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Friday, August 12, 2011

He Who Is Without Sin

I write a lot of stuff without tags or labels. It's just "miscellaneous", so to speak. However, on the topics of both "same-sex marriage" and "homosexual", I have labels. That's because I've written about these topics enough to deserve attention. The questions, of course, are somewhat obvious: "Why here? Why now?" Why does this topic make it to my "hit list", so to speak, while so many others do not? Why am I not writing about the sin of greed or the sin of adultery or the sin of taxing the rich (okay, I just threw that last one in for fun)? Why this subject?

Hanging around at the edges of these questions are the echoes of Jesus's words, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone." The ever popular, "Judge not lest you be judged." "Are you saying that you're without sin?" "Are you saying that this is the worst sin?" You see, there are questions behind the questions and suggestions behind the questions.

For the record, I need to say first that I am not without sin. Indeed, in order to be a Christian it is mandatory that you confess your sin, that you admit your need for Christ, that you recognize your utter sinfulness. Good people do not need Christ. And I am not a good person. The only righteousness I possess is that which is given to me by Christ. The only time I do good is when God works in me to do it. And I am certainly not "sin free". Christianity is, in a sense, a "losers' club", and I'm a sin-loser thankful for the grace and mercy offered and received.

For the record, I also need to say this: I would not say that homosexual behavior is the worst sin on the market. I agree that the Bible indicates that there are levels of sin, that some sins are worse than others, and that, while all sin is punishable by eternal death, for some that eternal punishment will be worse than for others. As such I do not believe that homosexual behavior falls in the category of "worst". Clearly rejecting Christ is worse. Clearly idolatry is worse. There are worse sins. And, in my mind, heterosexual sin outside of the context of marriage is just as bad as homosexual sin. All this to say that, well, I would not say that homosexual behavior is the worst sin on the market.

So why is it such an issue? Well, the Bible often describes the Christian life in terms of warfare. You know, "take up the whole armor of God", "your enemy the devil", that sort of thing. How is war waged? Well, you go to where the incursion is, to where the battle is. You go where the breach in the wall is occurring. I mean, you may very well say, "Omaha is important," but if Omaha is not threatened, placing your fighting forces there would be silly. So you go where the fight is occurring. Today, the fight is occurring on the sexual battleground and on the marriage battleground. It is occurring on the sanctity of life battleground. There are problems with greed and adultery and pride and on and on, and those need to be fought as well, but right now the breach in the wall is here. That's why here and now.

The problem that gets lost, however, is the humanity on both sides. While we rail against this sin or that, we often forget the sinners. While we raise the rally flag on this hill or that, we also forget that we ourselves are vulnerable. Both sides. We are not saying that those who commit homosexual sins are worse sinners. They are just as badly in need of salvation as those who commit any other sin. Nor are we saying we are "holier than thou". The author of Hebrews wrote, "We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). Paul wrote, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Cor 1:3-4). Thus, it is with a mind to our own frailty, our own sinfulness, that we must compassionately face these issues. It tends to rule out militance and allow for love while we "stand against the schemes of the devil". We don't need to take moral ground; we need to take Gospel ground. Sinners don't need to become better people; they need salvation. And we aren't morally superior; we're just people that, knowing the pain and suffering of our own sin, are offering a better way to others. We are not without sin. Casting stones just isn't the issue here. Nor are sinners the enemy.

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