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Friday, February 25, 2011

Loving Sinners

Neil at Eternity Matters has a commentary about a Houston event called "Bring your gay teen to church". Neil has good things to say. But the article about the event struck me and I had to comment.

The article is ostensibly about a 15-year-old kid named Jaxn Hussey (seriously, mom, "Jaxn"?) who announced to his mom that he was gay. She assured him that she loved him unconditionally and then set out to find a new church.

Does that strike anyone as odd? First, the connection to "find a new church". You see, the poor kid had heard at church that homosexuality was a sin, and he was afraid that he was going to hell. Now that must not be. The way you fix that problem is ... stop going places where they say it. All fixed!

Second, the idea of "loved him unconditionally" baffled me. Not that it was wrong, but that it was a given. Why say it? Well, apparently, here's how it works. Someone you love unconditionally is doing something that you think is wrong. In order to continue to love them unconditionally, you must not tell them that it's wrong and, indeed, you must not even think that it is wrong. If you actually think that the thing that they're doing is "a sin", well, then, you're not loving them unconditionally. That is, thinking that someone is sinning is not loving them.

You need this background to understand the whole article, you see. I mean, what gathering of genuine believers would not want to include "gay teens"? They need the gospel like anyone else. If we care about them, we need to pray for them, tell them the truth about sin, call for repentance, all of that. It is the basic entry point for Christianity. We want people to get saved. But that's my confused outlook, you see, because I'm clearly unclear on the concept. It is not possible to call sin "sin" and love, not possible to reject the sin and love the sinner, not possible to agree with God and recognize sin. This whole problem becomes a serious difficulty, of course, because I sin. I know of no one who does not sin. As such, the only possible conclusion is that I do not love anyone, including myself, unconditionally.

I'm not saying new things, I'm sure. We know that stating "homosexual behavior is a sin" is considered "bashing" (according to the article). From all indications the high suicide rate among self-identified homosexuals is because we agree with God that it's sin, and the solution is to not agree with God that it's sin. Research suggests that "fewer than 20 percent of Americans believe places of worship do a good job on the issue [of homosexuality]." Religion's message is "negative" on the topic. So that's clearly "bashing", "bad", something to avoid.

Well, of course, Mrs. Hussey had no problem finding a church that tickled her ears. A couple of decades ago several mainline churches shifted from the standard, 2000 plus years of understanding what the Bible says on the topic and re-interpreted the texts to be more "friendly". Nonsense, I say, but that's not my point. My point is that when it becomes "unloving" to say that "God says such and such is sin", then it isn't the sinner that is the problem. It's the one who chooses to side with the sinner's sin that's the problem. When Mrs. Hussey finds it so easy to find a "church" that consciously chooses to disregard God's view of sin and consider that "love", it's a symptom of a bigger problem. And when we are told that "unconditional love" means "you cannot recognize sin as sin", it is completely twisted around. You see, "God is love", and it is God who identifies sin as sin. When we choose to ignore that in the name of "love", it is a contradiction ... and it is not love. On the other hand, inviting a "gay teen" to church to hear that, without repentance, he is indeed going to hell, but Christ has provided a remedy ... now that is love.

6 comments:

Dan said...

I would contend that the woman hates her son and loves herself... though I know she would strongly disagree. But I think I'm aligned with scripture on this matter. Her response was consistent with all this-life-oriented people. If there is inner peace whether by hook or by crook, that's all that seems to matter. Jesus did tell us that the road to destruction was wide and few would find it. I think Americans are just now finding out just how narrow that road actually is.

Stan said...

I would concur. We've so badly messed up the concept of love to mean "Do whatever they like regardless of the harm it does to them." We've so badly messed up the concept of "parent" to mean "Your kids' best friend" rather than "the responsible party".

And I'm not sure Americans are finding out just how narrow that road is. They keep widening it ... even if they don't have the wherewithal to do it.

Marshall Art said...

As you may know, I've been dealing with this very issue at another blog. My sense of grace does not prohibit me from recognizing the sin committed by another and then keeping my mouth shut about it. This is not to say that I have ordained myself as some kind of office of the sin police, ala the taliban. It does, however, mean that I can teach others (my kid, mostly, and any who are interested) about why a behavior should be avoided, rebuffed or regarded as sinful as long as done with love and in accordance with Scripture.

My experience on the aforementioned blog, is that merely calling attention to a sin is a sign that I lack grace, that I don't understand what grace is and how it saves us from ourselves, yada, yada, yada. Yet, no one, aside from myself, ever gets around to addressing the sin that is the basis of whatever the discussion concerning itself.

A Memphis pastor refuses to bless the child of unmarried kids in the church building, to highlight the matter of the kids' fornication. He is willing to bless the child anywhere else. I felt this was a symbolic gesture, even if it wasn't the best way to deal with fornication among our youth. My opponents focused on how ugly the pastor is for his actions, that he was holding the child accountable for those actions (nonsense to the Nth degree), and how we all lack grace in daring to preach or rant on the sinfulness of fornication.

Anyway, I believe that sin should be, like evil, called by its name. Those who partake of a given sin will naturally feel as if they are being attacked. That's a separate issue that can be addressed in the course of events, but minimizing the danger of the sin in any way does not lead the person away from continuing in their sin.

Dan said...

"A Memphis pastor refuses to bless the child of unmarried kids in the church building, to highlight the matter of the kids' fornication. He is willing to bless the child anywhere else. I felt this was a symbolic gesture, even if it wasn't the best way to deal with fornication among our youth. My opponents focused on how ugly the pastor is for his actions, that he was holding the child accountable for those actions"

I can see his point for doing this, though I, like your opponents, don't think it is productive.

Pastors have no special place to bless children based on scripture. If the parents wanted the offspring from their sin blessed they should get married, fall in love with the God who sent his son for the remission of their sins, then raise their child in the fear and admonishon of the Lord.

Further, how has this pastor been pastoring parents? Has he been holding them accountable for how they are raising their children? He might very well be a unwitting culprit in the children's fall. Finally, the child does not gain a thing from a ritualistic ceremony performed in or out of his church. But still, God is not wringing his hands over this "mistake" that has been created in his own image.

As for your opponents, I'm always amazed when one takes a side then blames those who don't agree with them for causing all the trouble. What did they do to hold this young couple accountable, to point them in the right direction, to themselves live as much as they were able an exemplary life that this couple might have been compelled to emulate? One these things happen, there is always enough blame to be shared by all and rather than become a gaggle of finger-pointers it might well serve all of us well to simply cry.

Stan said...

Yeah, I heard this story before and didn't get it. The first part -- wouldn't bless the child at church -- seemed like a statement, but it was followed by "He is willing to bless the child anywhere else." On one hand, doesn't this nullify the whole statement? On the other hand, why are the parents upset, since their child gets whatever blessing it is they're seeking. I mean, is it only valid if done in church? And, pastor, is it only a statement if it is not done in church? Don't know. It's all very baffling to me.

Marshall Art said...

As I kept saying over there, I never said the pastor's idea was perfect. But for whatever reason, he felt it was time to do SOMETHING. Perhaps it wasn't the first case of unwed kids bringing their baby to him as if no sin was committed and he just got tired of it and decided to do SOMETHING. My position was that it was a symbolic gesture on his part that says he will no longer carry on as if no sin was committed and thus would not bless the product of that sin in the church.

Dan,

No one here said the kid was a "mistake". That's Obama's language and I reject it wholeheartedly. I don't think the pastors actions suggest it, either. As for how the parents were raised, is it the pastor's job to follow them around (and all other young people from his congregation) to ensure no sin is being committed? Yet, must he wait until all in the congregation are acting responsibly before he can institute policies aimed toward emphasizing good vs bad behaviors?

Yeah, probably not the most effective tactic, but he's doing something. How often do we hear an emphasis on sexual purity in church these days, or the fate that awaits those who ignore it?