Saturday, January 24, 2009

Grace for Gays

Tonight as I watched the television movie called ‘Prayers for Bobby” I again entered into a place of many emotions and many uncertainties. It is a true story of the Griffith family, and specifically their son named Bobby. Bobby battled with same sex attractions and held them secret for years, fearing his religious parents would not understand and might even reject him. He was right, they did not show him any compassion and eventually he could not endure the inward struggle and he jumped off an overpass, timing his jump to collide with a tractor trailer.

I completely admit that the Scriptures and the obvious physiological distinctions make it clear that God’s design was between a man and a woman. But what is not so clear to me is how we as the recipients and sharers of God’s grace should interact and reach out to those who cannot deny what they feel. Who would choose to force themselves into that attraction at the expense of losing your family, your church, and eventually your life?

I have no idea why that lifestyle seems to have become more prevalent in today’s world. Perhaps it is because most had to suppress it in former generations, or maybe it is because the continuing revelations of Adam’s sin are becoming more pronounced in these last days. I do not know, and neither does anyone else. But I do know that pat answers are easy and safe, and I also know that the church has for generations relied on our systematic theology, confident in the fact that we all agree on this particular sin.

It is exactly that safe haven that has kept us from a dangerous journey to hold open the door of grace through Jesus Christ, and allow the Spirit to move where He desires. I have been a Christian for 34 years now, and I know one thing for sure – everyone is a practicing sinner, and everyone practices sin they know is sin and sin they refuse to admit is sin as well. To be sure there are homosexuals who are now living a heterosexual existence, some with growing families and some are even preachers. To what extent they battle those same sex attractions probably varies with the individual, but I am sure many do.

But what kind of inward torture would drive a person to jump in front of an oncoming truck? Have we no compassion, and can we show no sympathy for their situation or are our theological positions enough to insulate us from experiencing their pain? And exactly what requirements are necessary before one can believe on Christ for redemption? How many sins do we have to forsake before we can approach Him, and must we be aware of how God views the entire catalogue of our sins before we can become a legitimate believer?

And during this movie, and I’m sure a scenario that is lived out in thousands of cases, Bobby heard his family and others refer to gay people in the most demeaning and unloving way, his grandmother even suggesting they “line them up and shoot them all”. And these people claimed to be believers and followers of Jesus. And the lineage of these callous people continues today with a complete array of invectives ranging from “Sodomites” to “bath house deviants” and all the rest. And we have to ask ourselves this question, are grace, mercy, and love incongruent to our Biblical beliefs about sin? I do not mean just informing a gay person about his sin, but exhibiting those spiritual fruits to someone in spite of their lifestyle.

No one should practice sin as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. But I have come to this conclusion, only practicing sinners will enter eternity under the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My heart grieves to watch a 20 year old young man leap to his death because he has been rejected by almost everyone he loves and within that experience he has come to violently hate himself.

That surely cannot be New Testament Christianity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Unchristian Effects of Eschatology

Many evangelicals believe, and Scripture seems to support this view, that God has not forgotten the Jewish people and will offer redemption to the remaining Jewish people at the last days. That is not to say that the unbelieving Jews of today are any more saved than the unbelieving Gentiles, they are not. But there are numerous Scriptural glimpses that reference the 70 weeks prophesied by Daniel as a template in which God redeems the remnant left in the final chapter of ecclesiastical history. I am one who believes that as well.

But let us take a harder look at what that has come to mean against the backdrop of what that means Biblically. We as Christians, like the Apostle Paul, should have a love for the Jewish people since their forefathers were used of God and indeed provided the human vehicle through which Messiah was to come. We cannot ignore the fact that John the Baptist, Mary, Peter, James, John, all the disciples, Paul, and most of the believers on the Day of Pentecost were all Jews. The Church of Jesus Christ was birthed from the loins of God’s people, Israel. We should be grateful and have an earnest desire for their souls.

But our love for the Jewish people should not be understood as giving the nation of Israel a carte blanche support for all that it does. That same nation in the Old Testament was many times acting in rebellion towards Jehovah and even practicing idolatry, and this modern nation has for the most part rejected God’s Son. God’s people on the earth today are the redeemed congregation of Jesus Christ, those who by faith in His gospel have been born again and grafted into the Everlasting Vine. Romans chapter 11 is very clear that when Israel as a people were cut off, the church, primarily made up of Gentiles, was grafted in. Paul does make a mention of a regrafting in of the Jews, which could very well refer to the last days redemption.

But even though our eschatology includes some miraculous intervention by God for the remnant Jews, that must not allow us to show favoritism for them which sometimes causes us to show less compassion for their enemies and relegate those enemies to a subordinate position in God’s redemptive message. There is no Jew or Gentile in Jesus Christ, and outside the atonement there are only sinners with ethnic labels, but still just sinners. God loves and died for the Palestinian in the same way He loves and died for the Jew. There is no difference, and our view of eschatology must never mean that we show partiality in the affairs of the nations and to any one ethnic group.

The unfolding of these last day events are in God’s hands, and although reading the eschatological tea leaves may be in some way encouraging, they cannot be seen as authoritative. Matching Scriptural prophecies with current events is a profoundly non-exact science. We as western evangelicals have been taught to take Israel’s side on almost every issue since that is the side that God is on. That is unchristian but for no other reason than that God takes no sides, He calls everyone to come and take His side, which of course is in His Son.

When the church openly gives a blanket of approval to Israel, and with it teaches a divine favor to today’s Jews, we misrepresent the gospel and obscure the heart of God. In fact, we as believers should not be entangled with the affairs of this world since it only leads to confusion and strife over opinions and political perspectives. And just as we should show no preference to Jewish people, neither should we have a hint of anti-Semitism. Any hatred of any people or person is substantively unchristian and must be soundly rejected by each follower of Jesus Christ. We should show love to friend and foe alike, and our love should be authentic and with no respecter of persons.

But in some camps the pro-Israel fervor is so intense that unbelieving Jews are welcomed to speak in the pulpit of the church. Pastor John Hagee has had several unbelieving Jews speak from his pulpit, simply because they were Israelis. This is deeply unfortunate and outside the context of the New Testament, and reveals how an unbiblical support for the nation of Israel can produce a confused version of the gospel, teach believers to join with unbelievers on spiritual issues, and most of all give the wrong impression to unbelieving Jews that they are spiritually safe and in God’s favor, the last being the most grievous of all.

I have heard and read many disturbing comments from professing believers concerning the events in the Middle East and I believe it grieves the heart of Christ. Let me say that any nation has the right and responsibility to protect its citizens, however that is not the concern of the church neither is it our message. Here are some comments I want to share and address from some who are active and professing believers.

“Kill as many of those Palestinians as possible and we’ll all be better off.”

“If innocent women and children get killed, so be it.”

“When 9/11 happened they danced in the streets, so let them die now.”

“I have no compassion whatsoever for any of them.”

These quotes do not come from the Aryan Nation or some KKK member or even some atheist, these are direct quotes from an active evangelical Christian who made them on a Christian blog. And those are only a sampling of the overt, much less the latent, unchristian attitude that is spawned by seeing the world through the eyes of politics and not the redemptive eyes of Jesus Christ. This attitude seems to flourish when we, because of our eschatological views, approve of everything Israel does and have almost no awareness, much less sympathy, for the incredible suffering being endured in the Middle East. Israel has a right to protect itself to be sure, but we as a believers have a divine responsibility to show love and compassion to everyone without regard to nationalism, ethnicity, or how they might play in the unfolding of the end times.

Brothers and sisters, the coming events are in the hands of Almighty God, our calling, our commission, and our privilege is the sharing and living of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that message is without partiality and without respecter of persons to every human being on the face of the earth. The future will take care of itself, the present is calling. Let us show forth Jesus Christ in a genuine revelation to every nation that will cause sinners to say, “We’ve never seen it in this way!”