Tuesday, August 07, 2007

my stance on...


That topic came up in our small group discussion on Sunday night.

So, what is my stance? Honestly, I think it might be best summed up by a correction to an old Christian-ese standby. If you claim to follow Christ, I know that at some point you have heard or said or spelled out on a church sign this catchy little quip:

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

Now, I get what that quip is saying. And really, I think it sounds pretty good (though we Christian are usually horrible at it). But I think a better saying might be this:

“Hate YOUR sin & love all sinners.”

I think that might be closer to what Jesus taught. See, when the topic of homosexuality comes up, we automatically start talking about sin. But if you want me to talk about sin…man, I have got things in my past that you wouldn’t believe; things that I still carry the weight of. So, if you want to talk about it…I can go on all day about my own sin.

To that you might say, “Yes, but there is a difference between sin and a lifestyle of sin.” To which I would respond, “Oh. You want to talk about a lifestyle of sin? Okay then, let me tell you about my lifestyle…”

See, we all live lifestyles of sin in one way or another. We all miss the mark. We all, consciously or subconsciously, skim over or stretch the meaning of parts of the Bible that stand in contrast to the way we live our life. We have a pretty remarkable ability for shrugging those verses off and explaining them away. “Jesus didn’t mean that literally.” “Jesus is talking in hyperbole.” “Jesus was speaking to a specific individual, not giving an universal guideline for all mankind.”

And so on and so forth. We may be right on some accounts. But I, for one, am not going to be so presumptuous as to say that I have found an accurate explanation that serves as a loophole for every verse that condemns my style of life, but as for the passages that condemn your lifestyle…well those are to be taken literally, so have fun burning in hell.

What styles of my life am I talking about? Coarse joking. Consumerism, materialism, greed. How about my unbelievable lack of compassion for the poor. The use of my time and resources. My insatiable desire to be honored among men.

I could go on, but my point is this: of all sinners, I am the worst. Paul actually said that, but I think I could stand toe to toe with him and put up a good fight for that title.

I am NOT saying homosexuality is not a sin. I am NOT saying that there are no absolutes and what is “right” for me, may not be what is “right” for you. You can not correctly accuse me of saying either of those things.

What I am saying is that if you want me to hate a sin, I have a whole list of them that plague my own soul; sins that, for me, hit much closer to home; sins that I know a heck of a lot more about than homosexuality; sins that I live with; sins that I am dying with; sins that, to be absolutely honest, I don’t quite “hate” enough yet.

Sins that, because of my adoration of Jesus and my dependence on and devotion to the blood He shed on the cross, I rest maybe a little too comfortably in knowing are covered by the grace of God.

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

I used to think the main problem with that saying is, generally speaking, we too often take an active stance with the first part (hating the sin) and a passive stance with the second part (loving the sinner). We paint signs and preach sermons about the first part and all too often simply assume the second part… “Yeah. Sure, of course I love them.” And I still believe that is part of the problem.

But I am beginning to see, at least for myself, the bigger problem is that the active stance I have been taking in "hating the sin" has simply been taken against the wrong sins: namely, everyone else’s.


michaelCODY said...

It's always easier to pass the blame or see the flaw in someone else opposed to ourselves. The first person to demonstrate this was Adam when God confronted him about the apple and Adam whined, "What the heck?! This happened from the woman YOU gave me!"

When I was in middle-school, I never wanted to be like my father was at the time; cold, emotionless and hurtful. By high-school I was exactly that and worse. It took an accident almost killing me to change my ways. So really, I was hating myself more than him.

These kinds of things can be tricky because it truly is so much simpler seeing others. Once we realize our sins and flaws however, we have the means to grow; we just need to want to first. By the way, myself along with a few friends have had so many messed up girlfriends we have considered turning gay; is that a sin or is that self-preservation?

Anonymous said...

You are honored among men...and women. And animals. Mainly Tigs. :)


x-ray chick said...

That is one of the best explanations ever. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Would you allow a man who lives homosexually with another man to lead worship at your church?

Betsy said...

Anonymous, I don't think that's the issue here. I think that what he's saying is that we very quickly point at people who are easy to target without looking at ourselves first. There's a lot more to choosing a leader in a church than just, "he sings purdy and doesn't love other dudes." and what if a gay person did lead worship at a church? are you saying he wouldn't really be worshipping because he's gay? are you saying that God would not honor his worship if it were heartfelt? isn't that the point of this? Jesus is the ultimate transformer and I think he would LOVE any of his people to worship him, because we ALL sin and can still be transformed no matter what it is. Bill didn't say it wasn't a sin to act upon homosexuality, he was saying that the same people who point fingers are sinners too and maybe once we get the "our poo don't stink" look off our faces we can stop condemning allll people who struggle with THAT sin and maybe help them see the transforming effect of Christ and let HIM be the judge beyond that.

I hope I didn't chime in too emotionally. I think that your question is a ploy to trap him into condemning a people group that has received so much HATE from the BODY OF CHRIST. The Jesus I know has loved me and accepted me in my worst state and I know I am unworthy and feel that enough when I speak to him. Imagine the sin you struggle with the most and how it makes you feel towards Christ and then imagine how it feels for all of his followers here in the flesh to turn their backs to you, condemning you from ever feeling free to receive what they have. Is that Jesus?

bill said...

anonymous, to answer your question:

um, NO! I am the one who leads worship at my church. maybe if the guy wanted to run sound or something...

of course, i'm kidding. seriously though...to answer your question: I don't know. no homosexual man or woman has ever asked to lead worship at my church. to be honest (and i know this will sound a lot like the post...but i did write the post, so i suppose that is okay), i am still not sure my church should allow ME lead worship. i question my own qualifications on a regular basis. so i don't how much time i should spend worrying about the qualifications of a pretend person in a pretend situation.

i hope i'm not coming off facetious or arrogant, here. i understand your question and i don't want to diminish it...i just have never personally been asked by someone openly homosexual if they could lead worship at my church. and i am really not interested in a strictly philosophical discussion about whether or not i MIGHT let him or her IF i was, in fact, asked.

however, if this is a real life situation and you are looking for real input. and if for some reason, you think i'd be worth talking to about it...i'd be more than willing to. let me know and we can talk about it on the phone or something.

The Anonymous Human said...

Hmm...interesting post. Very thought provoking. This is always a hot topic because (and I agree with Betsy) the homosexual community has received a lot of hate from the body of Christ.

We all know what the Bible says about getting a divorce, yet about 50 percent of Christians who get married still do it. I have a friend who is getting divorced. My friend needed a place to stay so I offered to have him stay with us. A pastor friend of mine cautioned me agaist this saying that this friend would fall among the "sinner" that 1 Corinthians 5 calls out and asks us as christians not to associate with. I disagreed with him and said the best thing I felt I could do for him is love him.

But he did get me thinking. That's a hard scripture. Especially because it's from the man who claims to be the worst sinner of all (as Bill cites). Is this for this specific situation at this church in this community? I certainly don't like prooftexts and using one verse to justify my stance on something. Yet, I also want to draw my stance from the scriptures so that I can, as close as possible, align myself with what I believe God aligns himself with. Paul asks us not to associate with people who claim to be believers yet indulge in "sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler."

Now, I will be the first (or I guess second, since Bill kinda beat us to the punch) to say I've committed those sins on somewhat a regular basis. I lust, I am greedy, I give honor (sometimes above and beyond what I give to God) to people and things, I take advantage of my position, I've been drunk, and I've taken money that wasn't mine.

So what's the point? If you follow the rest of that chapter I think it gets to the heart of what Paul is saying. When someone from the "outside" comes into our fellowship and accepts Christ, there should be a change. There ought to be a difference between the way they used to live their life and the way they live their "new life". This can be very convicting for us. And it should be. We ought to examine ourselves and see to it that we are living a different life.

So I would caution against the "well, who am I to judge" attitude. Paul says we ARE to judge those who claim to be believers. We are to correct one another (and not just those that struggle with homosexuality, but those that partake in coarse joking and looking at porn on the internet and lying and...insert your sin here as I have just listed some of my major offenses). But where is the line between a lifestyle and a struggle?

Back to my friend getting a divorce. I could see the point my pastor friend was making. But in this situation, even if I'm wrong, I'd love to be known as someone who always falls on the side of grace.

v.taimani said...

hey bill.. i dig your thoughts man.. this blog reminds me of the time of the rumple incident at johnson.. to read the comments students left on his facebook was heartbreaking.. it seemed that the harder people tried to encourage the (for a lack of better wording) judgers and condemners to love on rumple, they believed that to condemn him was loving him..

of course you would see the "empty disclaimer" at the end of the most hateful posts that would be something to the affect of.. "your a sinner.. a liar.. going to hell.. god hates gay people.. etc.. yada yada yada.... oh, i want you to know that i love you but i cant condone your actions.." i had never seen love so empty until then..

what im trying to say is that part of the issue in the church is that we kinda have this separated view of what it means act out the love of christ.. the thing is, if we dont learn love as christ intends is then it becomes contaminated and self influenced..

if we are going to preach a message and lifestyle that says "remove the plank out of your own eye before the speck in your brothers" then we sure as heck better live it through our love, through our compassion, through our patience.. past our arrogance and pride..

i think that if at the end of your blog, if a person finds themselves asking why you didnt take a stand on whether homosexuality is right or wrong, then they have missed the point..

much respect..

The Anonymous Human said...

beautiful comment.

bill said...

thanks vaka. I really appreciate that. and i agree, that was very well said.

to jake (anonymous human):

i want to touch on the "who am i to judge" part of what you said: i absolutely agree that we are to judge, correct, admonish, etc. our brothers and sisters in Christ. absolutely…sorry if i came off as though I didn’t.

but judgment must ALWAYS be out of love. ALWAYS! let me say it one more time...ALWAYS!!!

...always. judgment can not be separated from love. but all too often regarding our discussions or our stances on homosexuality it simply is.

we characterize a faceless group of people based on a sin they happen to share in common. we create a characteture. then based on that characteture, we try and decide whether "they" are in or out. whether "they" are allowed to do this or allowed to do that.

that was kind of my point to the anonymous comment above...who is this "man who lives homosexually with another man" that we speak of? is he a friend of yours? is a neighbor? a brother?

i guess i feel like we are often doing nothing more than just playing the morality police; trying to figure out exactly where the line is and exactly whose lifestyle lands on what side of that line.

you know what i think God cares about more than me trying to figure out whose sins fall where on the sin-scale of bad to worse? me getting this stupid plank out of my own eye so that He might be able to lean in a little closer to me; so that i might see Him a little better; so that i might see the world around me a little better.

i believe in Truth. i believe in absolutes. i believe in heaven and i believe in hell. but i'm not sure i believe in our simple, cut-and-dry, pat answers anymore. they are too easy. they don't take into account the PERSON. they address only the sin. they are ALL judgment and no love. and i don't see that lining up with what I know about Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bill, While on a cruise a few weeks ago, I went on an excursion. There were two gay men in our group. I was the only one who spoke to them.
Our neighbor is selling their house. I often wish a gay couple would buy it so I could be Jesus to them.
I think we get too busy "talking" about things, trying to understand our motives. I think we need more "doing". I want my hands to be dirty and calloused doing whatever God wants me to do. I want to be like Paul when he said "Those things you have seen and heard in me...DO" (my paraphrase) In otherwords, Paul wasn't afraid to say.."Be like me."
I know from my sinful ways that it takes constant prayer, self-examination and repentance. But I want to be a "doer", and example to my family and friends. God will judge my motives. "Mama K"