Wednesday, July 22, 2015

About Gay Marriage

About Gay Marriage

This post is part of the July 2015 synchroblog that invited bloggers to write about “Gay Marriage”. After the blog post, you will find other Bloggers links with various opinions. Be sure to check them out.

In many ways, on my blog, I believe I have already addressed this issue. It is obvious that there are those who would say they agree, and many who will never agree. The point is not in the argument but in one’s own conviction and resolve to carry out the message of Grace or continue to create “others” and separate ourselves as believes, from them.

In Acts chapter 10, we find Peter being confronted by God about eating unclean animals. Here is the story:

This was a time when Romans, let alone Roman soldiers were greatly despised by the Jewish people; God had just poured out his Spirit on the Jews however; there is no real mention of the Gentiles. To this point, we would assume as many probably did, that the only way a gentile could be saved was to become a Jew. Therefore, it is interesting that in this story we find out what God states of those horrible Gentiles the Jewish people despised so much

There was a Roman soldier who was kind and generous, who prayed to God every day. His name was Cornelius. One day Cornelius had a vision of an angel who addresses him. His response is, “What is it lord?”

It is then the angel tells Cornelius about Simon Peter. The angel tells Cornelius where Peter is and Cornelius sets out to find him. As Cornelius and his men get closer to Joppa, Peter goes on the roof of the house he is staying in and begins to pray – or rather, he falls into a trance.

It is here where it gets interesting. In this trance, Peter sees a sheet come down from Heaven with all the unclean animals on it and a voice of God saying, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Of course Peter, of all people would respond as any good Jewish person would, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” (In a way, this story sounds like the time Peter refused to have his feet washed by Jesus and Peter started to argue with Jesus not to do so.)

Then the same voice spoke again as we read in verse 15:

But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven?

Let us stop and ponder what that means. God is declaring all the unclean animals clean. This rather reminds me of the end of the story of Jonah where Jonah was called to prophecy to Nineveh to repent of their sins. Here is the last bit of the story of Jonah if you do not remember.

7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.

9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
In a way, I have to laugh as Jonah’s response sounds much like many Right-Wing Republicans who threatened to move to another country of do other stupid things over gay marriage. However, let us stay on point here.
Jonah was angry over God’s kindness and compassion. I see this anger even today with those who fight against gay marriage. It is exactly as Paul states why we should not judge others in Romans chapter 2. However, notice that God talks compassionately about the animals. God reveals to Jonah his compassion and kindness because the Ninevites are “living in spiritual darkness”. Jonah ends with a question we must still answer today -- Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

Let us go back to Peter now. Peter understands that this vision of the sheet of unclean animals is not about food. It was about God’s compassion for people – all people regardless to Jew or Gentile. Peter then meets Cornelius and as they meet, Peter gives a short sermon that results in the Holy Spirit being poured out on the first Gentiles. I hope you go and read that for yourself – and realize that most of you, unless you are Jewish, would fall under the label of “Gentile”.

Paul writes about the Gentiles in Romans chapter 1. I assume whether you are for or against gay marriage you use this chapter in some way to prove or disprove homosexuality is a sin. Really, that is not the point of Romans 1 but you can read more of that here. Likewise, as in Romans 1-2 Paul gives the “Therefore” as to why he wrote Romans chapter one in Romans chapter 2, we find that Acts 10 does the same thing in relation to Acts 11.

Peter welcomes in the morally corrupt Gentiles as being cleansed by God and then does an amazing thing. Peter preaches a sermon about the Grace of God. In fact, the sermon is the retelling of the happenings in Acts Chapter 10. Peter ends the story with this amazing defense of Grace.

5 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

The question is what did the Gentiles or Jewish people do to be cleansed? Nothing. The Jews and Gentiles became equal (as God shows no favoritism) by the Grace of God. We are now all at the same level and come to Life by faith in the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. It was not until Peter met a Gentile who believed in Jesus and giving revelation from God, that Peter’s eyes were finally open to see how great the Grace of God is.

I hear you now, “Wait! What does this have to do with gay marriage?” My response is this – are you being kind or creating an atmosphere of othering? If you can grasp this, God’s grace covers much more than many realize. I can give reasons as to why our sin was truly taken away by Jesus on the Cross. I have written much on my view of sin and maybe in a future blog post will give you more of what I believe. I could explain my theological position now, but this blog post is already too long. However, if you want a better Biblical understanding of how homosexuality is used in the Bible I suggest you also read this post.

Again, my answer to gay marriage is; Does your position demand rights that undermine the kindness of God that leads to repentance? Are you guilty of judging others in a way that denies God’s kindness that leads to repentance? Do you judge homosexuality as different as stealing, being greedy, or being drunkards, or being an abusive person, or cheating people, or lying, breaking promises, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching of God? Are you gluttonous, or lust for power, dishonoring to your parents, quarrelsome, jealous, angry, selfish, slanderous, gossiping, arrogant, murderous, lustful in general, and other disorderly behaviors? If you have not committed any of these ever, then cast the first stone at the rest of us who have and rest on the Grace of God. Answer those questions, pray, and then let God speak to you about gay marriage.

As an afterthought here. Here is my perspective on the "bakers who lost their bakery" because two lesbians sued them. First off, there is much more to this story and the "Christian bakers" were not as innocent and some try to make them out to be Just take some time to look at who make names public and how it affected the lesbian couple and their adopted children. The second thing is this. If a simple teaching of Jesus had been followed instead of some self -righteous stand on "rights" this could have been avoided. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:41 "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles" Or, another way of understanding this verse is: "If anyone forces you to bake a cake, bake them two." However, many believers have lost sight of the simplicity of Jesus' teachings and lose opportunities to be a light to a dark world. The real question that believers need to ask themselves is, How inclusive is Jesus?"

Here is the synchroblog list. Again, be kind and give grace. This is an opportunity for many to see another side of this issue.

More blogs coming soon!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What it means to love instead of shame

I received an interesting but very veiled email from an author I highly respect. It was veiled as one could read it and think he was either for gay marriage or against it. It was a well-crafted email, however I suspect it was against gay marriage. Everything he stated I agreed with and I see I am doing. I am not bowing to culture in my stand for gay rights as I view gay people as fellow humans-- and see this issue as a human rights issue.

Now, I can back up my view from scripture though I know many will not get it at all, as they can only see passages as they have been taught -- and they have not been taught well how to read and understand the overall context of these passages. I will be posting more in a synchroblog coming soon as to my view on gay marriage. Suffice it to say; at this point, I am at peace in my view as I have followed Jesus's lead in this. I see that Jesus is more inclusive than many want Him to be. In fact, it appears many believers desire Jesus to believe and see things how they want instead of asking Jesus to see the world how He does and follow Him as He does His work in and through us.

I will say this though. I noticed that many of us who understand grace seem to be on the side of gay marriage. I find that interesting as it reveals that just maybe God's grace goes beyond mere human understanding and must come from humble revelation of truth from He Who is The Truth. Grace is not just defined as, “unmerited favor from God” or “not getting what we deserve”, but also God’s emotions towards us. [1]Yes, God has emotions – where to you think we get them from?

Love is what drives this emotion of Grace. Often we confuse justice and love. We want justice in the form of revenge instead of having things set right. What justice truly is, as God originally created us to be is – good. In fact, true justice is the realization that we are not just good but very good as God called us when He created humans. Now, we either believe God loves us as He still sees the goodness in us or we believe the lie and rush to find new fig leaves to cover ourselves in shame.

Shame is a noun and a verb. First, it is the “painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” [2] However, shame as a verb connotes the idea of one shaming another. [3] We most often impose this definition on God. Jesus instead reveals that this is a lie. Instead of shaming humanity, Jesus takes our shame to the Cross. Jesus shows us that God’s love is greater than our shame.

When we shame others, we are walking in the lie that God sees us the way we are seeing others. We are not walking in the light of truth of love. Yes, at times people do shameful things, but it is not our job to further shame them. Rather our job is to do all we can to restore them to the God-given dignity they have lost. This is The Way of Jesus – to love and not judge or shame. It is not, as some think, some gooey lovey-dovey, caramel centered version of grace ala “cheap grace.” In fact, those of us who discover this way find it a much harder path. Loving others as inclusive as Jesus is radical. It is having the realization of the truth when Paul writes in Romans 5:10, “10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Do we truly believe this? Do you understand that while you were still God’s adversary God reconciled you unto Himself through Jesus?

Take that thought with this verse, Matthew 5:43 – 45a “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…”

One cannot separate the ideas presented in these two verses. First, you were once an enemy of God and yet, God still reconciled you to Himself. Secondly, Jesus clearly states to love all, even those you consider your enemy. By the way, one cannot judge another and love them; likewise, one cannot love another and judge them. Love is full acceptance of the person. This does not mean we accept say one who murders another in a way the murder was acceptable as it harmed another. However, we forgive the murderer, as hard as that is, and allow God to work that forgiveness into the heart of the murderer.

The definition of sin is tricky. My definition of sin is simply "anything that is adversarial in your life between you and God". This could be good things as well as bad things. In addition, as Paul states, "everything that does not come from faith is sin”. [4] Meaning this; that often we are sinning and do not even realize it for our actions toward others, as well as our own self is not coming from faith.

The Bible states, that sin in sinful humanity, is clearly judged, and condemned, with Christ Jesus on the Cross. Our sins were taken away as Jesus who had no sin, became sin and the sin offering for us.[5] However, for some reason, instead of returning this love and grace to those we see still lost in spiritual darkness we desire to judge and condemn others. Love is a valid choice to extend to others. Grace is a valid choice to extend to others. It may be hard to do this but here is the secret. Look for what God is already doing and not for what you think God should do. It is not our place to decide what God is to do or is already doing. Judging and condemning perpetuates the lie of shame. People are trapped in this lie of shame and as believers; our job is to help them see Christ in them, their only hope of Glory. [6]

[1] Zimmerli. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. IV. 7th. Edited by Gerhard Kittel, & Gerhard Friedrich. Grand Rapids: Eerdman, 1981. I do go into this more in my book Regarding Logos

[4] Romans 14:23
[5] Romans 8:2-4  1; John 2:1-2
[6] Romans 5:1-2

Friday, July 03, 2015

The misuse and abuse of Romans one

I do not know how often people have told me, “Just read Romans 1 and you will see how God hates homosexuality”. Yes, I have read the passage, but if that is what you get out of the passage, you are missing the entire point to which Paul is making.
I will be using the NKJV for reference. We will skip Paul’s intro and go straight to the overall context of Romans 1:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Here many seem to jump straight to the verses  26 and 27 but seem to overlook the reasons the “vile passions” are so vile. However, if we read closely before we get to the “vile passions” we see that the pagans have seen the invisible attributes of God since creation as well as they knew God but instead changed the glory of God and worshiped images of themselves as well as birds and four-footed animals and… creeping things. In fact, if you can visualize this passage a bit it should return you to Egypt. It should bring about images of Anubis and other half-man/ half-beast gods. We see that the passage is about idolatry and what comes with it. Sexual immorality came with the worship of false gods. It came in many forms, but get this; it was a form of worship and not anything like LGBT communities of today. These temple prostitutes had sex as an act of worship and to raise money for the temples.

One temple was to the goddess Cybele who was believed to be a fertility goddess. During her “worship”, prostitutes would be a major part of the worship. In fact, according to Wikipedia, as they rather soften the ritual, “Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort.” What this really means is that men would be castrated and become male prostitutes for use in temple worship. Paul brings us to Egypt, then to Rome. Castration was neither a pleasant experience nor a kind way to treat others.
While we are using the NKJV, here is Young’s literal translation that may read a bit different than most have read this passage.

26 Because of this did God give them up to dishonourable affections, for even their females did change the natural use into that against nature;27 and in like manner also the males having left the natural use of the female, did burn in their longing toward one another; males with males working shame, and the recompense of their error that was fit, in themselves receiving.

            Often this passage has “against nature” but a closer look states “dishonourable affections" and the females changed the natural use of their bodies to unnatural usage… meaning prostitution. Also, the same with the male prostitutes who no longer would have sex with a woman. Now, many again take these two verses to be the point of Paul. However, these are examples of how horrible pagan idolatry is and what it did to people.
            Paul states that those who do such things deserve death as well as those who approve such things also do. Nevertheless, it is not the homosexual sex Paul is focused on… it is the idolatry and worship of false gods and how that harms people.

            However again, this is where many if not most people stop. They think Paul is done for some reason and then forget all he wrote and turn the page to Romans 2 as if it was a completely new thought Paul was going forth. Instead, Chapter two is the punchline of the setup from chapter one. Paul has every Jewish reader frothing in agreement with Paul about those immoral and unnatural pagans and how they worship false gods. Then, Paul does something that many miss. He sticks the Jewish readers with a knife and then twists it. How?
            Paul now gives the “therefore” of the why he just wrote what he did and it may surprise you. Just read:
2 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
            Paul does not stop but goes on to say that because the Jewish people were given the Law they should know better but they do not. In fact Paul states,” For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.” Why? The Jewish people were known to steal, commit adultery, and even rob pagan temples for money earned through the worship of false gods to use as they pleased. According to Paul this was the reason the Gentiles blasphemed God as the Jewish people did not even honor the One True God as well as the pagans honored their pagan gods. The other thing is this. According to Paul in verses 1-3 that by judging the pagans such it was the same as despising “the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Paul just stated that by judging others we despise the kindness and goodness of God as we deny the love God showed on the Cross and Resurrection to all people.  

Yet even today many do not read this in connection to chapter one. They use or rather misuse chapter one to judge others and do the very thing Paul was trying to teach NOT to do. We are guilty of wanting wrath instead of the blessing of our so-called enemies of kindness and repentance. We use judgment as a tool for evangelism when in fact it makes a mockery of Jesus as we do so.
            Be careful as you use the Bible. I have found many times people proof text a passage to make it fit their own beliefs instead of having the Bible change and renew our minds. If you claim to hold the Bible as a holy text then treat it so.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The sign of Jonah, gay marriage, and other fleeting thoughts

The sign of Jonah is more than the three days in the belly of a whale and then being barfed on the beach. It is about the message to the Ninevites that Jonah gave to repent or experience the wrath of God. Jonah delivers this message and then sits on a hill over Nineveh to watch God pour out His wrath. Jonah sits so long a weed grows over him and shades him. Jonah is happy about the weed until it withers and then he became angry. He curses at God, as Jonah knew God would have mercy. Jonah is angry that the weed withered… here is the sign. God asks Jonah why he is so angry over a withered weed instead of seeing God forgive and bring salvation to the Ninevites. Jonah, who was chosen by God by Grace, wanted wrath instead of Grace to his enemies. Instead, God, who is merciful, gives grace.

This message is for today. Jonah was under a sad delusion that God is wrathful and desired that kind of God. Instead of delivering the delusion, God reveals His mercy and love for Gentiles… worse Gentiles that were the enemy of Israel.

We read in the Gospels of a man who owes a great debt. He is called before the king and begs for forgiveness. He is forgiven his great debt. The man then goes out and finds a man who owes him money. Instead of forgiveness, the man shakes down the other man to pay back the debt. When the king hears of this, he calls the first man back and tosses him into prison until he could pay his own debt. [1]

Now, I believe that God does not take away salvation from us. However, if you received forgiveness freely by grace you are in no position to demand others receive grace by doing anything but receive it as you did. If you place on another person rules and regulation for salvation, you are NOT preaching the Gospel of Jesus. You are preaching a perverted gospel that is NO gospel at all.

Recently, I have heard people talking of God sending a grand delusion over gay marriage and other issues.[2] Interestingly, when you read the passage in Romans about this delusion, it is in regards to believing in a false god made of sticks and stones out of the vain imagination of humans. I might add that we do not need sticks and stones to have false ideas of God. Those that choose an image of God as a lightning bolt throwing, wrathful, God miss the very end of Paul’s passage in Romans. In fact, if you read Romans one without finishing Paul’s thoughts in Romans 2 you do a great injury to the passage. Paul ends the thoughts by saying that while the pagans do such horrible things, the moralistic Jewish people also do these things so have no room to judge others --- and worst, by judging the pagan as they have dishonor God whose kindness leads to repentance.

I think that maybe there is a grand delusion happening. However, instead of it being given to those who think they serve God by crying out for His wrath to fall on others, it is given to those very people as they follow their sad imagination of such god. This delusion as 2 Thes. 2:9-12 describes:

9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

What if the lie is not about believing in gay marriage, but deeper -- the belief in the lie that God is something or someone He is not? What if it is believing in a god that does great signs and leads people away from the kindness of God? What if when we desire God to pour out His wrath on “others” we are crying out to a god of lawlessness and are forsaking the One True God? What if we have chosen to not believe the truth in that God is a loving, kind, giving, God who is willing to even suffer our sin and even greater, take that sin upon Himself and die for us? What if we instead are crying out for Zeus and not Jesus? That is the delusion I see. I see many forsaking the kindness of God for a lie. I see the US as becoming more and more self-righteous instead of displaying the image of Jesus in the Bible. We forget the truth in what Jesus stated, “If you know me, you know the Father.” [3]

[1] Matthew 18:21-35
[2] Romans 1-2
[3] John 14