Monday, April 10, 2006

Zealots

Two separate events continue to rattle around in my head.

Yesterday a woman fairly new to faith shared her story in a small group discussion. She remarked that there is a good deal of anti-Christian sentiment in her workplace. Mention that you are a Christian, or take offense at your coworkers taking the Lord’s name in vain and you are somewhat cast out, or left feeling awkward at the least.

Today, in the Los Angeles Times, there was an interesting article on Christians suing the Georgia Institute of Technology for the right to be non-tolerant. Specifically, they want to be able to exclude gays from their club even though the GIT has a written policy of not allowing speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation. On the one hand a club should be able to in- or exclude anyone they want, that’s kind of what clubs are all about. On the other hand they are trying to change something that the GIT has gone on record as supporting, as have virtually all businesses and our government to great degree.

Sounds to me that the extremists on both sides are getting it wrong again.

As a Christian, according to my reading of the Bible, it is very clear that God didn’t want anyone to be homosexual prior to the first coming of Christ. That said, my sense is that God probably doesn’t want us to be gay now either. God doesn’t change His mind often. More importantly God doesn’t want us to judge each other. Most importantly, God doesn’t want us to create an environment of hate in any case. And I think the latter two statements trump the former two as regards the behavior of God's people towards each other. We are all God's people.

Christian zealots are full of a sense of God that may or may not fit within today’s society. That is their choice. In fairness to them, they are reacting to a society that is far from their perception of what God desires and they want to save everyone for eternity, to keep God’s wrath from possibly coming down on earth again and to have a sense in this world of righteousness. Our media is full of horrid abominations of behavior, put forth as fun and acceptable. It is pervasive, unavoidable, and promoting of sin. It is against God.

And I think they are correct if those are their observations, too.

It is not, however, their right in society or in God’s eye either, to be in-your-face radical hate mongers. If they really want to change homosexuals they should invite them to join their club and then preach to them the Word as they understand it. Any gay person that takes part deserves whatever they get. Who would go? Why?

It is these Christian zealots, or fundamentalists, that get the press because of their contrary actions and it is that press that forms in the mind of non-faithfuls the sense that all Christians are of the same cloth. That is why I encouraged the woman yesterday to continue to make a show of faith in the workplace from the heart, faith as she felt Jesus’ ministry was for all of us, and to do it gently, humbly and proudly.

Only by showing non-faithfuls that Christians can be very genuine, compassionate in the true sense of the word, and not full of hate and derision can we alter the public perception that has been built in America, and the world, over the past twenty years. Thank you Moral Majority! I didn’t buy your hypocritical rhetoric then when I was outside of faith and I don’t buy it now that I have accepted Christ as my Savior in eternity and my guide in this life.

When major ministries such as Focus on the Family and the Campus Crusade for Christ support hate they work contrary to their many honorable goals. Spreading the Word that is Jesus Christ is horribly hindered when combined with the spittle of hate. The Old Testament law may well record God’s desire for His people, but it was altered, forever, by the coming of Christ. As the apostle Paul write in Romans 10: 1-4:

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.


Get that? “Righteousness for everyone that believes.” I take that to mean regardless of their sinful nature. Am I promoting sin among Christians? Absolutely not. I am saying come to Christ first, then deal with your sin in the way that you come to understand Christ. There are many differing theologies here, but one truth – we are all sinners.

Now, for those of you that may be of the mind that you are called to change the behavior of others I’d say first look to your own actions but second, please recognize that to change a person from their sin, whatever it is, requires that they first become aware of God, that they invite God into their lives, thank Him for this existence and come to truly love Him. The only way to do this with the people we come in contact with is to show them the love of God ourselves, and love them for whom they are.

Only then can you (and it is really them if they come truly to faith) help them leave their life of sin. I write this to those who think this way about homosexuality in particular. I for one do not think homosexuality a choice in all cases, probably not even in most cases. But for those that do consider homosexuality a sin outside of genetics, a sin that can be walked away from, then the only perceivable course would be first to bring the person to faith, then to let the Holy Spirit do it’s work as it does. And the only way to bring a person to faith is to show them the love of God.

Two things Jesus never mentioned in the Bible – homosexuality and abortion.

But the question put forth is this – how can we promote tolerance both ways – from non-faithful towards Christians, and from fundamentalist Christians towards those whose sin they perceive as greater than theirs?

7 Comments:

Anonymous The Werewolf Prophet said...

Only by showing non-faithfuls ...

Had it ever occurred to you how utterly offensive this is to those of us who truly do have a deep faith that coincidentally is other-than-Christian ?

If you want to call me non-Christian that's cool, but calling me non-faithful is a flat-out lie.

4/11/2006 12:29 AM  
Blogger Christian Democrat said...

Well actually, werewolf, no, it hadn't occurred to me that this might be offensive and I can see your side of it. This is something that I will keep in mind in future writings. Thanks.

4/11/2006 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Playtah said...

Ok, I apologize for the length of this, but these are all the things that ran through my mind as I pondered your blog entry. :) I love hearing your thoughts, and they so often echo my own.

Christians oftentimes create tension between themselves and people of other faiths. Why does this happen? Here are my thoughts:

We try to hold non-Christians to Christianity’s standards.
We are surprised and frustrated when non-Christians don’t obey God, and we often try to change their behavior. Jesus didn’t do this. Jesus taught everyone, but He only required change in those who chose to follow Him. I can think of no example in the Bible where Jesus expressed anger toward those who didn’t claim to follow God and didn’t obey. It was the people who claimed to follow God but didn’t obey that brought the anger of Christ. Behavior is a result of belief, so we shouldn’t expect behavior from someone whose belief doesn’t back it up.

We focus more on the issues than the people
Things would have been a lot different if Jesus had spent his time making anti-sin bumper stickers and organizing anti-sin protests instead of spending time among and getting to know sinners themselves. Why do so many of us do it this way, then?

We try to produce results and changes instead of letting the Holy Spirit make the changes.
I remember reading a pamphlet about how to share your faith with others. Some parts were good, but some parts give reason for pause. It had clever things to say and questions to ask, but looking back on it, it feels rather like “How To Make A Sale” instructions. We put so much pressure on ourselves to “close the deal” or produce the change ourselves, and we forget it is God who controls the timing and brings an attitude of change. I mean, can you really imagine this exchange taking place? :

Jesus: Hi, I’m Jesus. What’s your name?
Benjamin: Benjamin.
Jesus: Benjamin, it’s nice to meet you. Do you have any spiritual beliefs?
Benjamin: I guess. That’s kind of private. You don’t even know me.
Jesus: Do you believe in heaven and hell?
Benjamin: I guess so.
Jesus: Well Benjamin, if you died tonight, where would you go?
Benjamin: Why? Are you going to kill me?
Jesus: No, no. It’s just a question.
Benjamin. Well, I’m not sure.
Jesus: I have six verses I’d like to show you.
Benjamin: Uh, ok.
(Jesus pulls out scroll and shows Benjamin the verses.)
Jesus: Based on the 6 sentences we just read, do you realize that you are a sinner, that you need forgiveness, that I am the only way to be saved, and that you will need to follow me?
Benjamin. I guess. But I don’t feel ready for this yet.
Jesus: Why?
Benjamin: I’d just like to think this through. Like I said before, I don’t even know you.
Jesus: If you got hit by a horse today and died, do you think you would go to heaven?
Benjamin: Well, based on the 30 seconds and 6 verses you shared with me, probably not.
Jesus: Would you rather go to heaven or hell?
Benjamin: Heaven, of course.
Jesus: Wonderful. I’m going to say some words, and you repeat after me.
(Jesus prays; Benjamin mumbles the words after Him.)
Jesus: Welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven! Getting to know you these last two minutes have been great, but I need to go. There’s some bread that need’s multiplying on the other side of the lake. God loves you!
(Jesus walks away.)
Benjamin: (Thinking to himself) This is like what happened to me at that Amway party.


Even though we are anxious for people to decide to follow Christ quickly, boiling down the beautiful story of mankind into bullet points and forcing someone into a mental corner with our logic and clever questions doesn’t seem like a good way to help someone find the life Christ offers. Following Jesus does not mean saying a prayer. That’s the easy part. Following Jesus brings a life of struggle, sacrifice, danger, and sometimes rejection by others. Following Jesus means that we believe that His way of living is the best way to live life. It is something that should not be entered into lightly. It’s something that will probably require more than 2 minutes of thinking outside a supermarket.

Jesus presented truth, and never forced anyone to do anything. He wanted them to count the cost, and make a decision for themselves.

My solutions for Christians:

1. If people don’t follow Jesus, we have no business judging them. Who are we to judge another man’s servant?

2. People are the important thing. Learn to enjoy people without having an agenda.

3. Our agenda isn’t important anyway. God’s agenda (which is often different and on a different time table than ours) is. We are called to share, not recruit. God takes care of how people respond.

4/12/2006 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Playtah said...

Wow. That was way longer than I thought. Sorry.

4/12/2006 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Hank Osborne said...

Christians can accept a man without accepting his sin. God actually tells us to turn away from sin.

Since you are quoting Paul, let's see what he had to say about homosexuality.

Romans 1:26-27 (Speaks about "men with men")

1 Corinthians 6:9 (Many translations use the word homosexual in this verse.)

2 Timothy 2:19 "..."The Lord knows those who are his,"and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."" (not speaking specifically about homosexual sin, but does give light to the importance of turning from your sin.)

If our showing the love of God does bring a person who is involved in homosexual relations to true faith in God, then that person should have faith in the Word as it is stated in these verses and turn from their sin.

You can try to discount the importance of an issue based on whether Jesus spoke on it while he walked on this Earth if you want, but to me John 1 makes it pretty clear that Jesus was the Word (v. 14). Verses 1 and 2 say that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God." That said, how can you really say that Jesus never said anything about a particular subject in the Bible? Carefully consider your answer to this question. If you have any doubts on where you fall on this or any other subject in the Bible, then I recommend that you lean on the side of caution.

I do not believe there is any Biblical basis for supporting abortion or homosexuality. Yes, you can certainly pull some verses out about God's love and lean solely on those, but the fact is that God does not approve of abortion or homosexuality. On the subject of abortion you might want to see Exodus 21:22-25. You should also consider that the Bible make note in at least two places (Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:13-16) where God is said to know us in the womb and be involved in our creation in the womb.

God does not lie and God has not changed his mind on these moral issues.

5/26/2006 2:50 PM  
Blogger TammyJo58 said...

To Hank Osborne,

Christian Democrat did not say that the Bible does not mention homosexuality - he said that Jesus did not mention it. That is a distinction that many Christians do not get and willingly overlook. The Bible is clear on homosexuality, but Jesus was very clear on a lot of OTHER things. That is ANOTHER distinction that many Christians do not get and willingly overlook, because it does not fit with their personal agenda. Christ's teachings seem to take a back seat when personal agendas are at stake.

God Bless,
TammyJo58

6/01/2006 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Playtah said...

Great point, Tammyjo58.

Sometimes I think that Christians focus on homosexuality and abortion so much because those are issues that don't require much action to disagree with. Just carry some signs around and plaster some "Marriage=Man+Woman" or "Choose Life" stickers on the ole' car. Whereas, if we were to tackle an issue such as poverty or social justice, that would require us to actually get out there build relationships and get involved with actual people. And there's really not many snappy bumperstickers for that. :)

(I am many times guilt of this, so I say this as much to describe myself as I do for the rest of Christianity.)

6/26/2006 10:25 AM  

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