, Huffington Post)
It is true that throughout Christian history, homosexuals have not always been treated by the Church as Christ would have us treat our neighbors.
This is to our deep shame.
However, to whatever extent this is true, it represents a deep incongruity, not congruity with the teachings of Christ (for the reasons given in the other post).
When any Christian fails to show love, respect, and peace towards all men, they fail to represent Christ.
The final objection is as follows: "Those who oppose gay marriage drive the laws that inflict this daily humiliation unto gay couples and their children. That, put simply, is homophobia." (Yes, Opposing Gay Marriage Makes You a Homophobe, Slate)
The general objection here is that opposing gay rights legislation, which many Christians do, means one is homophobic.
This may be true, but the Bible itself never calls Christians to enact or repeal any laws, lobby government, or try to make the State "Christian".
As such, if a given position toward a law is deemed homophobic, it is or is not so entirely independent of the Christian faith.
I am not arguing here the Bible condemns Christians being in government (even thought that is my personal view), but if a Christian wants to enact or repeal any law, they cannot use the Bible as their support, as it does not advocate for such activity.
There are undoubtedly many more objections that could be raised, but I believe when we look at the positive evidence and negative defenses, it becomes clear Jesus Christ calls his disciples to be ministers of peace, love, justice, and reconciliation in the world, not homophobes.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Is the Christian faith homophobic?
To answer this question, we have to define homophobia, which is no easy task given there is no "official" definition.
"aversion to gay or homosexual people or their lifestyle or culture" (American Heritage Dictionary, 1992 ed.)
"the fear and hatred of homosexuals...sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility." (Anti-Defamation League)
"a fear of homosexuality...come to be used for the entire spectrum of anti-gay attitudes and beliefs." (Levay, Simone and Valente, Sharon, Human Sexuality, 2nd Ed. )
As we can see, any answer to this question must take into account the fluid meaning of the term homophobic.
Obviously, if one has already defined homophobia in such a way to include the belief that gay sex is sinful, this particular debate is over and Christianity is homophobic.
However, if we are willing to accept the more modest and straightforward definitions, like the ones above, I believe we can be confident that Christianity is not homophobic.
We may base this assessment on the teachings of the Christian Scriptures, the plumb-line for Christian faith and practice. This is not to say all Christians obey the Bible (God knows that's a lie!), but that to whatever extent any individual or groups of Christians deviate from the Bible, they are acting out of line with Christian practice.
That being said, here are 3 reasons why Christianity is not homophobic:
1. The Christian faith is predicated on Love:
Hate and irrational fear, integral to any understanding of homophobia, cannot exist alongside love. That would be like me loving spiders!
This is important because the Bible tells us that second to loving God, Christians should love those around us, just as much as we love ourselves (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39). In fact, the Bible admonishes disciples of Christ to love even their enemies (Matt. 5:44-45). In addition, Jesus gives it to us straight: if you don't love, you don't know God (John 4:7-8).
Hate and worldly fear (of any kind) are not a part of the Christian worldview. As the Scripture says:
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7
Those who choose to act in an unloving way toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith. In this way, homophobia is not compatible with Christianity.
2. The Christian faith is predicated on Respect:
The Scriptures tell believers to show respect or honor to "all people" (1 Pet. 2:17) and to answer questions or objections to our faith in a respectful manner (1 Peter 3:15).
Furthermore, Jesus in Luke 6:31 says frankly, "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you."
Those who choose to act disrespectful toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith.
Again, we see for this reason homophobia, which disrespects those toward whom it is directed, is not compatible with Christianity.
3. The Christian faith is predicated on Peace:
Violence, agitation, and bullying are out of the question in the eyes of New Testament writers who favor instead "shalom" or peace.
For example, we are told in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." And in Hebrews 12:14, "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." Lastly, Peter (one of Jesus's disciples), quoting the Old Testament says the following:
"Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."(Psalm 34:12-14; 1 Peter 3:10-11)
Those who choose to act in a way not peaceful toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith. In this final example, we see that violence, bullying or agitation based on homophobia (or at all) is incompatible with Christianity.
Homophobia, whether it takes the form of fear, hatred, aversion, or violence cannot exist where love, respect, and peace reign supreme. This means homophobia has no place in Christianity and that Christianity is not homophobic.
In part two, we will look at some possible objections to this thesis.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
If you live in or around the theological community that is Evangelical Christianity, you know what I mean when I write of a "Proverbs 31 Woman".
This pithy slogan is based on the idealized woman of the Old Testament book of Proverbs chapter 31 verses 10-31.
This is not just any woman. She is a "wife of noble character" (10), a blessing to her husband (11-12), a caretaker for her family (15, 27), a helper of the poor (20), a hard worker (17), and so on for miles.
Many a Christian sister has been encouraged to imitate the Proverbs 31 woman. And more than one book, Bible study, and sermon has been published on the subject.
And you know what? That's not a bad thing.
As long as it is understood that the book of Proverbs gives us idealizations and general principles of what could be, rather than hard and fast rules of what will or must be, I see no problem with looking at Proverbs 31 as an example for Christians wives and mothers.
However, there is one problem.
Not all Christian women are wives and mothers.
Either by their own choice or otherwise, there are plenty of unmarried, childless women who, through the selective preaching and teaching in some Christian quarters, get the impression that being a mature woman and a good Christian is synonymous with having a family.
While we hear less of crude statements like "a woman's place is in the home", whenever Christian women are exhorted in the church it seems to be in the context of having a husband or children.
This can lead to unmarried Christian women feeling like they are not full participants in their own faith and faith community.
Often they are pestered with questions that assume they want to get married or should get married, or else there must be something wrong with them.
This is harmful, theologically and personally, and needs to stop.
But what can be done about it?
I propose that our talk of the Proverbs 31 woman needs to be tempered with that of the woman of 1 Corinthians 7:34:
"...An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit..."
This simple little statement packs a gigantic punch.
Paul is defining the nature of what it means to exercise single womanhood in Christ: to be utterly devoted to God with all one's being.
Not a freak who needs to hurry up and get married. Not a half-way Christian. Not a rebel against God's created order.
A woman whose heart is completely sold out to God, undivided. If you are in that place, don't feel the need to change. Embrace your current vocation and throw yourself into the love of the Lord.
What greater honor could be bestowed on any woman?
What greater honor could be bestowed on any Christian?
Monday, November 3, 2014
Tomorrow folks around the country will head to the polls to vote for their favorite candidate or ideal.
This post is about why most of us are better off staying home.
The Impact of Your Individual Vote is Minimal.
One of the many problems with the “get out the vote” fever pitch is that, if realized, it actually minimizes the overall impact of state and local elections.
This is because the more people clamoring to make their voices heard, the less it matters what any one person is saying.
To illustrate, imagine you’re on a committee of ten people, yourself included.
In voting on any particular bill, you control 10% of the total vote.
What if you add ten more people to the committee?
Now you control 5% of the vote.
Add ten more. 3.3%. Ten more. 2.5%. And on it goes.
When elections are decided by a popular vote, your vote matters less if more people are voting.
Furthermore, Casey Mulligan and Charles Hunter (both economists) in their study “The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote” found 7 out of the 40,000 congressional races they studied going back to 1898 were decided by a single vote.
Another study published by Columbia University, “What is the Probability Your Vote Will Make a difference“, calculated the odds of your vote deciding a presidential election at 1 in 60 million.
Finally, because of the Electoral College system, the impact of your vote in determining the final outcome of an election depends heavily on the amount of electoral votes your state controls and the overall reddishness or blueness of your state.
For example, my home state of Illinois hasn't gone red since Reagan was elected and
Texas hasn't voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter.
Unless you live in a “swing state”, whether you stay home on Election Day or not doesn't make too much of a difference.
Politicians Have Their Best Interests at Heart, Not Yours
Time and time again, frustrated voters discover “their” candidate wasn't as nearly concerned about their priorities as appearances would have them believe.
When Roe V. Wade was passed in 1973, formerly “pro-life” politicians Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton all experienced sudden “changes of heart”.
While correlation doesn't equal causation, the timing of their announcements, following the landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of women's privacy and right to an abortion, was quite curious.
Another example of similarly curious “evolutions” on political issues is Democratic Party’s position on gay rights.
Those folks who either supported the federal Defense of Marriage Act or publicly endorsed the view that marriage is a heterosexual union and then changed their minds are almost too numerous to name, but include President Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Harry Reid, Kay Hagan, Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, Mark Begich, Jon Tester, and many others.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Marco Rubio, once a conservative darling and favored as the republican nominee for the 2016 election by conservative pundits and polls, has been deserted by his one time fans on the far-right and in the “Tea Party” for his support for comprehensive immigration reform (which he first opposed).
Examples of politicians flip-flopping could fill a volume.
At the end of the day, Washington is concerned about Washington. Politicians are concerned about politicians.
Rather than going back to the same greedy slot machine, hoping that *this* time things will go our way, why not bypass the thing altogether?
As the old adage goes, fool me once…
Voting for Your Cause Does Little for it
Remarking on voting against slavery, Henry David Thoreau said this:
There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote.
Thoreau, writing a little more than a decade before the start of the Civil War and sixteen years before the passage of the 13th amendment, was spot on.
The United States voted to abolish to slavery as a direct result of hundreds of thousands of dead citizens in a bloody civil war.
To say the 13th Amendment abolished slavery or did anything more than legally recognize what the people had already decided must be done and worked to strenuously accomplish is granting too much.
The same is true of all kinds of civil rights issues, Native American, black, female, disabled, homosexual, and more, not to mention other kids of important social changes reflected through legislation.
Voting for “change” either happens because change has already happened in the minds of the people or because no one really cares one way or another.
Either way, your vote says little.
Voting Feeds Government Corruption; It Doesn't Stop it
When you vote for this measure or that measure, you aren't seeing your vision realized, you are only putting lifeblood back into a broken system.
Any model of government can only exist as long as there is civic participation of whatever form the model requires.
And for democracy to work, people have to engage in the defining democratic practice: voting.
Without votes, a representative democracy like our country would be stall, which, contrary to what you might think, is a good thing.
The American government is inundated with wickedness, propelled by greed, founded on self-concern, stained with blood, and opposed to Christ.
When I choose to work directly through a system like that, I can only make the problem worse.
So what can you do instead?
1 Make a Long-Term investment in Your Home Church
The Kingdom of God is run out of local assemblies of believers who meet in various locations and under different circumstances all across the earth.
True change or reform that does not involve the people of God under the reign of God doing the work of God wherever they may find themselves put by God (to borrow Scot McKnight’s phrasing), will not last.
Get involved in your home church and make that involvement high on your list of priorities.
2 Stop for the One
Christian evangelist Heidi Baker who works with the poorest of the poor in Mozambique has a mantra she carries with her wherever she goes to speak about the wonders God is doing in the Africa continent: stop for the one.
This is being attentive to....
the lady on the sidewalk who you walk by every day going to work
the guy who brings you your coffee at your favorite café
the kid who you sit by at school
that person whom you've never come into contact with before,
...and who God is telling you to minister His love and grace to.
As we go “low and slow” with the hurting people around us who need our help, we will see positive, lasting change bit by little bit.
3 Get Involved in Local Non-Partisan change Efforts
For me, this takes the form of pro-life work.
Maybe you can volunteer time at a local homeless shelter, food bank, center for folks with HIV and AIDS, low cost medical clinic, etc.
Maybe you cannot volunteer time, but can give money on a regular basis or donate supplies/other non-monetary goods.
Whether you’re investing in organizations or activities that meet an immediate need or our seeking to eliminate the root cause of some social ill, you can be sure this is a way to help yourself and those around you without making things worse by necessity.
4 Support Non-Local efforts of the Same Kind
Finally, find a mission or an organization doing good work in another country and do the same thing.
Donate, volunteer, advocate—do something through direct action or investment.
I hope you will consider how civic participation through government hurts more than it helps and will consider one of these non-participant solutions going forward.
Leave questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below!
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Whether it was a lack of Scriptural justification for a certain theology or that it was contradicted by an already established biblical principle, I knew I could no longer hold these beliefs in good conscience.
I want to share with you why.
Specifically, why I believe that I, as disciple of Christ, should remain neutral as to the governments of this world.
To understand why Christians should abstain from voting and other participatory functions of government (political office, war, lobbying, government reform, etc.), we first look at what the Bible says about the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is a real thing, not an abstract concept.
It has real workers (Matthew 9:35-38), real work (1 Cor. 4: 10; Romans 14:17), real laws (Matthew 7:21), real power (Matthew 4:23, Luke 10:9), and, of course, a real King, Jesus (John 18:36)
The Kingdom of God is also a spiritual kingdom, not of this world (John 18:36; Daniel 2:34, 44-45), nor seen with the naked eye (Luke 17:20-21), nor temporal in duration (2 Peter 1:10-11), unlike the kingdoms of this world.
The Kingdom of God is also synonymous with the Church. Scot McKnight writes this in his book “Kingdom Conspiracy":
It is reasonable to say that the kingdom is the church, and the church is the kingdom – that they are the same even if they are not identical. They are the same in that it is the same people under the same King Jesus even if each term – kingdom, church – gives off slightly different suggestions
I think the biblical evidence will evince this point.
To summarize, we are part of a real Kingdom with real workers, works, laws, powers, and Kingship held by Jesus Christ, yet spiritual, not of this world, and eternal. Furthermore, if you are a member of the Church you are member of the Kingdom and vice versa.
Secondly, we need to look at what the Bible says about the rulers of the world and human governments.
Like divorce, which was allowed due to the hardness of man's heart, civil government was established out of a rejection of God and His rule, as it was God's intention and desire to be the direct King of His people (1 Samuel 8).
Consequently, the State has no inherent claim to power (Romans 13: 1-7; Isaiah 40:15-17).
Furthermore the Bible teaches that Satan is exercising a temporal, but actual rule on the earth. Consider the following passages:
Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. – John 12:30-33
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave. – John 14:28-31
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. – John 16:7-11
And, as Paul says, “as for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph. 2:1-2)
And “giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:12-14)
The definitive proof that Satan is the current master of the State, is his offering to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world while trying Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:9).
Some might say he was lying about his power, but if he wasn't lying when he said Jesus could change stones to bread or jump off the temple without injuring himself, why assume he was lying when he claimed to have the very power ascribed him in the gospels and elsewhere?
No, Satan was telling the truth, though, as always, with a bent toward deceit (for example, we know that ultimately all things are under God and His Jesus Christ; Eph 1:18-23) .
As John says, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)
Furthermore, Satan is described as the one who deceives the nations (Revelation 20:3, 8) and the kingdoms of this world are unqualifiedly juxtaposed with the Kingdom of God (Revelation 11:15).
As Greg Boyd writes:
This obviously doesn't mean that all leaders in earthly governments are under Satan's rule. Many leaders are God-loving people who are sincerely trying to serve their society and the world. But these passages suggest that the whole power-over system that constitutes human government is under Satan's oppressive influence. I see no way around this conclusion.
With this in mind, the very principle by which we must not be yoked together with unbelievers is the very principle which prevents us from colluding with worldly governments:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God...” – 2 Cor 6:14-16.
Again, that the State is under the control of Satan, at the moment, precludes us from being participants thereof.
It would be akin to having dual citizenship in both North and South Korea: it's just not possible!
As James says, "you adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."(James 4:4)
Despite this, many Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons claim voting and civic participation is our Christian duty.
But what does the Bible say?
We are told to pay taxes. (Matthew 20:20-22; Romans 13:1-7)
We are told to pray for our government officials. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
We are told to be subject and obedient to government (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1) (only insofar as it the laws of man do not contradict God's laws, of course). (Acts 5:29)
However, there is no support for the idea that to be good citizens Christian must involve themselves in government, rather we are described as “foreigners here” on earth (Hebrews 11:13), who are said to be “not of the world” (John 17:14-19), having “citizenship in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
There is so much more that could be said about this issue, but I want to draw the threads of this post:
1. We are subjects of a real Kingdom with a real King.
2. The kingdoms of this world are under the control of Satan and thus cannot merit our participation.
3. Never are we commanded to be participate in government, but are called foreigners here on earth and citizens of heaven. The idea that is is our Christian duty to do so is without merit.
What say you?
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
WARNING: if discussions about underwear make you
uncomfortable, STOP HERE!
I have long been opposed to pant sagging. Until a week ago.
I have a pair of pants I love. They're sort of like khakis, but they fit more like “skinny” pants and they ride relatively low.
And when said pants were combined with my much loved “I [Heart] Mexico” t-shirt, my black “Rico” briefs could be seen when I made certain body motions.
I was faced with a dilemma: I liked the shirt and I liked the pants, but neither could compensate for the longitudinal (a real word) deficiencies of the other.
While pondering my conundrum, I had an epiphany:
I'm a young black male, I can actually get away with showing a little bit of my ropa interior and I won't have to sacrifice either my chosen shirt or pants.
So I did, in fact, choose both and headed off to school. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel just the slightest bit liberated that day.
However, apart from personal satisfaction, was my fashion decision appropriate?
Some might cite the hygiene problems against me. In other words, I don't want to sit where you've sat if you sat there directly on your underwear.
Gross. Point taken.
However, this doesn't apply to me, because upon sitting, my pants assumed their proper function, carefully guarding my behind and calzones.
Another objection might focus on aesthetics or “I don't want to see your underwear!”
Again, point taken.
Then again, I may not want to see your particular shirt, headband, jacket, or hat but why should my optical preferences have veto power over what you wear?
Besides, this was not what I was doing:
It was much closer to this (but black on black), not even visible 100% of the time:
What about the “it sends the wrong message” objection.
This, I think, is dangerous territory.
As anyone who knows me knows (especially my sisters), I have plenty of opinions on how certain clothing choices can send certain messages, but I also understand it's not always clearly discernible where the line between acceptable and unacceptable is, especially when “lines” differ from person to person.
That's not to say there is no standard of modesty, rather when it comes to issues like seeing a couple inches of someone's unmentionables for a few brief (pardon the pun) moments, I'm inclined to put that in the “agree to disagree” style box.
In addition, some like to bring up the history of sagging pants, letting guys in prison know your, erm, “available”.
This doesn't bother me, however, because appropriation is a part of life and is a valuable for tool social and cultural advancement.
For example, some beloved Christian hymns were written to the tunes of bar songs and some pagan holidays were appropriated by Christians in order to make way for our own special days.
Sagging was once something, but now it's something different or, at least, something else entirely too.
Finally, one might ask why do it in the first place.
Well, initially, I did it for reasons of convenience and curiosity, which, upon further reflection, were pretty lame reasons, though there was another side to it.
When you see someone sagging their pants, you don't think wannabe preacher, four years doing competitive Bible memory, or, even, Christian at all.
But all of those things apply to me.
I enjoyed the prospect that just by letting a little underneath show, I might accomplish some small part in collapsing the stereotype of who sags and who doesn't.
Because even if you don't agree with sagging, you shouldn't form an opinion on someone based on how high or low they wear their pants.
So, will I sag again? Probably not (my mom was not to keen on it).
In spite of that, my one time sagging escapade had given me a fresh perspective on the issue.
What say you?
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I want to illustrate this first point by way of a brief story: In working with kids this summer at a mission for children, I remember a particularly poignant conversation I had with a young man, not yet 16, who lived at the mission. Now you just gotta know this kid: ever the smart-Alec, loved to give me all kinds of grief, but with the biggest of hearts. And I remember there was this one night I found myself discussing with him about why he had walked away from his Christian faith. You see, I had been at his baptism just a couple years prior and upon learning that he had since left the faith, I just wanted to know what had happened. What he told me that night has stayed with me every day since then, truly, and is the inspiration for this message. He said he no longer saw the meaning in following Christ. “So we pray before meals”, he said, “we drag ourselves to Church on Sunday morning”, “we do all the stuff, but where's the meaning?" I was stunned. How my friend had gone from such an eager young believer, to so totally disaffected with God and His Church baffled me, but not for long.
In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus talks to us about love. Verses 34-40 record how the Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up by asking him to name the greatest commandment in all the law. Jesus responded with a quotation from the Hebrew Scriptures, saying that to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul—This is the first and greatest of all of God's commandments.
Now, at first blush, the Pharisees query doesn't seem like much of a stumper, nor Jesus' answer particularly novel, but if you had to answer this question without the benefit of knowing Jesus' response, what would you say? Well, some might answer an active prayer life. Others might point to regular Bible reading. Still others might argue for regular church attendance or a political battle; a social justice cause. Do you see the problem now? The Pharisees understood that a wrong answer to this question could tilt the axis of biblical theology so far one way or the other that it would all come crashing to the ground. However, Jesus knew this, as well, and he not only knew this, but in everything he did, he modeled for us the importance of keeping our love for God central to everything we do. Because if we miss that first part—loving God with all that we are—we can strip the meaning from everything that comes after and we'll end up just quitting altogether. That is how my friend could be so on fire for God and then not. It's how you can have senior Christians who have sat in the same pew, sung the same hymns, taken the same communion emblems for decades whose faith has atrophied and grown cold. And it's how you and I can fill our lives up with spiritual stuff that makes us feel good, or feel Christian—stuff that may very well honor God—but, in the end, be nothing more than whitewashed tombs full of dead bones. Jesus knew: if we don't love God, we excise the very heart from our faith. That's why this is so important.
So, what do we do? When our love for God has ebbed and our faith as a result, what do we do? The Bible has an answer for us: we remember where we came from, repent of anything between us and God, and then remain in Him. Remember, repent, and remain: three r's taken from the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.
You know the story, after taking his Father's inheritance, going off to a far country, and blowing it all, the prodigal soon finds himself bumming slop off a team of hogs at a farm. “When he came to his senses" in Luke 15:17 "he said, "‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” That is, he first remembered from where he'd come from. Then in verses 18-20, “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; take me back as one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.” His repentance, the second R, was him apologizing to his Father and then returning to restore their relationship. The final R is remain. We don't know what happened to the Prodigal son after the story's end. We do know that his father, like God our Father, accepted him back, not as a servant, but as his beloved son, but whether the son choose to remain in that love for the duration of his life is only speculation. However, it is not enough to simply remember and repent, we must remain in God's love.
And, in closing, that's not a hard task, for when make a habit of reflecting on who God is, how great He is, we cannot love help but love Him. And when we love God, people cannot help but see .And, maybe, will come to love him too. To love God with all our hearts and minds and souls, I pray this for my friend and I pray this for us as Body of Christ, as well. Thank you very much.