Is God punishing LGBTs?

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I began work on this piece on Monday, then let it sit. At that time I had written these two paragraphs:

I am amazed that I have heard no conservative Christian leader declaring that the massacre at Pulse in Orlando was God’s punishment upon LGBT people. Indeed, so expectant was it that I even did an Internet search in a hunt for it.

The reason I expected it is because of the number of times it has happened. The one that always stands out is hurricane Katrina. That it hit New Orleans, some Christian leaders said, was God’s judgment on the city because it had become a den of iniquity.

I stopped there, deciding I did not want to write about something that, hopefully, would be a non-issue. Sadly, it became an issue.

After the magnanimous minister, Mark Wingfield, with his “Seven Things I am Learning about Transgender People” gave a good name to Baptists, a prig of a pastor, Roger Jimenez, has done his best to besmirch the same name. In a sermon, which has now been removed from YouTube because of, well, you’ll see, he said, “Are you sad that fifty pedophiles were killed today? Um, no. I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job, because these people are predators. They are abusers.”

Wow, nice job there, Pastor, of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ and perfectly describing the people who were killed.

Um, no. You were a miserably mistaken oh for two, and when we look at your theology you will drop to oh for three.

It will come as no surprise that Jimenez would next say the thing that I had been waiting for some religious bigot to promulgate: “You don’t mourn the death of them. They deserve what they got. You reap what you sow.”

There it is: “They deserve what they got.” It’s another way of saying, “God was punishing them.”

Did these forty-nine people deserve to be gunned down? According to the Word of God, every person who dies “deserves what he gets.”

• “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die (Genesis 2:17).”
• “The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).”
• “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).”

Were those forty-nine people sinners, whose lives were unjustly taken from them? Yes. They were sinners because they were humans.

Here is correct theology: We all are in the same boat. No one conceived from sperm and egg is able to cast the first stone, because no one is without sin. If God were in the business of punishing sinners, none of us would be here. He would have smite us at the first chance.

The only One who could have cast the first stone, because He was without sin, chose not to throw stones but to freely lay down His life so that we might possess the forgiveness of all of our sins, the gift of eternal life, and salvation from death, devil, and damnation.

How do I know—how can I be bold to insist—that I am positive that God was not punishing those who were killed at Pulse, or those who died in Katrina, or any other situation that might arise? The Bible tells me so. (Emphases are mine.)
• “God was reconciling THE WORLD to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).”
• “[Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of THE WHOLE WORLD (1 John 2:2).”
• “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. ALL we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—EVERY ONE—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us ALL (Isaiah 53:4-6).”

These facts inform me that when God says that He “wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4),” He is telling the truth. The only crazy thing about the Lord is that “He has committed to us His message of reconciliation (the sentence which follows what I previously quoted from 2 Corinthians 5:19).”

None of this conversation is to ignore any behavior which the Lord condemns.  Rather, it is to acknowledge that every one of us has behaviors which the Lord condemns.  ALL humans sin in thought, word, and deed. We all have ways of justifying our behavior, creating a ten commandments which suits us. None of us can deny it.  Thus, if our manner of proclaiming God’s Word is going to be one of condemning sinners, the place to begin is at home.

With the black-and-white-ness of all of this—that all are sinners who deserve God’s wrath, and that Christ took all of God’s wrath on behalf of us sinners—how shall we live?

Instead of using our mouths to condemn, let us employ them to encourage.

Instead of pointing fingers, let us use our hands to embrace our fellow man.

Instead of declaring things that God Himself does not declare, let us proclaim the thing that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself declared: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).”

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Someone to watch over me

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There is a lovely Gershwin song called Someone to Watch Over Me. You might recall this:

There’s a somebody I’m longing to see,
I hope that he Turns out to be—
Someone who’ll watch Over me.
I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the wood
I know I could, always be good,
To one who Watched, over me.

Won’t you tell him please to put on some speed
Follow my lead, oh how I need,
Someone, to watch, over me.
Someone, to watch, over me.

In the song, it’s a young woman who is looking for this perfect Mr. Right to watch over her. Don’t we all long to be watched over? Isn’t it true that no matter how old we are, we feel better, safer, calmer, more secure, when we have someone watching over us?

I remember those times, when I was a kid, that my parents would go out for the evening, I never felt quite right. And, if the weather were stormy, I was all the more queasy. I relied on my parents to watch over me, for me to feel safe, calm, secure. Someone to watch over me.

I’ve found it interesting, since I’ve grown up, that enduring a storm, all alone in the house, is not nearly as easy as enduring a storm with at least one more person in the house. It’s not as though that other person can do a thing about the storm—they can’t do anything more about the storm than I can—but just having someone there, well, that makes all the difference. Someone to watch over me.

When we get sick, we especially want someone to watch over us. It is never fun to be sick, but it is even worse when you have to be sick by yourself. Ah, but when you have your mom or spouse or another loved one to watch over you, well, it makes being sick a whole lot easier. Indeed, isn’t that the case with any of the trials of life? Any hardship is easier to take when we have a caring person helping us through. Someone to watch over me.

All of this leads me to what this special Church day is all about. It has been forty days since Easter, which makes today The Ascension of our Lord. Part of the Lord Jesus’ ascension into heaven has to do with the Kingship He earned by suffering in our flesh and paying for our sins. By ascending into heaven, Jesus took His rightful place as King over all of creation.

Another part of our Lord’s ascension was so that He could send the Holy Spirit to us. We can think of it this way: If the Lord Jesus were still on earth, He would only be taking one prayer at a time, in the form of one visitor at a time or one phone call at a time. But, by ascending into heaven and sending the Holy Sprit to us, we have a spiritual, heavenly connection to our Savior, and He can take as many prayers at a time as we can send Him.

Doesn’t it seem funny, though, that it was just before the Lord Jesus left that He proclaimed, “Surely, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20)”? He makes this claim, and then, poof, He disappears into the clouds.

Someone to watch over me?

Yes. Despite His bodily going to heaven, this is exactly what our Lord is doing from His throne: He is watching over us. When the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, He wasn’t going on a long, long, long, vacation from which He would return when He reappears on the Last Day. No, the best reason that He ascended was for Him to keep on doing what He had been doing on earth.

What had He been doing on earth?
• He had been healing the sick.
• He had been forgiving sins.
• He had been teaching about God’s way.
• He had been hearing prayers and answering them.
• He had been bringing peace to the troubled.
• He had been feeding the masses on heavenly food.
• He had been sacrificing Himself for His creation.
And that is exactly what He continues to do as He watches over you and me.

I find this so comforting, so dazzling, that our King is also our ultimate servant, that Jesus Christ— who deserves to be served and celebrated and honored and worshiped and glorified—doesn’t simply sit in heaven and take all the acclaim that He has earned—and earned it He has by wearing our flesh and bearing our sin. Rather than acting as we would act if we were a king, our Lord Jesus Christ still does the work of the ultimate servant.

• On earth, He healed the sick. From heaven, He heals the sick. He does it through medical science. He does it through the gift of faith which confers His grace by which we are ultimately healed for all that harms us and takes our lives.

• On earth, He forgave sins. From heaven, He forgives our sins. Indeed, all of Christ’s forgiveness is the ultimate healing which each of us needs. It is the spiritual healing that brings eternal life.

• On earth, He taught the way and the truth and the life. From heaven, He teaches us the way and the truth and the life. He does it through the Holy Bible, and then through the proclamation and instruction which we do in and as His Church.

• On earth, He heard and answered pleas and petitions. From heaven, He hears and answers our prayers. Indeed, He assures us that He hears and answer every single one of our prayers (John 15:7; John 14:13, Matthew 7:7), always according to His good and gracious will—always, according to what He knows is best for us.

• On earth, He brought peace to the troubled. From heaven, He brings peace to us when we are troubled. “Come to me,” He invites we who are weary and burdened, “and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”

• On earth, He fed the masses on heavenly food. From heaven, He feeds us on the heavenly food of His own body and blood in Holy Communion.

• On earth, He sacrificed Himself for His creation. From heaven, He continues to sacrifice Himself for us through His humble service, always on duty, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

In other words, He watches over us. He is someone—He is the best someone—to watch over you. That is the good news that makes you feel safe, calm, and secure.

You are secure in the eternal love of your Savior, who watches over you. He is the Faithful One. As the Lord Jesus Christ has promised, He is with you always, until the end of the age.