Love the Sinner, Acknowledge the Sin

Jesus loves everyone!

Love the sinner, hate the sin!

That is a slogan we are used to hearing. I have used it myself.

Would it be better to say “Love the sinner, acknowledge the sin”?

I can already hear some people saying “But you can’t call people sinners! It is too offensive!”

My response: “I get offended the way some feminists say “man” or “men”. I get offended when black/dark-skinned-Americans (because, seriously, YOU WERE NOT BORN IN AFRICA! I am not a “European-American” and you are not an “African-American”! Most of your families have been in the United States for generations! I guess this is another offense. “Asian-“, “Mexican-“, “African-“, and any other “whatever-Americans” are those who have immigrated here and earned citizenship. If you are born here, you are AMERICAN.) … anyway, I get offended when blacks call each other (for those who are too sensitive, I will censor myself this time) “the n-word” but get upset when someone says it – even when quoting someone. I get offended the way some people say “Christian”. I get offended by the way some Christians say … a lot of things Christians say!

Therefore, perhaps it is not the word that is offensive, just the way it is said or used or perceived. I know I did not like being called a sinner when I heard “those Christians” say it before I became a believer. When I started going to church, however, it was presented as “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (see Romans 3:23, if you are wondering), and informed every single person who has lived (short of Jesus, but He is also God!) is a sinner. They explained why we are all sinners.

Get over yourself.

Back to the point …

Maybe we should just learn to love others. “But they party all the time!” “But he’s gay!” “But she had a baby outside of marriage!”

What did you do? Who are you?

“But God  demonstrates  His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,  Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NASB)

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” (1 John 4:7-9, NLT)

I am pretty sure love is important (not mushy feelings, the willful decision to care).

We might also want to tread carefully if a something is the central focus of a person’s life. Homosexuality is not an act, it is a way of life. Alcoholism is not an act, it is either a mental disorder, a way to deal with life, or simply all that is known by them. This also goes for many addictions, habits, and lifestyles. I grew up gossiping, angry, and violent. It was what I saw all around me, it was all I knew, and it took a while to change.

I am not saying homosexuality and alcoholism are the same thing. Read my last post! Perhaps people really can be born a certain way! We do know some alcoholics are born lacking a chemical that alcohol (and sometimes drugs) fill (I read it in an AA booklet from a friend and have seen medical reports on it … I wish I could remember the name!) There are also women in India (I forget what the name is) who have very masculine features (and are considered holy).

Can I get some feedback?! (think black preacher voice for that question: “Can I get a witness?!”-style. I really enjoy their enthusiasm and the way their voices sound!) What are some thoughts? Let’s get some conversations started!

Undercover Outcast

Some Christians are gayI have been reading a lot of blogs recently all asking many similar questions and treading on dangerous theological grounds.

My turn!

Born a certain way

We hear the common argument for lifestyles, behaviors, and other issues that are attributed to sin or not wanting to do something of “But I was born this way.” The most vocal people using this argument right now are homosexuals. Can we accept this argument? We do not see any genetic reason that this is true (but maybe we could?). If we are born into sin, then is it not possible to be born gay? I do not agree that trans-gendered individuals or cross-dressers can use this argument. The claim then becomes “God made a mistake with me, so I am getting back into His will.”

I am sorry, but if God made a mistake about that opens up the possibility nothing is really true. If that is true, then Jesus’ words (“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”) are not true and Scripture is wrong. To claim to believe that God made a mistake with you contradicts God’s word.

But what about homosexuality or addictions or various sinful behaviors?

Sinners’ Prayers are not answered

One thing I have heard frequently in my life is that God does not listen to the prayers of sinners (meaning those who have not “accepted Christ” or something like that). My theological world has been rocked many times in the past year, and one area where this has happened is with this very issue.

I know someone who “prayed the prayer of salvation” years ago. This person was baptized. A couple years after being baptized, this person went off to college and began dating people … wait for it … of the SAME gender! I was sure this loved one was now on a sure road to Hell.

This past summer (2010), this person was in desperate need and prayed to God for help.

He answered that prayer. That prayer was answered in amazing ways. How can this be?

Calvinist Elect or God’s Grace?

I have never been a full-fledged Calvinist. In fact, I learned over the past few years that I was more Arminian than Calvinist. One thing I have always believed is that God’s grace is greater than anything I can understand.

Why were these prayers answered? Is this person one of God’s elect? What does that even mean?

This event did remind me of something else, however.

This Christian Sinner was redeemed

A few years back I was in a relationship that I allowed to come between God and me. I became more of a sinner than I was before Christ found me. (There is a sentence full of theological conversation starters!) I broke promises I had made to myself and God and others. My fruit was decidedly not of the Spirit. I have stories that almost embarrass me today.

But God brought be back. He answered many of my prayers during that period of my life.

If He listened to me, why not others?

Is homosexuality a bad enough sin that it can separate someone who believes from contact with God? What about gambling, drunkenness, promiscuity, being a politician, vegetarianism, pornography, or whatever?

1 John – and even Galatians 5 – talks about not having God in us or missing out on the Kingdom if we keep on sinning. It can be quite confusing.

Any thoughts on this? Am I getting to heretical, or is it entirely possible that God will still save those of us who adopt different lifestyles and sins?

I Love Temptation!

TemptingAre you finding yourself desiring things or people or whatever it is you find yourself not having? Do you want to do things that others say you probably should avoid? Do you enjoy lying, cheating, stealing, or otherwise not being honest with others?

If you answered yes to any of these (or all), then have I got news for you!

You are either a really vile person or a really great person!

What do I mean by that? Well, am I ever glad you asked.

Is it possible that the majority of humanity is never tempted by the Devil (or lesser known demons)?

There is a bumper sticker I have seen multiple times (as well as various other places other than stickers) which says something to the effect of “Lead me not into temptation. I already live there.” Perhaps this little quip actually says something.

What if the demonic realm leaves most humanity alone? What if their main focus is on those most likely to do good? Not just any good, but the good done to glorify God?

Peter did tell us that “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV).

This is a warning to believers. And, anyway, I have a real point:

I like temptation because it tells me that someone [Satan and his ilk] is scared and jealous of what we can do for God. If we are not being tempted, are we honestly following God?

Birthing Controversy

Just a word of warning, some of today’s material may not be suitable for the younguns. It is up to your discretionFamily Planning storefront.

I thought it would be a funny good follow-up to a Valentine’s Day series about love to talk about birth control!

One of the passages I think is among the most misused and misquoted is from Genesis 38 (Taken from the NIV):

Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death also.

This passage is frequently quoted as proof that we should not masturbate or use birth control.

My thoughts on this passage: Do not use selfish motives! Seriously, Onan was not struck dead for masturbating, he just did not want to father a child who was not his. To help us understand, it is like a couple who cannot have children asking friends to donate sperm and/or eggs for in vitro fertilization (making babies with science, not sex). The friends do not want to help out because they would not get to be the parent of the child even though the child would have their DNA. The difference here is instead of politely declining it would be like they donated the necessary goods and then had the doctors mess up/destroy the so-called goods. Then they blamed the doctors for why this couple did not have children.

Before I get into texts that could argue against birth control, I will argue for it!

We have several medical and technological thingies which (unless you are from a denomination/sect/religion/cult [and I am not equating any of those with others, merely grouping!] which says avoid them) we are okay with using or even say something along the lines of “God has given us the ability to create/do these things that improve our lives, including the miracle of medicine!”

[Disclaimer: I am not suddenly endorsing sex outside of marriage! Take everything I say within the context of marriage!]

How come when it comes to condoms or medicine (The Pill) and other such things, it is wrong? Do these things cause physical harm to people?

Actually, many “contraceptives” are actually things which affect the chemistry of your body, maybe even your emotions, and in many cases are nothing more than abortion pills or whatever. Chemicals can harm the body and mind, and abortions do harm women (let alone the “fetus”). This is not a message about abortion, so I will move on from that for now, but these things actually do have the possibility of harming living things (whether a baby/fertilized egg – to be momentarily PC – or the woman herself).

What about condoms? They are a piece of rubbery plastic material (actually, they are usually latex) a person wears (there are male and female versions) with the primary intention of stopping sperm from getting to eggs. Some do use spermicide to accomplish this, which I think is a bad idea just in case it harms us in some way. There is also a debate about whether or not condoms can protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) (do an internet search to see, such as that lower quality condoms can have holes up to 100 times bigger than the HIV virus). I will just point out, condoms are not 100% effective against preventing diseases or pregnancy (Ask my mom’s parents).

Quite honestly, the safest way to avoid “an accident” that will literally change your life forever is to not have sex. If married, we can argue that if the device or medicine used has no physical side effects and does not induce an abortion it is okay to use it. God has given us the ability to create these, so why not? (Also, this argument can not and should not be used for weapons, pornography, or anything else. The argument I am presenting is for things which do not harm others or go against God’s word.) We are merely utilizing a resource God has provided.

Now for the part where I mention reasons why we might not want to use contraception!

There are arguments flying around that “It is a woman’s body, so it is her choice” about having sex, getting an abortion, inserting things or ingesting/injecting stuff that prevents or stops pregnancies. Well, guess what the Bible talks about? Yep, this very subject:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything . . . . Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20, NIV)

Okay. Obviously we should not have sex outside of marriage. It seems we should also treat our bodies with respect, so it would be best to avoid those things which can harm the body.

If you are someone who denies the Bible has any authority, if you just demand physical proof that abortions are bad, start here. There are way more sources to consult, as well. (I stopped supporting abortions before I believed Jesus is the Son of God, before I was sure God was real, and before I attended church. I also did not want to have sex outside of marriage for two reasons: I did not want to get a disease or have to “deal with” a baby. Again, before following Christ.)

What about condoms and other “safe” options?

Other than what I have already mentioned about the chances that they can fail, I think there are two good arguments.

One is that God can do what He wants. If you are meant to get pregnant, your birth control will fail. If you do not like that little nugget, I am sorry but … well … deal.

Two is that it could very well be argued that we are giving into temptation. What temptation, you ask? The same sin that has plagued humanity from the beginning: To be like God. We want to have control, so this is one area we can take some control. How about this little quote from Jesus and Deuteronomy:

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

I guess it comes down to you. I have listed arguments for both sides and statistics. Any thoughts? Where do you stand?

Uncoupled Love

I meant to post this earlier, but some sort of a spambot thing got to me through the blog. I took time to make sure my computer and those I communicate with would be safe!

In this little series on Valentine’s Day, I have looked at the history of the holiday, what it means for singles, and also for couples. What about that difficult issue of those who are no longer married?

Divorce

Why is it difficult?

Too many this is obvious: Divorce and Death. One is considered a sin and the other too painful to consider for most (and sometimes both can have swapped meanings or even both).

I will not get into the topic of the obvious sins of divorce or murder, but I will mention that Genesis (not the band) and Jesus both talk about becoming one flesh not getting a divorce. I think, for most people who might stumble across this blog, these are understood. I also have a feeling I will blog about this in the future.

When it comes to divorce, I can not and will not judge. As Jesus mentioned in Mark 10, no man should separate and marrying a divorceѐ is considered adultery. So is lusting. I am guilty of adultery.

When it comes to the widowed, my heart goes out to you, but I obviously do not truly understand. You were one flesh, so it is as if you lost half of yourself. I do not want to imagine losing my wonderful wife, so I cannot completely feel your pain. C. S. Lewis helped me with A Grief Observed, but again, I cannot fathom that pain right now.

For starters, if you have been through a divorce or lost a spouse, all of the points I discussed in the previous posts apply.

I think Paul explained things best in 1 Timothy 5 (and I think that it applies to divorcees as well as those who are widowed, male and female) (Taken from the NIV):

 3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

 11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

 16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

I think some advice my own lovely mother gave this past week applies perfectly:

My husband and I kept it very simple, but shared the evening with our bible study group doing a shared dinner. Yes I bought pink table cloths and red napkins at the dollar store and put candles and hershey kisses down the center of the table. However the fun was sharing a holiday with friends!

My suggestion for next year for singles and couples alike…spend the day being like Jesus… let everyone you know how blessed you are to have each and every one of them in your life! A simple note, a helping hand, and hug and a Thank you! I’m sure most people would be surprised to discover how many people would return the “love”.
If we could all focus on what we can give and not what we get…we would be far richer and happier than what money can buy!!

I think there are some people in this world who have this figured out (and for the record, I had no idea what my parents did for Valentine’s Day until she made this comment).

Valentine’s Day is a day to honor a man who honored God, so maybe that should be our example, eh?

If we know each other, you should know how much I truly love you. Not in the mushy, lovey-dovey way, but in the “I would do anything for you … even if I am not happy with you at this moment or you are my favorite person” kind of a way. Seriously, you are my family, because even if we are not related by birth many of us are related by Christ’s blood!

If we do not know each other, believe it or not I still love you! Why? Firstly because God loved you and me first. Secondly, I love you because I remember the need to be loved.

Single, dating, married, divorced, widowed, whatever, we are all in this together. In Christ we are empowered, so naturally I encourage all to follow Him. Either way, life is better when we do it together. Remember that. Not only Valentine’s Day but always.

I love you.

God loves you.

Coupled Love

In the last post I discussed singles and Valentine’s Day. I hope I got the point across that instead of hatCute coupleing the day it is a day to work on our relationship with God and being a person who is easier to love.

Today’s post is for couples.

Everyone talks about how Valentine’s Day is the holiday of love and couples. I mentioned on Valentine’s Day the focus of St. Valentine, including that he is the patron saint of couples and marriage (amongst several other, sometimes almost silly in relation, things).

I have been reading a lot of blogs about love this month (go figure). The Church of No People dedicated the whole month to how we view love and relationships.

I can keep this pretty short, really.

Keep God first.

Now, if you are like me, that seems pretty “Duh!” but ends up being hard to do. If you are like me, perhaps this is one area where you understand Paul’s sentiments. If you are like me, you struggle with keeping God first in every other area of your life let alone your relationship.

First I am going to talk to those who are dating or engaged. If you do not have your relationship with God figured out properly (being that He is first in everything), then your relationship is already in danger. Doomed? No. Many couples survive and even remain healthy without God being a part, but you are definitely in danger. Loving God helps you love people better, especially your significant other. Knowing God better helps you know yourself better which helps you know your significant other better. As C.S. Lewis said, “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.”

One argument for getting to know our “earthly dearest” more is to live together before getting or deciding to get married. This is dangerous since it can lead to having sex if you are not already. The first argument for this is that “biblical marriage started at consummation, so we are married when we have sex!”

No. If this is true, then men and women get married all the time to prostitutes. Also, we see evidence of ceremonies throughout the Bible, as well. We also need to consider something from the New Testament: obey the laws of the land. If it does not go against God and His commands, then we should follow it. According to most countries (including the U.S.) you are not married until you have been through the ceremony that joins you together (whether a civil union or in a religious ceremony). (I will leave homosexual unions/marriages and other things for another day) Therefore, in our land, you are not married until you have the paper saying so. NO SEX!

Back to living together, it is a horrible idea. For starters, how often did people do it before the last few decades? Relatively few. How many relationships fare well? Less than those who wait until marriage. (Evidence is also found here and here.)

It is best to wait until marriage for a lot of things. Take it from one (two counting my wife as a separate entity even though the Bible says we are one, now) who knows. As I mentioned in the last post, I broke promises I made to myself, my future wife, and God. One of those: I would wait until marriage to have sex. Two reasons: I did not want to get a disease and I did not want kids too early.

Seriously. The only safe sex is no sex. No protection of any sort is foolproof.

I was engaged once before I met my now-wife. My ex and I convinced ourselves that we were in love and getting married, so why not? After several months and the relationship coming to an end, I wondered if a woman could ever love me for what I had done. It turns out my wife felt the same way about herself. God’s forgiveness and grace is a marvelous thing. Neither of us thought we could be so happy with another person.

For those in a relationship before marriage, Valentine’s Day is not a chance to learn how well you “fit together” in the most literal sense. It is a time to thank God for the love you have found with another. The focus is God, not each other.

(It is okay to celebrate by expressing your love through gifts and actions, just keep it G-rated, people!)

For you married couples, listen to that last piece of advice for un-marrieds: Thank God for what He has given you! The only difference: you are allowed to demonstrate this gratitude in physical ways. In fact, I encourage you to show your spouse your affections in this way!

As I said, God needs to be first. We are told to submit to each other for Christ’s sake. Wives submit to husbands as we submit to Christ. Husbands love wives as Christ loves the Church.

How can we do this if we do not know Him? This is not “women, give up your lives and do whatever the man says” or “men, you can do whatever you want and she has to comply!” This is mutual submission and respect and love. Ephesians 5:1 says “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV). I like how Rachel Held Evans put it over at The Church of No People (in the comments): “My husband and I like to think of “submission” in terms of humility, not hierarchy. It’s an attitude that works best when adopted by both partners.” It takes humility, thinking of the other as better than yourself.

That is good advice for un-marrieds, too. Couples and singles.

Singles Awareness

I mentioned before that I would update about why Valentine’s Day is good for all people, not just couples. Really, Valentine’s Day – if we are keeping with the love theme – is meant more for those who are married or getting married, but I did say it is a good day for all people.

Today the focus is singles!

I feel for all of those who say “I hate Valentine’s Day” or even call it “Singles Awareness Day”. I really do. Quite frankly, stop being so selfish and full of yourself! You might not like having “love” pushed down your throats, but others do not like having “hate” and “sour attitudes” pushed on them, either.

I know. That is a great way to get many people to stop reading. I am not trying to offend – honestly. It is just that if you want to complain about a holiday that glorifies relationships, I think it shows just how envious you are of others. I understand complaints about how commercialized it has become. I hate that, too. As I mentioned before, it was supposed to be a day to honor a man who pushed God’s ideal of love. Some people probably think “I agree with his being the patron saint of plagues!” because this day has become so “show someone you love them by going into bankruptcy!” (moral and financial, it seems)

Sight has definitely been lost on God’s truth, but I think I can give most of us the benefit of the doubt that it started long before we came along! Quite honestly (and I am not trying to pick on one group more than another!) The Catholic Church has not done a great job of making sure even most Catholics understand this holiday properly, so why should we expect the rest of society to get it?

Instead, our focus should be on God. Not meaning to sound like I am repeating myself, but what was Valentine trying to tell people?

I will give you a hint (for Christians out there): What is the greatest Commandment?

Christians who say they hate Valentine’s Day really get on my nerves. Seriously. I know I am to love my neighbor, but when a Christian says “I hate …” anything, really (other than sin!) I just want to punch them in the throat! At least then they will not spoil things for the rest of us, and maybe I can stop them from vocalizing what they are not supposed to be thinking, anyway!

Really, it reminds me that we all need prayer … and better understanding.

For Christians out there: Seriously. Get over yourselves if you “hate” Valentine’s Day. Just do not give in to the commercialism! Focus on the One you should be focused on! Stop harping on the evils of what our world does. Remember, we live in a fallen world. The Devil is always trying to steal our thunder. Stop helping him. Instead, give it to God. It is what we are supposed to do. Be the salt and the light, not a lampshade. At least try to show you have Love living inside you.

For the non-Christians: Please accept my apology for those who do not live what they presumably preach. They do not speak for the rest of us (even if it seems they are the ones in the majority sometimes). Instead, please realize that this holiday was meant to point towards the greatest love of all: God’s. You should truly read what John chapter three means. God loves you so much that He came to live as a man, be ridiculed and beaten, killed by hanging from nails through His hands on a cross, and suffering in Hell for a few days. All of this so that He could say “I love you so much, I died for you. But I also came back to life to show you that I want to spend eternity with you.” Seriously. How many people have died to save your life? How many actually lived to make your life worth something? How many came back to life so that you can have a real life, too?

For everyone: If nothing else, use Valentine’s Day as a day to remember that you might have someone in your life one day with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Instead of sulking or complaining, work on being the person you want your spouse to have; the person worthy of being called “Mine” by someone.

It was the words of the prophet Billy Joel that first got through to me as a child: “Tell Her About It”. It made me realize that I had to be a man worthy of a woman before I could properly treat her as the woman I desired most. Like in the song, I have made some mistakes. I broke promises to myself, God, and my wife . . . before I was married. Yeah, those experiences helped me be more conscientious of my time with her later, but there are pains that still live with me.

Why is it important to “wait until marriage” for certain things? There are the obvious: avoid diseases, children out of wedlock, certain heartaches, certain financial pitfalls, and on and on. There are others: realizing you are connected to people emotionally for the rest of your life, regrets, painful memories, emotional scars, and on and on.

Use Valentine’s Day as a reminder. Seek God. Work on being the person another person can love. As the Bible says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”