Deep-Dish Hypocrisy (Guilty as Charged)

9 07 2015

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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.

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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.

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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.





Matthew 9:9-13 Mercy, Not Sacrifice (-or False Doctrine)

16 04 2013

 

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“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’” Matthew 9:9-13 (NRSV)

Many people (me included, for about seven years,) are creeped out by the church and completely avoid Christian fellowship because of faulty theology or misinterpretation of Scripture.  Some people have been led to believe that some events in the past permanently exclude them from Christian fellowship.  Even being aware, as a Lutheran, that no one is saved by the Law- and that the Law is there to point out how impossible it is for us to follow God’s will, and to point us to knowing how we are entirely dependent upon Jesus, as the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 5:19-21 –

“For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.  But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NRSV)

I still thought that as a person who had been divorced and remarried, that I had no place in the church, and no right to be there.  The “morality rules” were drilled into my head that deep.

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My background is extremely conservative.  Both traditions that I grew up around- old-school Catholicism and Regular Baptists- frown upon divorce, and frown upon remarriage after divorce even more.  It is true, God hates divorce:

For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. Malachi 2:16 (NRSV). 

God only permitted divorce in the Mosaic Law because of the hard-heartedness of His people, as Jesus teaches: He (Jesus) said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8 (NRSV)  There were a number of issues involved in the end of my first marriage, and I can attest that my own hard-heartedness was most certainly a contributing factor.

God hates all sin, including the laundry list of sins that are cautioned against throughout Scripture- gossiping, lying, coveting, failing to love others, maliciousness, immorality, revenge and the list goes on.  The apostle James goes so far to say that if a person obeys the Law but messes up one tiny little part of it, that person is still guilty of violating the entire law. (James 2:10)  Even so, we humans tend to categorize sin, and in my upbringing, I was taught remarriage after a divorce was one of those “unpardonable” sins that stigmatized a person forever and excluded him/her from Christian fellowship.

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Most Christian churches have been more accepting of people who have the more “socially unacceptable” scrapes and blemishes in their past, which is a positive development.  After all, we are all sinners, and we have all fallen short of the glory of God.  The people who need healing and comfort the most need to feel as if they are welcomed and invited into the church.

The only issue with “eating with tax collectors and sinners” is that being accepting of people should not imply that sin is anything other than sin.  There is a slippery slope that the apostle Paul discussed, where Christian freedom was mistaken for lawlessness and anarchy.

“(Paul writes:)It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?” 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 (NRSV)

The difference here is between acknowledging that people are going to sin, and condoning sin.  Instead of looking the other way at our sins, Christians should examine our own hearts and ask the Holy Spirit for what we need to stand and to live a life worthy of how we are called.

Mercy

Every human being that draws breath is a sinner, and even those of us who believe, and have been baptized, and are saved by the grace of God, are saints and sinners at the same time.

“Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”  Romans 14:4 (NRSV) 

So we are living the saint-as-sinner paradox on the more controversial issues, but it’s easy to forget that the garden variety saint-and-sinner who is very moral and prim and proper (think: Dana Carvey as the Church Lady) is just as much a law-breaker as the people that are excluded from some churches.

People will categorize one sin as being more heinous than another- and some sins are greater in magnitude as far as the damage they inflict upon the self and the greater community- but in God’s economy the kid who takes a pack of gum from the gas station is just as much a law-breaker as the spree killer.

I’m not suggesting that Christians should embrace sinful behavior, or fail to address those things that fall short of the glory of God, but that it’s good to remember, that God’s the judge and I’m not.

“You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.   For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’  Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:8-13 (NRSV)

 

 





1 Peter 1:18-19 The Paradox of Judas and Jesus (Holy Week Wednesday)

27 03 2013

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“You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold, but [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah) like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 (AMP)

Interesting, the paradox of this week.  First, Jesus rides into Jerusalem seated on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 –

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 (NRSV)

Then just a few short days later, Judas betrays Jesus and offers him up to the high priests for the equivalent of less money than it would take to fill up a Honda Accord.

Jesus freely gave His precious blood, that has value way beyond any material currency here on this earth, to redeem us from the conditions of sin and death that humanity put in motion to begin with.

Somehow, it seems like a rather raw exchange.   Even I want to say, “Jesus, you got ripped off!”

I can’t help seeing a deep injustice here.  Jesus was sinless, yet He had to endure the torture and death on the Cross?  Crucifixion wasn’t really done in the neat and easy and clean way that medieval and Renaissance authors usually depict it.  The artwork is aesthetically pleasing, but not terribly accurate. It’s a lot more bloody and dirty and nasty than the sanitized painting above.  Mel Gibson had the gory details of Roman torture and crucifixion portrayed pretty closely in his movie The Passion of the Christ.

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Unfortunately we are more like Judas than we want to admit.  How often do I sell Jesus down the river for trivial things that have no eternal value?  How often do I overlook or miss an opportunity to be a part of His Kingdom to do something else?  How many times do I make decisions without thinking about whether or not my actions are pleasing to God?

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 (NRSV)

This statement Jesus makes is scary.  I know that I don’t acknowledge Jesus in everything I do 24/7, 365.  Sometimes my behavior and actions and the words I say betray my faith.

I don’t want Jesus to look at me come Judgment Day and say, “I don’t know you.”

The good news is that (paradoxically) Jesus forgives us when we ask Him.  He forgives the penitent sinner, no matter how badly we have screwed up.  We are not forgiven because we are such great people.  Left to our own devices we end up like Judas- selling out Jesus for the most trivial and mundane of things, and sinning over and over and over again in spite of “knowing better.” Our salvation is made possible only by the greatness, love and mercy of Christ.

Mercy

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 (NRSV)

I thank God today that Jesus took the punishment that I deserve.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me live in response to His priceless gift of salvation.