“40 Questions To Ask A Christian” – My Response

So I came across and article entitled “40 Questions To Ask A Christian” which was meant to be a thought exercise on behalf of the Atheists to be taken up by Christians. As the author wrote:

“Asking a difficult question can achieve better results because it taps into the Christian’s desire to share the wisdom they perceive themselves to have. Any reflex for angry disagreement is quashed and replaced by an obligation to think their answer through. Ultimately, thought is what an atheist should be trying to elicit. By asking the right questions, one can determine the direction that such thought takes.”

So I have copied the article’s 40 questions below and I will attempt to answer them to the best of my ability. I have not prepared or done any research before or after reading these questions. I wanted to be as genuine in my answers as possible, and try to respond as I would if I were asked these questions by a random stranger on the street.

40 Questions for Christians

  • (Global Religion)

If a hundred different religions have to be wrong for yours to be right, does this show that people from all over the world like to invent gods that don’t exist?

Not necessarily. Let’s look at it this way, if a hundred different accounts of a historical event have to be wrong for yours to be right, does that show that people all over the world like to invent historical events that don’t exist?  The answer would be no. Most all cultures have some grasp of God or gods no matter how isolated they may be. The problem is usually not “Does God exist” as much as it is “What is God like.”   Having said that I don’t think anyone has to be wrong for something else to be right. I believe Christianity to be true, and by saying that I am also saying that what contradicts Christianity is not true. If a Muslim or a Hindu were to come and say something about God that contradicts Christianity then I would assume they are false. If they says something that is not contradicted, or even perhaps supported by Christianity then I would say they are true. I think that other religions may have false beliefs and an incomplete view of God, but I don’t think thousands of different cultures all over the world just made up God on their own.

If your parents had belonged to a different religion, do you think you would belong to that religion too?

Maybe. It’s really impossible to say since I did not grow up in a home of another faith. I would certainly hope that someone would present the Gospel to me and that I would accept it no matter what religion I was born in. I can say that I believe I would probably always seek after God regardless of what culture I was born into. I would certainly hope that God would not allow me to return from my quest empty-handed.

If people from the five major religions are each told conflicting information by their respective gods, should any of them be believed?

Yes. Just because there are conflicting views on something does not negate that one of them could be true. If I say grass is green and four other people disagree with me we shouldn’t just assume that none of us can be trusted.

  • (Communication with God)

How can you tell the voice of God from a voice in your head?

Does this voice ask you to do anything that would conflict with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles? Does this voice move like a holy fire through your very soul? Does this voice point you towards more loving service or spreading of the Gospel, or is it more self-serving or pointing to sin?

How can you tell the voice of God from the voice of the Devil?

My answer is the same as the above.

Would you find it easier to kill someone if you believed God supported you in the act?

No. I don’t think I could ever kill easily even if there was a divine command behind it. Killing should never come easy.  Also I don’t believe I would ever be commanded to kill another human being by God. In the Old Testament Israel and God’s people were used as a human representation of God’s judgement and so God did use them to kill. The thing is that God’s wrath and judgement on sin was completely poured out on Christ at the cross. We are in a new age of mercy where the old is fading and the new is coming.

If God told you to kill an atheist, would you?

I already pretty much answered this in the previous question.

  • (Morality)

When an atheist is kind and charitable out of the kindness of his heart, is his behavior more or less commendable than a religious man who does it because God instructed him to?

Yes and No. An atheist who does a kindness in order to get a warm and fuzzy feeling or to feel good about themselves is really no different in motive than a religious person who does good simply to please his God. Christians however don’t believe in doing good to appease God, but rather we do good because we are so filled with love for what God has already done that we cannot help but let that love overflow onto others.

If you are against the Crusades and the Inquisition, would you have been burned alive as a heretic during those events?

Maybe. It depends on how vocal I was.

If your interpretation of a holy book causes you to condemn your ancestors for having a different interpretation, will your descendants condemn you in the same way?

I’m pretty loose in what I consider a Christian. If they believe Christ was fully divine and fully man, the messiah, and that he died and rose again for the sake of sinners so that they would be forgiven then I consider them a Christian. Any other interpretations are secondary and are not “deal breakers.” I don’t know the beliefs of my ancestors. I also don’t know whether they would condemn me.

Rape wasn’t always a crime in the Middle East two thousand years ago. Is that why `do not rape’ is not part of the Ten Commandments?

Well it was. Also if you notice a lot of things weren’t mentioned in the Ten commandments. I would say that the 7th commandment “Though Shall Not Commit Adultery”, the 8th Commandment “Thou Shall Not Steal” and the 10th “Thou shall not covet” could all be applied to condemn rape.

Do lions need `god-given’ morality to understand how to care for their young, co-operate within a pack, or feel anguish at the loss of a companion? Why do we?

No. Morality can exist in a secular sense. My problem with secular morality is not that it doesn’t exist, but rather that it is entirely dependent on the individual and the ever-changing opinion of the mass. Secular morality is dangerously close to mob morality. This doesn’t mean it cannot be right or true, but I simply don’t find it sturdy enough for me.

If organized religion requires a civilization in which to spread, how could this civilization exist without first having a moral code to make us civil?

I’m not sure I understand this question. I think religion is one of the first steps any primitive people experience before forming a civilization. Historically civilizations tend to come from and form around temples and religious structures.

  • (The Characteristics of God)

An all-knowing God can read your mind, so why does he require you to demonstrate your faith by worshiping him?

He doesn’t. Worship is a means for us to show gratitude. He knows our heart, but we enjoy celebrating what God has done. Worship is a mutually beneficial act.

If God is all-knowing, why do holy books describe him as surprised or angered by the actions of humans? He should have known what was going to happen.

When we tell stories we are limited by our language. There re truly no words that I believe can accurately encapsulate God. For the narrative structure to work God must be humanized to an extent so that we can fathom what is happening. We anthropomorphize God to better relate to him.

An all-knowing God knows who will ultimately reject him. Why does God create people who he knows will end up in hell?

Hell is the result of man’s free will. God desires that all men would be saved, but he forces no one to follow him. Apart from God there can be no good and complete rejection of God is the absence of good, or Hell. God wants you in heaven one day, but he doesn’t force anyone to come home. God created us to love us and be loved by us, love however requires a choice, and a choice means that it must be possible to reject love.

If God is all-knowing, then why did he make humans in the knowledge that he’d eventually have to send Jesus to his death?

All things for the glory of God. Jesus was not plan B. Jesus was plan A so that God could tangibly demonstrate his love for us and show us grace and mercy while remaining true and just.

Why did a supposedly omnipotent god take six days to create the universe, and why did he require rest on the seventh day?

It’s a narrative story. It’s meant to show the passing of time. In English the word “rest” usually is the result of becoming tired or exhausted. This is a translation problem. The original Hebrew text used a word which simply meant that on the seventh day God stopped creating. It is not that God was tired after six days of work, but rather that his creation was complete.

Is omnipotence necessary to create our universe when a larger, denser universe would have required more power?

As I stated in the previous answer, when the creation was complete God stopped working. I don’t see how a larger or more dense universe would be any more or less necessary than the one we live in. I’m still a little confused by what this question was supposed to be saying?

  • (The Bible)

Why are Churches filled with riches when Jesus asked his followers to give their wealth away?

You should come visit my church. But on a serious note all things are for the Glory of God. Wealth used to honor and glorify God is a way to put God above money. We are to give to all who are in need, and most churches do. Also I’ll point out that those elaborately decorated cathedrals this question was probably pointed to are usually built by donations from the poor that the church supports. If churches never ran shelters, food and clothing drives, hospitals, or orphanages then I could see the problem, but that is not the case.

While in the desert, Jesus rejected the temptations of the Devil. He didn’t censor or kill the Devil, so why are Christians so in favor of censoring many Earthly temptations?

Christ did not openly embrace or allow the devil to prosper either. He tolerated evil only so far before he shut him down. What good could possibly come from allowing evil to go unchecked.

Given that the story of Noah’s Ark was copied almost word for word from the much older Sumerian Epic of Atrahasis, does this mean that our true ruler is the supreme sky god, Anu?

No, but perhaps Anu the supreme sky god and Yahweh are the same God seen through different cultural lenses. Remember my point about how different religions can still all testify to the existence of God? It’s a similar thing going on here. The story of Noah is particularly interesting because it occurs so often in so many different cultures and legends from around the world. It’s a really fascinating tale that seems to have roots all over the world, leaving me to believe that there is truth to it.

  • (Religious Conversion)

If your desire is to convert atheists so that they become more like you; do you think that you’re currently better than them?

My desire to convert atheists is so that they can be with me in heaven one day and come to know the joy and peace that comes from knowing Christ and having a relationship with the father. I do not think I am better than atheists, in fact I don’t know how a Christian could. Any holiness seen in Christians comes not from their own work or merit, but from the holy spirit and the gifts and blessings from God the father. To God be the glory.

If religious people don’t respect their children’s right to pick their own religion at a time when they’re able to make that decision, how can society expect religious people to respect anyone’s right to freedom of religion?

Well that’s a loaded question. A Christian parent should not respect their child’s rejection of Christ because that is the most hateful thing a parent could possibly do. That is literally tolerating someone right into the gates of Hell (God forbid).  Any Christian who actually believes Christ meant what he said cannot easily allow any loved one to reject the truth without putting in a great deal of prayer effort to convince them otherwise. If I love my child I must hate what is harmful for them, and nothing should be hated more than the complete and total rejection of all things good. Notice this is not me saying the child should be hated, but the parent should do whatever is in their power to dissuade their child from what they know is a path away from what is good.

If missionaries from your religion should be sent to convert people in other countries, should missionaries from other religions be sent to your country?

That’s up to them to decide. I’d love to talk to them.

If children are likely to believe in Santa Claus and fairies, does this explain why religion has been taught in schools for thousands of years?

Not really. Religion was taught because it was believed to be true. Although there have always been atheists, the cultural movement has only really been around since the 18th century. For most of history there was not secular education. Churches were the centers of learning and the Priests were the educated people of the day. The shift of separating religion and education and religion and politics is a pretty recent occurrence in the grand scheme of history.

When preachers and prophets claim to be special messengers of God, they often receive special benefits from their followers. Does this ever cause you to doubt their intentions?

I’m not sure what you mean. I know of no rich prophets.

  • (Miracles)

When you declare a miracle, does this mean you understand everything that is possible in nature?

No. When I say something is a miracle it means I cannot see how God was not involved in this. Even if I know how something happens it can still be a miracle.

If a woman was cured of cancer by means unknown to us, and everyone declared it a miracle, would the chance of scientifically replicating this cure be more or less likely?

This is a strange question. If we didn’t know how it happened then I don’t know how science could hope to replicate it.

If humans declared fire to be a miracle thousands of years ago, would we still be huddling together in caves while we wait for God to fire another lightning bolt into the forest?

Fire is pretty miraculous when it is really though about, but I say no. The scientific method was invented by a catholic priest. Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, and Galileo were all deeply religious people who believed in miracles. These men were spurred on to discover because they believed that God created an ordered and understandable universe. Miracles doesn’t mean science stops. Miracles means that God still works, whether we understand how or not.

If God gave a man cancer, and the Devil cured him to subvert God’s plan, how would you know it wasn’t a divine miracle? What if he was an unkind, atheist, homosexual?

God has worked through the Devil (see the book of Job) and he has worked through non believers countless times in the Old Testament. If God gave a man cancer and then chose to remove it then it doesn’t really matter to me how it was removed.

  • (Hell)

Should an instruction to convert to your religion upon the threat of eternal torture in hell be met with anything other than hostility?

We aren’t threatening you with hell anymore than the person who sees an eighteen wheeler bearing down on you is threatening you with the eighteen wheeler. We simply see the danger and wish to save you from it. To do anything else would be extremely cruel.

Can a mass murderer go to heaven for accepting your religion, while a kind doctor goes to hell for not?

Yes. No man deserves eternal paradise and communion with God, yet God saw it good to give us admittance into his family free of charge. If a kind doctor rejects this offer and chooses hell then his decision will be honored. If a mass murder chooses repentance and grace then God is good to forgive.

Did the mass murdering Crusaders and Inquisitors make it into the Christian heaven?

I certainly hope so. I also hope their victims have found a home in paradise along side them.

How can we know what is right when we don’t know for sure who makes it into heaven and hell?

This question is written as if good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. There are no good or bad people. There are only redeemed and unrepentant people.

If aliens exist on several worlds that have never heard of your god, will they all be going to hell when they die?

That’s not my call to make, but I would assume no. The reason a man goes to heaven or hell is because of his eternal soul. Unless and alien was given an eternal soul by God I’d assume their fate is the same as a dog or a whale.

  • (The Promises of Religion)

If someone promised you eternal life, the protection of a loving super being, a feeling of moral righteousness, a purpose for living, answers to all the big questions, and a rule book for achieving the pinnacle of human potential… and all in exchange for having faith in something that wasn’t proven, would you be suspicious?

Yes. I was very skeptical before I became a Christian. I was a very difficult person to convince.

If someone promised to give you a billion dollars after ten years, but only if you worshiped them until that time, would you believe them? If someone promised to give you eternal life upon death, but only if you spent your life worshiping a god, would you believe them?

Worshiping a man for money is not a worthy endeavor. Maybe, obviously I said yes to Christianity though I still think you misunderstand the point of worship though. I also think these questions focus way too much on the next life and not enough on the life we have now. Christianity is not just a religion of the future, it is a life to be lived out now.

Why does religion appeal more to poor, weak, vulnerable, young, ill, depressed, and ostracized people? Could religious promises be more of a temptation to these people?

It appeals to these people because they understand what it means to need grace, mercy, healing and a savior. A person who is extremely blessed in this world has many things he can make his God, whether it is money, power, influence, pride, approval, or what have you. The poor and needy are closer to God because they know what it means to cling to him for their needs.

Advertisements

I’m Really Going To Miss That Ragamuffin: A Tribute To Brennan Manning

imagesSo in the rush and fuss of life I nearly missed the news that Brennan Manning passed away on Friday. I guess I can’t say I was caught off guard by this since Brennan was 79 years old and in deteriorating health, still I cant help but be deeply moved by his passing. I hesitate as I write this, because I know I’ll never be able to write anything that will capture what I want to say about this man. In my life, Brennan Manning is a giant among men.

I struggle to think of any teacher who was more influential and impacting in my Christian walk than Brennan Manning was. His relentless focus on the love of God really helped me to understand just how Good the God we worship is. The way Brennan Manning was able to stay optimistic and loving even during tales of his child abuse and alcohol addiction always managed to shake me to my core. Brennan had no illusions to the fact that he was a broken man who really needed grace. He was passionate and he spoke with a gentle authority. If you ever read any of his books, listened to his sermons, or engaged him in a conversation about God he made sure that you understood before all was said in done that God loves you no matter who you are and what you have done.

Brennan had a little saying he always used that I have adopted and used many times in my ministry.

Let yourself be loved by God, as you are, not as you should be… because you’ll never be as you should be.”

– Brennan Manning

He knew that we were all sinners and in desperate need of grace, but he never stopped there. He never left people squirming in the realization of their brokenness. Manning, in ways much more eloquently than I could hope to master, never failed to let you know that while we were all “ragamuffins,” God still loved us and that gave each and every one of us immense value.

Manning stressed grace and mercy over and over to the point that some people got sick of it, but in spite of what anyone else thought Manning could never get enough of the love of God. Brennan Manning had this raw sort of brutal love about him that I wish to emulate to those I minister to. He was never soft on sin, but he was never stingy on Grace either. Manning knew how to call a spade a spade and love that spade regardless. I’ve rarely ever come across a man who could so reflect the love of God as Manning did.

Even with this seemingly Godly sense of love and mercy that Manning carried about himself he never came off as anything more than a man who was tragically human. I was tempted to say that Manning was not ashamed of his sin, but that would be a lie. Manning was deeply ashamed of his flaws and failures, he simply didn’t try to hide them the way most people do. He was the type of man who owned up to his mistakes and tried to turn them around into a powerful testimony. Manning knew that he was not the only person ever to suffer from addiction, anger, selfishness, pettiness, and cruel desires, and he made a conscious choice to be honest about his sin.  He never tried to paint himself as a holy person, and he wanted it known by everyone that he was a sinner saved by the grace and love of God. Manning was the type of real ministers that only come around every once in a blue moon. He’s the type of minister that I wish I could be, and hope to be.

My heart is greatly pained at the thought of such a great man leaving us, but my spirit leaps with joy knowing that Brennan will have all of eternity to bask in the unending and unfiltered love of God that he so deeply sought after in life.

To God be the Glory.

 

God knows you. Come as you are.

self-deception

It can be difficult and frightening to truly examine your heart and soul.

Great courage is required to look at your own reflection and see yourself for who you truly are. Not for who you hope to be, or who you make yourself out to be, or who you wish you were, or who you convince other people you are, but rather who you truly are at your core. Unbiased. Unfiltered. Unedited.

It takes bravery and strength to look yourself in the soul and see every aspect of you. It takes a strong will not to casually justify yourself by saying “I’m only human”  or  “nobody’s perfect” as if that could excuse any wrong. It takes courage to examine your life without any self bias or bending the standard so you look better in comparison to everyone else. To look all your faults, failures, sins, and weaknesses and see them for what they are, that takes real bravery.

It takes bravery because, if we are honest, no one really wants to face up to the person at their core. We want to present our best and gloss over our worst. We want to be judged on a low standard where everyone passes. We want to convince ourselves that the easy road we so often take still gives us room to be a “good person.” We don’t want to face the fact that we spend much more time in sin or apathy than we do actually pursuing goodness or holiness.

One way I like to explain this to people is by asking them to picture their entire life as a movie. When I say this, I’m not talking about your life being presented in some uplifting heavily edited film that captures you in the best light as the conquering inspirational hero. I’m talking about a film that shows every single sin, thought, action, inaction, every deed good or evil, and all the motivations behind everything you’ve ever said, thought, or done. I’m talking about a completely unbiased film that captured every aspect of you. For most people I’d venture to say that this is a scary concept.

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

– John 3:20

No one would ever want that film shown because no one wants their true self exposed to the world. We’re afraid and we prefer the favorable lie. We don’t want other people knowing the things we think, or the decisions we make when we know no one is looking. We don’t want to own up to the truth that a lot of the good things we do are just here to give us some self-serving sense of satisfaction or as a means for us to justify our desire to come off as a good person. We would hate that.

Here’s the thing though, God has seen your film.  God knows every thought, action, inaction, and deed you have ever done. He knows what was done out of pure and loving motivations, what was done out of selfish vain conceit,  and what was not done because you just didn’t care enough to do something about it. He knows every cruel thing you’ve ever done, every moment you passed on an opportunity to do good, and every time you did good so others could see or so you could brag about it later. God knows you better than you know yourself, and what’s even more incredible about all of this is the fact that he loves you regardless.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. The scriptures are clear about this. God loves us even though we can be completely unloveable.

Really take some time to ponder the Prodigal’s Son parable. Think about the patient father who, when he sees his arrogant, defiled, and filthy son hobbling back to beg for forgiveness, runs to embrace him and welcomes him home before he can even utter an apology.

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

– Luke 15:11-32

We don’t worship a God who waits for us to get clean before he embraces us, we worship a God who runs to us and loves us in all of our filth and failures. He doesn’t wait for us to make the long journey back to him, he runs out to meet us as soon as we are ready to come home. Nothing compares to the love of God.

images

The Prodigal Father and Son

This is one of the things that I find most beautiful bout Christianity. We don’t worship a God who expects us to become righteous in order to come to him, he wants us to come to him so that he can make us righteous. God is a God of second chances, new beginnings, and fresh starts. His mercies are new every morning and his desire is that his children would come home.

I can’t stress enough the simple and profound truth that no matter who you are, what you have done, where you are coming from, or how broken you feel you are, God still loves you and is patiently waiting for you to come home.

Good Friday: Grace Is Not Cheap

Tauberbischofsheimer+altar+scene+the+crucifixion+of+Christ+detail-1600x1200-10826

 

Today is Good Friday.

It’s a day that when Christ was beaten, despised, denied, abandoned, and broken by the world he came to save. It still stands today as man kind’s ultimate rejection of God.

This is the day when the world took their greatest gift and murdered it in cold blood to the roar of applause.

This is the day when God allowed himself to be mocked and shamed by those whom he loved.

This is the day when the father turned his face away, a day when the prayers of his son went unanswered.

This is a very dark day, and yet it is good.

It is the most painful and gut wrenching good imaginable, but it is still good.

This is the day of “not my will but yours be done.”

This is the day when God took the sins of the world upon himself and endured the full wrath of sin and death on our part.

This is the day when God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whomever would believe in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

This is the day when all man’s crimes were paid for.

Best of all, though no one saw it coming, this was not the end of the story. Sunday is only two days away.

As we celebrate the fact that we have been given loving grace and mercy by our father in heaven, let us never forget that grace was not cheap. Let us not forget that in the most unexpected turn of events, God humbled himself, suffered, and died, on our part. As we seek to serve God, let us not forget that he first served us through the horrific beauty of Christ’s sacrifice. This grace came at a greater cost than any of us could ever comprehend.

 

The Gay Marriage Debate: An Indecisive Post About Why I Choose To Shut Up And Listen

urlSo with the Prop 8 bill being taken to the Supreme Court yesterday, it seems like a everyone has an opinion about whether gay people should be allowed to marry. Now I’m generally of the opinion that the government doesn’t need to play morality police and as long as you aren’t directly hurting someone else Uncle Sam doesn’t need to get involved.  This makes the legal aspect of it easy for me, but where it get’s difficult for me (and where I think it really matters) is whether or not gay marriage should or should not be endorsed by the Christian faith.

I personally don’t care what the government says is right or wrong, but God is another matter entirely. If YHWH is as opposed to gay marriage as some Christians would lead you to believe, then I’d have to side with God. He is, after all, God. We don’t get to vote on an absolute moral truth, and popular opinion does not add to or take away from the validity of a divine reality. The problem I come across is not that I am afraid to pick a side because of some public backlash. I’m a pro-life, anti-war, pro-gun, and anti-death-penalty Christian so I’m used to controversy and backlash. My problem is that I legitimately don’t know what the answer is. Honestly I’m surprised there don’t seem to be more people in my shoes.

Yes there are OT holiness codes that seem to prohibit same-sex intercourse, but anyone who knows the first thing about historical context knows that these laws are not applied today. These were a part of a holiness code whose purpose was to keep the Israelites separate and distinct from the pagan worship practices that surrounded them. I’m wearing a mixed fabric shirt right now, and earlier today I’m pretty sure I shaved in an inappropriate way. I’ve also eaten shrimp and probably at some point sat in a chair after a woman on her period (though I don’t like to think about that). My point is that Christianity has long since abandoned the laws of the OT as our guide for righteousness. We instead cling to the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that comes from Christ through the events of the death and resurrection. We have abandoned legalism (or at least we should have) long ago and I don’t think these hold up.

Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction seems to be a popular passage about homosexuality, but upon re-reading it I just can’t get myself to read it that way. For starters I think the bigger problem in Sodom was the mob’s willingness to gang-rape visitors than it was that the visitors happened to be males. Rape is bad, we can all agree with that. Plus in Ezekiel the sins of Sodom are listed and they have nothing to do with homosexuality.

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

– Ezekiel 16:49

Now Jesus himself is never recorded as mentioning anything about homosexuality (how easy this would be if he did) but that isn’t to say the subject was never brought up in the NT. In Romans and other Pauline epistles a modern-day reader might be able to read certain passages and find verses that seem to condemn homosexuality.  Here once again I have to throw my hands up in the air and confess I don’t know. I don’t think these passages are as crystal clear as a lot of people try make them out to be.  Monogamous homosexual couples just weren’t a normal thing in Paul’s day, at least not as common as the extra-marital homosexual affairs that Rome was full of. In the context of Paul’s day people probably envisioned any homosexual behavior as a form of extramarital erotic excess. It wasn’t uncommon for wealthy men to have wives and young male sexual servants. Sex was quick and loose in a lot of the Roman empire, but monogamous gay marriage was not at all common. When we try to look through Paul’s eyes instead of our own, we can see that what he was addressing in these letters was probably not the same issue we are addressing today.

Much to my frustration, I just don’t think scripture adequately addresses gay marriage. The Biblical authors probably never even thought to address the concept of monogamous homosexual marriage. To the OT writers homosexuality was a pagan practice and to the NT writers it was a freaky extramarital hedonistic thing. Neither had the same problem or view of homosexuality that we are faced with today, and neither really give much in the way of practical application.

urlI’ve stressed enough the problem I have with outright declaring monogamous homosexual marriage a sin, so why don’t I just join the “marriage equality” side and be done with it. Well though the Bible doesn’t address gay marriage in a way that I find satisfying enough for me to condemn it, it also fails to address it in a way that I find satisfying enough to outright embrace it. There are no positive portrayals of homosexuality found in scripture, and while that is probably a product of the time these writings were written in, it does not make my decision easy. I don’t want to disqualify something just because the Bible doesn’t openly praise it (if that were the case I couldn’t drive a car since the Bible says nothing about them) but I feel like too many people who find the anti-gay marriage arguments lacking quickly run and jump over into the pro-gay marriage camp. This is a decision that will have long-lasting consequences no matter who is wrong or who is right. When the scriptures say nothing that doesn’t really mean that the thing in question is moral or amoral, it simply means it was not addressed.

So while I’m busy being a “hypocritical fence sitter” as some have called me, what do I do when the problem comes up? To put it bluntly, I shut up and listen.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

– James 1:19-20

Let the gay christians speak. Let those people that will be effected by the church’s stance speak for themselves. I can’t help but feel like this entire debate bing waged in the church is predominantly a bunch of straight men who don’t understand homosexuality. I’d count myself as one of those. So I choose to reserve my judgements and let those who deserve to speak speak for themselves.

At the end of the day my opinion in this debate is just that, my opinion. The ultimate truth behind this moral quandary does not change based on which side of the coin I land on. My “vote” doesn’t count, and wherever I land it won’t really have an impact on me at all. At most my opinion might help others figure out where they stand, but that’s about as far as it goes for me.

The people who really need to be involved in this debate, the ones who have a voice that matters and a stake in this game, are those LGBTQ Christians out there seeking answers. If you are gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or some other variation then I think that you are the ones who really deserve to have an opinion in this fight that matters. I’m not going to marry another person of the same-sex, but some of you might be considering that option some day and it will be up to you to figure out and make peace with God in regards to that. It’s the LGBTQ Christians who will have to face these challenges and it is the job of their straight brothers and sisters to love and support them as they embark on this spiritual journey.

Now that I’ve gone on and on about all the things I don’t know,  I figured it is time for me to share something I do know.

I know is that no matter who you are, what you have done, what you will do, or who you choose to be…. God loves you. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Shalom.

Why I Love the Broken Hypocritical Church

 “I have powerful and tender feelings for Christ’s broken church, wobbling along these 2000 years, still bumbling and stumbling and confessing and promising to do better. What a silly bunch of dreamers we are. Ridiculous, really. We stand together in our collective absurdity, somehow managing to catch – in the rich depth of our liturgy – truths that are beyond our understanding but accessible to our simple hearts.”

– Gordon Atkinson (Author of “The Tertium Squid” Blog)

There’s an old joke I’ve heard many times in church and that it goes something like this. A man goes up to the pastor of a Church with a check list and asks him all sorts of questions. He asks about the sermon style and length, the childcare available, the friendliness of the congregation, the music style, the version of the Bible used, whether there are pews or chairs, and so on and so forth. After about the tenth or so question the pastor asks what this is all about. The man tells him that he is new to the area and wants to find the perfect church. Jokingly the pastor replies “Son there’s no such thing as a perfect church, and if you find one don’t join it cause you’ll screw it up.”

It’s an old cheesy joke, but the point is pretty clear. Churches are people and people are messed up. Coming from a person in career ministry I know better than most people that church life takes patience, people skills, and a thick skin. You will never please everyone and you will get yelled out, talked about, and worn out if you don’t learn quickly to love very broken people.

The number one complaint I hear from people who don’t want to go to church is that the church is full of hypocrites. What I don’t understand is what exactly people were expecting?

No where in Christianity will you find the idea that the Church is perfect, or anything more than a bunch of broken people clinging to a savior. We suck at Christianity, and honestly we are always going to suck at it. That’s kind of the reason we need Jesus. You don’t go to a hospital and complain about all the sick people, so why would you go to a church and complain about hypocrites. I’m a sinner saved by grace who still falls into sin on a daily basis, I’m a hypocrite. This isn’t me justifying my sin, but admitting that I need a savior and I need grace and mercy…. which is like Christianity 101.

They Like Jesus

A pretty good read on the subject if anyone is interested.

We aren’t perfect people, if we were we wouldn’t be Christians because we wouldn’t need Jesus. What we are is a body of sinful souls who have found forgiveness. We are nothing but thirsty people in a desert who found water and want to share it with the world. Every single Christian you will ever meet is deeply flawed. Don’t believe me, spend a significant amount of time with anyone and see how long their perfect persona lasts. We are all seeking righteousness and trying to do better, but if perfection is what you are looking for we can’t give you that, at least not on this side of eternity. 

What I can offer you, (and what any Church body should offer you) is a family. It’s a broken family that doesn’t always get along, but a family none the less. It’s a brotherhood of believers who are trying to make it through this crazy game of life, who realize we all screw up, and who hopefully will be there to pick you up when you fall and help point you back to the one who loves to forgive sinners.

The church is a place where broken people get to come and find love and forgiveness. The Church is a place where sinners help each other find the one who can make them clean again and use them to do amazing things. The church is a diverse body that is all united by one love for a God who first loved us.

I’ve heard amazing stories about people who, when their life fell apart, had a church family to catch them when they fall. I’ve seen a community of believers come together to support brothers and sisters in amazing ways though sickness, death, financial struggles, marital problems, and all the ups and downs life offers us. I’ve seen amazing discipleship and real brotherhood and sisterhood that strengthens and bonds. I’ve seen wonderful things come form a church that truly cares. I sincerely hope this is your Church experience.

Unfortunately I’ve also seen churches that fail to be churches when there members are in need. I’ve seen people shunned from churches because of sins that were brought out in the open and I’ve seen members up and leave over disputes they didn’t care to resolve in the church. If this sounds more like your church than the one I described earlier then here is my advice, I want you to be the church member you wish everyone else was. I want you to be the supportive, positive, encouraging, and loving brother you want to see in the church. We have too many dead and dying churches that are abandoned by people who want something better. You won’t find a perfect church, but you can work at building up the one you are currently at.  

Look, we aren’t going to get this Christianity thing down perfect any time soon. Luckily God is patient with us, slow to anger, and quick to forgive. Perhaps we could adopt a similar attitude towards our brothers and sisters?

My challenge for you is to learn to love the church. Love the sinner, love the hypocrite, and love the broken person. Jesus loved you although you were all three, why can’t we try a little harder to do the same for our brothers and sisters.

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.

– 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

– Galatians 6:1-2

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

– Ephesians 4:31-32

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

– 1 Peter 2:9-10

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

– Colossians 3:14-16

No church is going to live up to the above commands perfectly, and neither will you, but that’s ok. Jesus is a friend of sinners and hypocrites are just the type of people he wants to see in church. Christ didn’t take the sins of the world on himself so that he could start a church of perfect little angels on earth. He knew full well that his Church was going to be made up of hypocrites, liars, thieves, perverts, drunkards, slandering, selfish people who failed to keep his commands. He knew full well that his church would be far from perfect:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

– Mark 2:17

And though we do tend to do a horrible job of representing Christ he still loves us. A trend that bothers me in modern-day Christianity is the idea that we don’t need the Church or “Organized Religion” as it is so often called. I really don’t believe you can love Jesus and hate his Church. If you can’t stand hypocrisy, and sinners make you cringe, I’d first suggest you take some time to examine yourself and make sure you aren’t a pot calling the kettle black. Next I’d suggest you try to look at this rag-tag bunch of misfits we call the Christian church in a different light. Because whether or not you want to claim it, if you are a believer you are a part of the church.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

-Ephesians 2:19-22