This is in response to my post of December first and the conversation it created (primarily on Facebook). I wrote the previous essay knowing full well that I did not cover every angle and that there would be heavy disagreement. Though I want everyone to read and consider this follow-up, I am writing as a Christian who is especially speaking to Christians.
While I understand about the way of the world, that it will remain on the path it has been since Adam’s first sin, I am tremendously concerned that we are going to fracture way more along religion lines. My fear is for the Christian Church, and for Christian people, which and whom I see becoming so separated from the world that the Church and believers no longer are able to, or care to, shine the light of Christ outside of their own four walls.
Christ ate with sinners in order to show His love to them. (You do not have to remind me that He did not condone sin.) I am terribly concerned that we Christians are not willing to eat with those who offend us. I am concerned that we will be satisfied to preach to the choir—yet, the choir already knows the song.
If a Christian won’t bake a cake for a gay wedding, should a Christian clothes store owner allow me to shop in his store if he finds sinful my transitioning? If this is true, how about if a Muslim family moves in next door to him? Should he never do any kind act for him? Since the Muslim’s entire life is one of idol worship—remember, I am speaking specifically to Christians—would not any good deed be equal to the previous citations in this paragraph, because it would be nurturing his life and, in essence, saying that the Muslim is just fine and dandy worshiping the false god Allah?
We are not even close to consistent in how we apply our standards. We Christians have come to accept so many sins—unbiblical divorce and remarriage, drunkenness, wastefulness and greed as with gambling, the use of our mouths with lying and gossiping and backbiting—that we act hypocritically when we turn up our noses against those things which stand out to us—as with homosexual practice—and allow the other dogs to sleep at our feet.
And we think we are acting righteously. And we give the impression that homosexuality is more damnable than drunkenness and infidelity and, yes, something as common as how we use our mouths. “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).”
Right in the heart of this list is the heart of many Christians, who allow themselves to practice hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, and drunkenness. So many disregard these things in their lives, yet they love to categorize others sins as appalling and then condemn them.
And we separate ourselves even more than we already are so that we do not have open communication, so that we are not able to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).” Gentleness and respect are two qualities that can be impossible to see because of all of the finger pointing. We do not have opportunity to speak about Jesus Christ, who is the reason for the hope that we have, because we either will not speak to those by whom we are offended or they would never listen to us because we did not do the hard work of building a friendship with them.
I am not asking anyone to live and act against his conscience. I am asking for us to examine our entire consciences, where we live and work, how we act and interact, what we condemn and condone, and that we practice the Golden Rule.
I want people to act reasonably. Sadly, there always will be those who do not do so. I get that. When a kind person commented that in some cases her making a cake would put her on site, and she, as a Christian, would not feel right about doing so for a gay wedding, I respect her. I would hope that, explained gently and respectfully to a couple, they would be understanding.
Yet, I’ve been wondering about this. What if the Christian explained this to the couple and then said, “If you cannot find anyone else to bake your cake, I will do it. You will know that I find your union sinful, but I will have a marvelous opportunity to display the love of Jesus Christ and the motivation the Holy Spirit gives me to go into areas where I otherwise would not tread.”
I agree: there should be situations where a person seeks a service and the potential provider is not capable—for possibly a host of reasons—to provide that service. Shall the law spell out the exceptions and exemptions so clearly that everyone might be able to follow them? Is that question about as naive as anyone could conceive?
I renew my argument: which Christians will play fair? Which, who find homosexuality to be sinful, will hold the same level of religious conviction with heterosexuals who act in ways which are morally reprehensible?
It sounds unreasonable, I know. It is precisely because it is unreasonable that I want Christians to realize that if they work in the world they are going to deal with people whose lives do not match up to their ideal.
Sometimes, it will be obvious. Often, it will not. If it is only necessary for the Christian to refuse working with those whose lives are clearly sinful to them, okay. But, I renew my concern that we easily act hypocritically when we condemn that which we find extraordinary and put up with that which is common.
I know that few things in life are black and white. Things are not as straightforward as I wrote in my previous essay.
I have no interest in being tyrannical. I have no interest in anyone’s being forced to go against his conscience.
I am interested in finding ways to work in the world in which we live. It is a world which pushes and pulls our consciences.
It is my desire that Christians engage the world and that the world finds Christianity to be desirable.
It is easy to erect walls; it is hard to build bridges. We are very good at fencing ourselves in, and we can be terrible about reaching out. We make it way too easy to say “those people” are not worthy of our time, yet we Christians know the truth: none of us deserves God the Father’s favor freely given us in Jesus Christ. We all are in the same boat, damnable people save for the Savior. Haughtiness has no place in our hearts; humility is the order of the day.
Let all of us who call Jesus Christ our Lord have this attitude, that to each person we see, we think, “That one also is one for whom Christ died.” When we look at every person in the world this way, it has a profound impact on how we see and think about people. They go from being “those people” who offend us to “one of us,” sinners in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The second greatest commandment is, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Every person is your neighbor.