01 August 2012

Embracing Sin With Hearts Wide Shut

Lately, there's been a lot of buzz about homosexuality, gay marriage, and equal rights. Having a conversation about this topic continues to be difficult especially within faith-based circles. Why? Because we're unwilling or unable to identify sin. Or worse, that which we know as sin we're embracing with hearts wide shut.

"I didn't say anything different from what any Bible-believing Christian would say if you want to be true to the Scriptures." Kirk Cameron recently made this statement in reaction to the backlash he received during an interview with Pierce Morgan. The interview was supposed to be focused on Cameron's latest film, Monumental, but instead Morgan pressed him on topics such as homosexuality and gay marriage. Cameron explained that he opposes gay marriage in part because he considers homosexual behavior "unnatural" and believes that it's "detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."


Not unexpected, Cameron received both support and hateful reactions to his views. Support from those who agree with traditional marriage but not necessarily Christians, conservatives, or evangelicals. Opposition from those who support same-sex marriage but not necessarily unbelievers or liberals.

Confused? Yeah, this is sounding like another topic for my post on grouping people and labels.

"I didn't say anything different from what any Bible-believing Christian would say if you want to be true to the Scriptures."

That statement shouldn't be complex. Yet, from the different bloggers and authors I read, one can be a Christian but not entirely believe everything in the Bible. Or one can follow most of the Scriptures but some simply don't apply to modern times. And others don't even care for the Christian-label because Christians seemingly are viewed as too judgmental, hateful, and hypocritical.

North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment stating that "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." This became a victory for many and a disappointment for others. We again were shouting over each other. Not really listening, not trying to discuss, just trying to prove one point is correct and better than another point.

By contrast, Maryland in March became the eighth state along with the District of Columbia to recognize same-sex marriage. Also, President Barack Obama said in a statement to ABC NEWS, "...it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

The spotlight was recently turned upon Chick-fil-A when the media reported the company's president, Dan Cathy, condemned gay marriage. This ignited a firestorm of gay marriage supporters vowing to never eat at Chick-fil-A which was answered by those who support Cathy's stance wanting to eat at his restaurants more. Mayors of Boston, Chicago, and DC chimed in alleging to ban the restaurant from setting up shop in their towns. In fact, the story is poor journalism as Cathy never condemned gay marriage and the media continued pushing the topic it inaccurately.

Support of gay marriage is promoted as the embracing of dignity, love, equality, and civil rights. Opposition of gay marriage is promoted as hateful, narrow-minded, bigotry, and being on the wrong side of history. Emotions are running wild. People are protesting. Blog posts, comments, & tweets are fired out like bullets from a gatling gun. Noise. More noise. Battle lines are drawn.

Let's calm down a moment and get real.

It's difficult to have discussions about the topic of homosexuality and gay marriage because everyone has an answer but few wish to have a rational discussion. Most conversations that do occur hardly remain unheated and civil.

We need to talk about this topic without having an agenda. For example, if you were to ask me: "Do you think homosexuality is a sin?" I could respond immediately with "Yes!" Yet, to have a real discussion my response should be "Well, what do you mean by sin? What's your definition of sin?"

Too often we assume when speaking to someone about a certain topic that their definitions match our own. I'd assert that more often than not definitions are different, and these differences often play into the agendas of those asking questions. If a question is asked to satisfy an agenda instead of starting a conversation, the response must be thoughtful and engaging. Else, nothing is learned.

Jesus was a master at thoughtful, engaging responses. He was always aware of the intention of the question being asked of Him. Check out Mark 11:27-33:
They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, and began saying to Him, "By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?"


And Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me."


They began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'From men'?" - they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet.


Answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
And in Mark 12:13-17:
Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?"


But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose image is this? And whose inscription?"


"Caesar’s," they replied.


Then Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s."


And they were amazed at him.
Whether or not you have an agenda in asking me if I think homosexuality is a sin, I still need to know how you define sin. We need to have a mutual starting point. Else, the entire conversation is lopsided. Perhaps you define sin as "the bad things we do." Or you might give examples such as murder, adultery, or lying.

The same Greek word for sin is used in archery. It means to miss the mark. Thus, to sin is to miss the mark. But there has to be a mark to miss.

We can sin with money. If one has a good salary and is filled with pride in having that money, that's sin. If one spends money on trivial things and is selfish, unwise, or wasteful with spending, that's sin. And if one is deceitful about spending or gaining money, that's sin. The target is to be good stewards of the money God has entrusted with us and to bless others with it.

We can sin with our mouths. When we choose to gossip about another person, that's sin. When we choose to curse - especially using God's name in vain - that's sin. When we purposefully deceive and lie, that's sin. The target is kind, wholesome, truthful, and non-judgmental words.

We can sin with our sexuality. Using sex as a means of control over someone, having sex outside of marriage, committing adultery, paying for sex, having multiple sex partners, imagining sex with someone with whom you're not married...each of these is sin. In human sexuality, the target can be found in Matthew 19:3-12:
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" 


And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."


They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
So, is homosexuality a sin? Yes. It misses the mark God intended: married, devoted, heterosexual monogamy or abstinence and purity everywhere else.

Truth is, we are all sexually broken beings. Being gay just gets all the press. I listed several examples in the "we can sin with our sexuality" paragraph. None of these get the same attention as homosexuality but more than one are occurring multiple times within many churches on any given Sunday. We all are guilty of at least one sexual sin. Perhaps more. Perhaps several times over.

Sadly, we either don't believe our sin is real, ignore our sin, take pride in our sin, or believe Satan's lies that we need to clean up our sin before we can got to church or be around other Believers. We embrace sin with hearts wide shut. Our hearts are hardened to truth.

God loves us as we are: sinful, imperfect, prideful, lustful, spiteful, judgmental and broken creatures. He loves the gossiper, the liar, the thief, the adulterer, the divorcee, the murderer, the rapist, the kidnapper, the prostitute, the porn star, the pimp, the drug dealer, the addict, the homosexual...get the picture? However, when we choose to love Him we cannot remain unchanged. Those labels can't stick to someone while they're covered with Christ's love. To follow Christ - to really follow Christ - is to turn away from those things and turn away from those destructive lifestyles. Will we stumble? Yes. Will we fall? Yes. Will we mature and grow in Him? Yes, and some quicker than others.

So, Church, since homosexuality is a sin...why do some of you embrace it? You act as if it's not a sin by promoting it as focusing on love and being tolerant. We are to love and be tolerant of people not their sinful choices. A person's broken sexuality isn't what defines that person. Gay, straight, divorced, adulterer, pornographer, prostitute, sex offender...these are choices and at best lifestyles but they don't define a person.

Each human being is made in the image of God. We are all God's creation...if we choose to see and embrace that fact.

And, Church, if you're going to embrace homosexuality, why aren't you embracing pornography, adultery, divorce, prostitution, or human trafficking? If you're going to say that accepting one sin promotes love and dignity, then you better do the same for these other sins. No sin is greater than another. They are all equal.

No? See, this is what frustrates me about some denominations and congregations. They've been lulled into accepting homosexuality and gay marriage as the new normal. As if this is how the world has changed and the Church better wake up and get with the times. They're afraid to stand against it and be called a bigot. They're afraid to not be liked but others. They're afraid to be boycotted like Chick-fil-a.

People seem to think that if they don't accept a person's sinful choices, they're not really welcoming or loving on them. I call this spiritual immaturity. When one is spiritually mature, one can love someone, be their friend, make them feel welcome, defend them when they're being bullied...but gently or even sternly rebuke their sinful choices when the time is right. If we do this in our own power, we'll fail. But the Holy Spirit's timing is perfect with everything. He can provide the words needed at the right time. 

We've always tried to make our brokenness normal and acceptable. This hasn't changed from the beginning of time. And there's always been those who boldly take a stand. One teenage girl took a stand for what she believed. Watch this video:



Sarah Crank shared her thoughts about why she opposes gay marriage. In return, she and her parents received death threats.

Really? Death threats? Some activists in the gay agenda would rather threaten to kill people or perhaps even do so because they feel entitled to redefine marriage. They feel entitled to silence an opposing opinion by force. And for what? So they can have the government benefits of being married? So the state, nation, or world will recognize their love? Wow.

If you're a Believer and don't feel homosexuality and gay marriage is a sin, I'd encourage you to listen to these two sermons from Mark Norman at Grace Community Church in Fulton, Maryland:

Faith Gone Public
When our faith becomes known, the folks around us ask probing and difficult questions. In this message, Mark tackles the question: "Is homosexuality a sin?"

So Many Questions...So Few Conversations
Civil conversations about homosexuality don't come easy or often enough. In this message helps us find ways to keep the dialogue moving with those we don't see eye-to-eye with.

These are the most insightful messages I've heard on this topic and became the inspiration for this post.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said before signing the gay marriage law, "For a free and diverse people, for a people of many faiths, for a people committed to the principle of religious freedom, the way forward is always found for the greater respect of the equal rights of all, for the human dignity of all."

Of course, that sounds good as a soundbite and in print. Yet, permitting same-sex marriage is embracing and approving of sin. Whether or not a state or federal government should be stamping a seal of rejection or approval on anything is a topic for another day. For today, you need to decide if the Bible is your source for authority in your life. If it is, then what is and is not sin is spelled out pretty clearly.

I leave you with John 8:1-12:
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"


They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.


Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."
We shouldn't condemn or judge the broken lives around us. Maybe what we really need to do is stop focusing on sins, what needs fixing, and trying to have the right answer. Maybe we need to focus on being a friend, lending an ear to listen, or giving a shoulder to cry on. Isn't that loving your neighbor as yourself?

If we can do this, seems like we won't be embracing sin with hearts wide shut.