Deep-Dish Hypocrisy (Guilty as Charged)

9 07 2015

Done-it-this-way2

Tradition for tradition’s sake isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

But sometimes, it is.

I have to admit I was deeply disturbed over the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage.  I’ve never been one to interpret Christian freedom as condoning or validating homosexual behavior, and I still don’t. I believe one’s expression of sexuality is always a behavior choice versus a “I’m wired this way” sort of thing.    Otherwise anyone could interpret his or her sins as a “I’m wired this way” sort of thing instead of a “I made a choice to sin” sort of thing.

two groomstwo brides

Even from a strictly secular viewpoint, I believe it’s a slippery slope for the courts to arbitrarily glorify the status of any behavior into a civil right.  Five unelected individuals have opened the door for any group to claim that their behavior choices are civil rights- and this is in my opinion a huge step backward for a civilized society.  I fear that NAMBLA and other perverse groups of individuals are waiting in the wings to have their reprehensible behaviors transformed into civil rights by judicial fiat as well.

I don’t buy into white washing over something that’s completely wrong in the name of “charity” or “compassion.” What is wrong is wrong and telling the truth IS a loving thing to do, even when it’s difficult. Loving sinners doesn’t translate to green-lighting their sins.  Just because we as fallible humans want something to be OK doesn’t always make it so.

Jesus talked about the Pharisees being white washed tombs- (Matthew 23:26-28) and all of us are hypocrites, which underscores the fact that adding a coat of paint to something that is no-good and rotten underneath doesn’t redeem it or fix the underlying problem.  It just gives sin and destructive behaviors a veneer of legitimacy that they shouldn’t have- a sense of “since we all do it, it’s OK.”

Everything is Ok

Not necessarily…

This being said, I’m straight, and that’s only perspective that I have on this issue.  I’ve never been the least bit interested in other women- in fact, I generally don’t even like women as friends.  I usually have more in common with men. The homosexual lifestyle is just not a temptation for me, so it’s easy for me to look at that and say “ewww, gross, vile, etc.”  It’s easy for me to condemn behaviors that I have absolutely no desire to engage in.

I could use the rationalization that “I’m straight,” so yielding to my temptation to (hetero) sexual misbehavior is more “ok” than it is for a person to yield to the temptation of engaging in same-sex sexual misbehavior.  The fact of it is that I am just as guilty of improper lust and/or activity if it’s involving toward a guy I’m not married to.  It’s just as much of a sin.  And I’ve been there.  Many more times than I’d like to admit.  I like men.  A LOT- and in some ways a lot more than I should.

StraightPride

Straight- yes.  A paragon of purity?  Not so much.

I am just as much of a sinner as anyone else- but some sins are more “socially acceptable” than others.

Not too many Christians are saying much about the sexual sins that plague straight people either, which goes back to that good old double standard of “everybody does it, so it’s OK.”  Straight people are more often than not into casual relationships- “friends with benefits,” serial monogamy (and yes, I’ve been divorced and remarried), general promiscuity, and adultery. Those things usually get poo-poo’d or shoved under the rug because they are common and pervasive temptations for a good number of people- me included.   And before I go squinting about to remove splinters from the eyes of others, I have to encounter the great big log in my own eye first.

I have to call sin for what it is- whether I’m “wired that way” or not.

sin

Thankfully my failure- and the depravity of my sin-  is not the end of the story.  Jesus forgives me for my transgressions, so I am called to forgive others as He forgives me.

What other people do really isn’t my concern, save for the generic concern for the impact of the behaviors of a few on the greater society, and concern for the well-being of others. I can’t change what others choose to think and do.  The only thing I can do is attest to the truth and try to live according to it to the best of my ability and the grace of God.  I am not the Judge, and I am glad for that.  I have enough wickedness and issues of my own that need surrender and correction.

The way of mercy and forgiveness (Luke 6:36-38) is the only way to go.

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Isaiah 53:6- Broken Humanity, Missing Pieces, and Who Can Repay?

11 02 2014

exploding-skull-james-mundie

A Beauchene skull.  Fascinating.

I have a hard time taking the creation narrative in Genesis literally, (who is really getting down with talking snakes?) but it speaks an infinite truth even when taken (I believe it was intended) as a metaphor.  Humanity wants to believe that humanity evolves and progresses, but the story of the Fall speaks otherwise.  If anything, humanity has been continually devolving and falling further away from the heart and will of God since the Fall, and if anyone need be convinced of that, just watch the evening news.

lack of beer

The Genesis creation narrative is counter-cultural.  It says (my paraphrase): God made the heavens and the earth, and it was good.  (see Genesis 1-2)

Then it goes on in Genesis 3 to add that we humans, in our disobedience to God and His goodness, screwed it all up.

God made creation perfect, but we couldn’t leave it well enough alone. We have to have what we’re told we can’t have, and that is the Fall in a nutshell.  We don’t want to listen to God, we want to be God.   We all know what happens when a mother of a toddler or preschooler decides to make cookies or cakes.  When he was toddler-to-preschool age my son couldn’t keep his hands off the freshly frosted Christmas cookies, or Dad’s birthday cake, or the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie even though there were Pop Tarts or cheese crackers or other snackies that were OK to nibble on readily available to him.  The special pie or cake just tasted better.  We have to have what we want now, and consequences be damned.

There’s something inherent in human nature (Catholics will call that “original sin”) that insists we cannot resist the forbidden fruit.  Even if it is better if we leave it alone.  Even if partaking of it leads to the death of us.

forbidden-fruit1

The reality is that everyone has that addiction to forbidden fruit.  It’s called sin.  Sin’s not a very popular concept today.  The message coming from most pulpits today comes across more like the old Coca-Cola commercial from the 1970’s.  Let’s all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” (or “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke“) while the world goes to hell in a hand basket.  Let’s all put up a pretty, moral front and try to earn God’s love and approval- and miss the boat entirely.

letpeaceblossom

It’s not necessarily a bad message, but it’s not the whole message, and it’s not the complete message coming from Scripture.  Flowers and kisses and butterflies and singing pretty songs are all lovely, but how do you deal with the two kids ripping each other’s faces off as they’re fighting over a toy?  There is a reason why God gave humans rules- mostly to keep them from hurting themselves and others.

The Lutheran theological take on that is that there is both Law (the Bad News that we can’t come close to being able to follow God’s rules) and Gospel (the Good News- that God made a Provision to cover for our failed nature) all throughout the Scriptures.

Even though I’m not a Calvinist, I can agree with John Calvin 100% on one of the petals of his TULIP.  Human beings are Totally Depraved. Anyone who doubts this may observe human depravity in its basest forms all around us- a group of toddlers grabbing everything in sight while screaming, “MINE!” or a group of teenage girls gossiping about and backstabbing the girls in the “out” group.

mean girls

Human beings are inherently self-serving.  Many years ago, I had a debate with a psychology professor who contended that there is no such thing as true altruism.  I wanted to believe there was.  I wanted to believe that humans are inherently good and kind.  At first, as I was a young college student and more than a bit naïve, I was shocked at the suggestion that all human behavior is inspired by satisfying a human need. But as I’ve grown older and had the opportunity to observe and interact with fellow humans, I can see exactly where he was coming from- especially when I examine my own heart.  If there’s kindness or goodness to be found in me, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit- NOT me.

I can also understand why younger people have a hard time seeing how being involved in a church is relevant if it’s just a big version of the Coke commercial to them.  There’s plenty of places to get warm fuzzies and play nicey-nice and sing happy songs together.  It’s a little harder to find the Jesus Who wept with His friends when He found out Lazarus was dead.  It’s a little harder to find the Jesus Who says to the woman about to be stoned for adultery, “I forgive you, go and sin no more.”

The big question is, (and probably the big barrier that keeps many people from pursuing God and taking on a life of faith,) why do you need a Savior if you don’t know from what you are being saved from?    In Scripture we learn not only that human beings are Totally Depraved right out of the box, but that there’s not thing one we can do to change our nature or to abide by God’s Laws.  That’s what Jesus came to be- the Perfect Sacrifice to cover for humanity’s egregious and constant sin- and that is the Gospel, the good news that in Christ God wipes our slates clean.

All we like sheep have gone astray.  We have turned every one to his own way.  And the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.”- Isaiah 53:6

The Bad News:  We are all Totally Depraved sinners, incapable of making ourselves right with God.

The Good News: Jesus took the punishment and paid the price for our sins.

Awesome.





Matthew 27:51-54 The Curtain is Torn (Holy Week- Good Friday)

29 03 2013

curtain-torn-small

 

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection andwent into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” Matthew 27:51:54 (NRSV)

At the moment of Jesus’ death, there was a fundamental change in the relationship between God and man.

At the very moment His suffering and sacrifice were complete, the barrier between the Presence of God and the mundane world of humanity was broken.  God’s Presence broke free from the Holy of Holies.  The barrier between God and man had been broken forever.  God was no longer confined to a “holy space” where regular people were never allowed.

In some Christian traditions the tendency is to glaze over the experience of Good Friday and Calvary and fast forward straight to Easter Sunday.  That discomfort with the Passion of Christ is easy to understand.  It’s not pleasant to relive the gory and painful reality of Jesus’ torture and death.  It is not comfortable to know that our salvation came at such an awesomely exorbitant price. It is important for us to come to some understanding of Jesus’ suffering, however, lest we fall into the trap of thinking that the grace that was freely given had no cost.  Grace is not cheap.

We need to remember Jesus’ Passion.  We need to understand He did not die an “easy death.” We need to know that we are just as responsible for Jesus’ death as the people in the crowd who shouted “Crucify Him!”   It is good for us to enter into the experience of the Passion, at least on some level, though I would caution, it is also important to remember that death and suffering are not the end of the story.

If not for Jesus’ sacrifice and His total surrender, there would be no setting the Holy Spirit afoot in and through the world as the curtain was torn.  There would be no redemption of our broken and often profane world.  The sacred would still be beyond the reach of common humanity.  If not for Jesus’ sacrifice there would be no salvation for humanity, and no life beyond physical death and the grave.

crucifixionphoto

“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?‘)” Matthew 27:45:46 (NRSV)

As we contemplate on and remember that Jesus died to save me, and you, and that cranky old guy across the road, and the convicted murderer consigned to prison we have to remember that in His eyes we are all on the same footing.  Lost, fallible, flawed, makers of bad decisions and law-breakers- all people fall into that category.

All people fall into the category of those Jesus came to save and redeem.  All people are invited to breathe in the Holy Spirit that was set free the day the curtain was torn and to participate in the Kingdom of God.  No one is “too far gone” to be beyond the reach of Jesus.

Death and suffering are not the end.  But today, we remember just how high the cost of our salvation was.

 





Colossians 3:6-7 Lead Me Not Into Temptation

15 03 2013

divine comedy inferno

“On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.” Colossians 3:6-7 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What moral issues that tempted you once has Christ helped you overcome?  Have you thanked Him for these victories?

I do believe in a literal hell.  Some Christians, and even many Lutherans, do not, but I do.  Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s your sign– hell is real.  The good news is that hell doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

As a child the very real possibility of eternity in hell scared the holy bejeebers out of me.  As I was raised by a very staunchly Catholic mother, I knew a lot more about hell than my non-Catholic friends.  Catholicism does not teach the assurance of salvation.  A Catholic is considered to be presumptious if he or she claims to be saved- so you’re always wondering where you’re going to end up if you drop dead all the sudden.  The issue I have with not knowing if I’m saved or not is both Jesus and the apostle Paul teach that salvation is all due to the grace of God- not on what I do or don’t do but on what Jesus has done for me.  He took my place- and my punishment.  Because of the grace of God I become a part of His Kingdom forever- today as well as for the rest of eternity.

jesus

The big problem with overemphasizing the reality of hell is that it minimizes the reality of the grace of God.  I learned much about penance and mortal and venial sins as a child, and much about the omnipresence and the wrath of God, but not a whole lot about grace.   Fear is a great short-term motivator, but it’s not so hot in the long term.   Worse yet, attempting to hold someone’s salvation contingent upon anything other the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is false.  We can’t “earn ourselves saved,” no matter how many good works we do.

busy ants

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.  We all fade like a leaf,and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NRSV) 

Nothing we do is ever going to be good enough to earn ourselves saved.

busy

Busy doesn’t earn you brownie points in God’s economy.

Some would argue that, “Well since you’re saved anyway, why don’t you just do what you want?”

The problem with that is, a person who belongs to Christ is going to be transformed by Christ- one way or the other.  The easy way or the hard way.  Take it from me, cynical, stubborn and obstinate fool that I can be- the hard way is not fun.

The Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee (well known for his Thru the Bible five year verse by verse study that is still available on the radio and online every day) puts it like this: “You can take a trip to the pig pen, but you won’t be comfortable there.  A son belongs in the father’s house.”

I understand pig pen sojourns very well.

in-the-pig-pen

The good news is that God loves His own too much to let them stay in the pig pen.

I picked up some not-so-nice habits during my sojourns.  I’m not going to come out and say anything ridiculous such as, “a Christian can’t smoke,” because what a person does is between his/her conscience and God, and there is no “Thou Shalt Not Smoke” among the Ten Commandments, but I was a hard core chain smoker for many years- two packs a day of 120 menthols, down to the filters.  Smoking was something that I put above just about everything.  I planned my day and activities around when I could have a smoke.  Smoking was also contributing to some of my preexisting health conditions as well as costing me money, turning my teeth yellow and stinking up my car and my clothes.  By the grace of God He set me free of smoking over 10 years ago.  I am so very thankful for that freedom, because cigarettes were a huge bondage and source of frustration for me.  When I think about it now it’s hard to imagine that at one time I couldn’t even go to bed without having a pack and a lighter within reach if I would wake up in the night.

The Lord has also brought me to freedom from lust and has brought me peace with living celibate.  That’s been a very difficult road, because I have had deep issues with lust and the trouble it can get one into in the past.  It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with sex.  It is a sacred and beautiful thing between husband and wife, and it is a gift God meant for us to enjoy, in the proper context.  Unfortunately, my husband has ED, and no interest in doing anything to correct it, so relations are not possible for him.  So whether I like it or not, I have to live a celibate life. The only way I have any chance of doing that is in God’s strength.

If He calls me to something, He will provide the means for me to do it- or in this case, to NOT do it.  I am thankful for being set free of an overwhelming addiction to cigarettes, and for the ability to come to terms with the celibate life and to have peace and joy in the midst of it.

I’m not “there” yet, but by the grace of God, I’m on my way.