Sin as a symptom…
I’ve had many conversations concerning the affirmation of Gay marriage since a recent article in the San Diego Union Tribune informed us that the United Church of Christ recently became the largest denomination to bear the label “open and affirming.” “Open and affirming” would be an amazing label for the Church if it meant now what it should mean. “Open and affirming” now means that the institution that bears it has no objection to homosexual lifestyle. I have grown up in and now work in a United Church of Christ. Our particular church has yet to specifically deal with the issue but, because of the National institution, it’s become the “open and affirming” thing has been a hot topic.
There seems to be somewhere around three kinds of people I have come in contact with: Those who oppose homosexuality outright and loudly sending a message to homosexuals everywhere that they have no place within that sphere (group 1). There are those who think it’s wrong, unnatural, and harmful to live that lifestyle but desperately long for the “gay community” to be loved as the beautiful people they really are (group 2). Then there are those who have no problem with homosexuality and criticize anyone who speaks out against it (group 3). Group 1 has approached the situation aggressively, you might see signs that read: “God hates fags” or “Gays, go away.” Group 3 combats the first group by encouraging, supporting, and empowering the Gay lifestyle. The second group, Group 2 usually finds themselves uncomfortably placing themselves on one side of the fence or the other. Which are you and what are you doing? Does your view point keep you from either love or justice, from compassion or discernment? Any movement that lacks these components is not of God.
Soon the Ramona Sentinel may be placing an article to see where the local United Church of Christ stands on the issue. Knowing our pastor, it broke my heart. Our pastor will now have to deal with the situation, being in group 2 most likely; he’ll be asked whether he is in group 1 or 3. Again, this breaks my heart. How can we convey a message of peace and acceptance and love and at the same time a message of discernment and justice?
Maybe our terms need correction. What if we’ve been looking at this from a bad angle the whole time?
Have you ever stopped to ask why someone lives a homosexual lifestyle? Let’s step back, why does someone become an alcoholic and drink themselves into a stupor? Do they set out saying, “man I wonder what it’s like to be an alcoholic and drink myself into a stupor on a daily basis?” Probably not. That lifestyle is rooted in… it comes from… something so much bigger and immensely more serious. Alcoholism comes from a lack of self worth, motivation, or acumen about life priorities. It can come from neglect at an early age, or even abuse, even poverty. It comes from a variety of different things none of them positive, all unnatural, unfortunate circumstances. Look at prostitution, look at drug addicts. There are deep places within each of us that are occupied by the remnants of life circumstances. These things condition the kinds of people we are. Generally if we know great love then we are conditioned to be the kinds of people who love. If we are exposed to manipulation regularly we will be swayed toward becoming manipulative people. So can we proceed to say that it’s less about the specific action and lifestyle than it is the kind of people we are?
Why do we demand someone stop what they are doing long before we address the deep places of their heart that need healing. Brokenness leads to all kinds of unnatural ways of living. A sin, after all, is simply something that hinders people from living the best kind of life. Relationship is all about wholeness and healing, it’s about getting into the dirtiest places in a persons life and shining light and bringing new life into those areas. When the Church says that someone, anyone in any sort of lifestyle, should be excluded from their midst the message it sends is that to enter relationship with them you have to have it all together and already healed. The Church has nothing to say to the Gay community until there exists a loving relationship between them.
The Church has become an institution. If the Church is an institution they are forced to answer to the rest of culture. The church even if only through deed and not word is labeled and placed on one side of the fence or the other sending their message to the world of either “moral hate” or “immoral tolerance.” If the Church was once again essentially relationship and not a location or establishment their message would be understood by the culture appropriately because judgment would be made at an intimate level. As soon as Church became an institution that has been given authority to give out marriage certificates we were inured to be labeled and to send out contemptible messages. Maybe we need to be careful what we wish for. Do we want the kind of authority we’ve been given? Has it made us into something we don’t want to be? Maybe it’s about people speaking on behalf of the Church who simply shouldn’t.
We have turned a gospel of love and hope and acceptance into one of sin management. If it’s about relationship then everyone belongs, everyone is accepted. Lifestyle change comes from deep healing and healing naturally comes from loving community and genuine friendship.
We’re so focused on outward actions; think about love for example. If you are not the kind of person who loves then how hard will it be to do the action? It’s not about picking and choosing who we love and don’t love it’s about becoming the kind of people who love, people who love everyone.
When we attack a lifestyle we attack a people. Are we called to go out into the world and tell everyone what they are doing wrong?
Jesus came, if I remember correctly, “not to condemn the world…” (John 3:17). The beauty of the kingdom of God is that it’s open to every person, in every facet of life. So how do we send a message of love into the world while sending a message of purity and restoration to the world? Let’s put it in the right terms. If the Church was people not a place again and the people were the kind of people who love, and the kind of people who accept others as they are, then that will be how people enter the Church, through people.
God is deeply in love with every human on the planet. To know God’s heart is to love the same way. I pray that that love will be what the world sees first. No one seeking compassion and grace should feel out of place in the Church. I want to be the kind of person who loves without an agenda, I want to make friends no matter what their life looks like and no matter how far from my point of view they may be. I want people to know they are loved… by God… by the Church.
This is such a great post. I am so sick and tired of the "church" being a place where people feel they cannot go because of the condemnation they will recieve. In my mind that is no church at all. There is a very dear friend of mine whom had told me that at the church he is the youth pastor at they have a few gay people attending the youth group. It is not because they support the homosexuality. These young men have said we know you think what we are doing is wrong, but we still come because we are loved here. It is one of the only places were we are loved.
Will someone please tell me why this is not the way the rest of the church is. I don't understand how a body of people that are supposidly focused on spreading the love of God can hate so many people.
Will Christians get the clue that to love the person you do not have to love their sin. Will Christians stop judging and condemning. I don't want to be called a Christian if that is what they are.
Great thoughts Wes.
I'm always amazed with your posts. I had actually thought about posting about this topic...stay tuned.
Wes, great post....I actually was reading Flip's Blog and posted a long comment about this topic on her blog if you want to check it out. I am with you on your thoughts. I have a cousin who is a Lesbian and it is very obvious to me that she is protecting herself from men, because she didn't have a great dad. In fact he was down right nasty in all ways that word can be applied to a man. It is just so blatenly obvious that she doesn't want to chance dealing with another man like her father...and it's funny because once he died ( a few years ago) that is when she made it known to the family that she was a Lesbian. It's like she was thinking, okay this man is dead and I don't want to ever be around someone like him again, so here world...here's what you can know about me, but really it's just my shield to protect me from what I'm afraid of. I also think part of it is that she's afraid if she looks out there in our world for a man to love her, that she won't find it, so why be vulnerable when you can be safe. Those are just my observations about my cousin.
Wes, awesome thoughts. I totally agree, the Bible even goes further than saying that he loves us, but scriptures say that God is love, that he literally is love. By loving on people and helping them work through the deepest pain in their hearts, we are sharing the message of Christ with others, that of unconditional love. Great post man.
Hey dude, I am SO proud of YOU!!! I have been meaning to address this issue for a long time and I don't think that the Lord has given me the words to express it, but He gave them to YOU! Thank you! You are right, right, right on ALL counts in my book and I think, in THE book, the Bible!!! In fact, since I could address it, YOU are my post for the day--linking to YOUR post. Beware. You will know if you read my posts that I am not in favor of the institution. I have so much wondered how "the church" as it has become could be so far away from what Jesus taught in relation to people.
A thousand “amens”!!!!! Teresa at Restoration Station sent me over here, and I’m so glad she did! You are a courageous brother for speaking so honestly, and so eloquently, about this issue. I agree wholeheartedly with you. Incidentally, I just posted something on my blog a few days ago that illustrates what you’re saying:
The bulletin I was handed at yesterday morning’s church service came with the following warning:
At Miami Valley Community Church we practice the inclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This means you may be gathering today with tax-collectors, sinners, adulterers, hypocrites, Buckeye fans, Wolverine fans, Jews, women as well as men, the disabled, dying thieves, and other sinners; people from ethnic minorities, bigots, peoples of other faiths, strangers from other countries, heretics, etc., etc. -- and all are most welcome -- in fact, anyone like those who Jesus mixed with are welcome here. So beware... this is not a private club. Welcome to all!
Thank you for such a great post ~ you are not alone!
Oh I went over to Flip's site and have been really blessed--thanks!
Wes, very truthfully and eloquently said.
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