It seems as if the last few weeks have produced headline after headline of pastors from specific Baptist denominations promoting their dogma as it relates to homosexuality. Most recently, one pastor inNorth Carolina called on parents to physically harm male children for demonstrating emotional behavior in order to toughen them up, while another pastor advanced the notion of rounding gays and lesbians up inside an electric fence. Obviously, I’m extremely embarrassed that folks with whom I interact see these leaders claiming to be a part of the same faith I profess: Christianity.
My goal in writing this response is not to humiliate or condemn the pastors from North Carolina who’ve expressed this sentiment, but to address some of the thinking that has crept into various Christian circles. If our goal is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must look at how he responded to situations such as this during his time on earth. As a person who professes to be a follower of Jesus, I often find myself slapping the palm of my hand onto my forehead in disbelief at some of the phrases that surface from those in church leadership. The church is a family. Sometimes I would prefer it to be a little less dysfunctional, but we all have those crazy relatives.
A major component of this heated rhetoric is due to the politically-charged climate in which we live today. Many churches have found a voice crusading for or against what they see as injustice in the world. The politicizing of many social issues often makes followers of Christ feel as if they have been backed against a wall; then they explode with outrageous and irresponsible comments that stain the image of Jesus.
The church would benefit universally from remembering Jesus’ parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Our primary responsibility is to represent Jesus and introduce people into a relationship with him. Everything else in a potential convert’s life is of less importance. If we truly believe in the power of Jesus and his spirit of Truth, then we should let him work.
Dr. Paul Porter and I were discussing this recent story (fencing in gays & lesbians) coming out of North Carolina in amazement. We found ourselves wondering how this pastor would approach those who have not made the decision to follow Jesus. Would this pastor tell the person seeking God to stop smoking, cursing, hurting the environment, and watching dirty movies? Or would he encourage the person into a life of submission to Jesus’ teachings? Far too often we focus on effects and not the cause.
Followers of Jesus have been given five basic commands from Jesus to honor above all else, and everything else falls in line behind them.
- Love the Lord your God with your entire being.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Care for the fatherless
- Care for the widows.
- If you have excess, give it to the poor.
So, back to the issue at hand…
Religious leaders have a duty to express right and wrong according to their faith. But I’ve always found that Jesus cared more about the person, than the person’s sin. When I hear a Christian ranting about a behavior, it leads me to believe that their faith in God’s ability is lacking. Jesus never let the issue outweigh the person. He spoke against the tendency to fall into this trap:
“Judge not, that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will also be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?”
I’m going to end this with two quotes from two pastors with whom I’ve served and respect very much:
“Everyone knows what Christians are against. Why don’t we tell them what we are for?”
-Mark Wingler (Journey Church)
“We need to tell people that God is for them.”
-Tony Portell (Life Church Indy)