Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20
This week a lot of people are reacting to a Supreme Court decision by quoting the Bible, and what it purports to say about certain behaviors. This is not the venue that I choose to explore these scriptures and how they apply to our culture (in the Church or outside of it). That said, I do want to make the argument that as Christians we need to be careful lest we end up wearing our biblical clothing inside out.
What I mean by that is simply that the Bible was never intended to be behavior manual. Instead it is a story of relationship, transformation, restoration and grace. While it does speak about behavior, it does so in a way places those admonitions not at the first thing, but at the second thing, not as the cause but as the effect, not as a to do, but as a will do.
The message of the Gospel is that the God who created everything that has been created and sustains all that he created (including you and me), loves the people he created so much that even when we rejected him, he pursued us, moved into our neighborhood, walked with us and then paid the ultimate price to restore relationship with us. Jesus described eternal life in relational terms, as “knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3.
You see, it is about relationship first with behaviors flowing from relationship. Jesus even called those who carefully kept every behavior but lacked relationship and love, “whitewashed tombs,” clean looking on the outside but reeking of death just under the surface. Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3) My question to those who want to protest or speak out about behavior on Facebook, in conversations or protests is “do you love the people whose behavior you are speaking out against’? If not, then Bible says stop it. It’s not that difficult of an exegetical exercise to get to the root of the meaning of the word “nothing.”
So, how do you love people you don’t know? (I think you can answer that question, if you can’t the answer is get to know them). I remember being moved and convicted by a sermon Francis Chan gave when California was preparing to vote on Proposition 9 (The California Marriage Act). He told his congregation, “regardless of their position on the issue, if you are a Christian and you have a “Yes on Prop 9” sign up in your yard, you should take it down.” Do you know anybody who is gay?” “Are you in relationship with anybody who does not believe like you do?” If you don’t than every person who is gay that sees your sign does not see “Yes on 9,” they see “go to hell.” That is clearly not the message of Jesus.