Tuesday, January 23, 2007

grace, the extended remix

So I just finished watching the One Punk Under God documentary. A six episode series showing on the sundance channel or, in my case, downloaded off of itunes. It’s basically the story of Jay Baker, son of Jim and Tammy Baker. The story goes that, after watching how the church treated his parents after their huge fallout, Jay left the church and spent several years messing around with drugs. But he eventually got his life turned around, and began a ministry to outcasts.

I’ve been keeping up with Jay’s ministry for several years now. His message of love and grace, as well as his understanding that not all believers wear kakis, is one that has inspired and encouraged me over the past few years as I’ve tried to find my own place in ministry and the church. This documentary, however, challenged me in a way that I did not expect.

One thing that I have begun to realize over the past year is that, while I have huge amounts of patience and grace for unbelievers, the amount of patience and grace I have for believers is extremely limited. Extremely limited. I’m quick to throw around the word “Pharisee”. And, I’m sorry to say, I’m also quick to harbour bitter feelings towards those I feel responsible for turning a lost world against Christ.

I want to find some balance in that.

I want to hold believers accountable. I want to remind believers of the mission and of the point for our existence. But I also want to be able and willing to offer grace to people, even believers, even when their actions may have, indeed, had massive consequences on the mission. That’s hard to do. And even now I find myself much more willing to offer grace to Jim and Tammy Baker simply because they’ve been forthright with their sins. Guys like Tim LaHaye, Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson haven’t done that, and so I find myself still very much struggling to offer them any grace.

I’m not quite sure what to do with that, nor exactly where the balance lies. One thing I do know is that the Bakers have both asked for forgiveness, and I have been wrong in not giving it to them. LaHaye, Fallwell, and Robertson I’ll just have to continue to struggle with I guess.

Btw, I have no idea what to say about the response to my last post. If not for the counter on my page, I’d assume that people had just stopped reading my blog. Are people rolling their eyes at that post? Are they unsure of what to say? Are they too angry to type? Are they in agreement and just don’t want to say? I have no idea.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

to err...

I started reading from the beginning of the Bible again - you know, that bit in Genesis where God creates the universe - and I can’t help but feel like, in our attempt to stay true to the words we’ve translated into English, that maybe we’ve humanized it a bit. I don’t want to get into all the theories on creation here, but you know what they are. From God creating the universe in seven literal days, to an accident that took place over billions and billions of years. Now obviously, as somebody who believes in the existence of God, I’m always going to point to the fact that, no matter how many theories “evolutionists” come up with to explain the universe, nobody can come up with any solid theories for how it all began in the first place, where that first protein came from. But I wonder too if some of my more conservative friends have humanized God a little bit by clinging desperately to a very literal understanding of the text we have translated into English. Which brings up an even bigger point, no, question, that I throw out to some of my scholarly and even not so scholarly friends.

In Genesis chapter 9, God tells Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply, a verse that many have used against those who would suggest that we are overpopulating the planet (a belief that I don’t necessarily agree with, by the way). But in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul suggests that it’s better not to get married at all. That we’d be better off staying single like he was (he actually says “like I am”). Isn’t that a bit of a contradiction? Furthermore, and this will follow a theme I’ve been on lately, several times throughout the Gospels (Matthew 5:32, for example) Jesus suggests that were you to divorce your wife, then marry somebody else, you would be committing adultery. In one passage (Luke 16:18) he even says that were you to marry a divorced woman, you would be committing adultery. Yet many, many churches have set that verse aside. We don’t even bring it up anymore. I know pastors who have been divorced. And the list goes on and on. We could all name verses in the Bible that seem to contradict other verses in the Bible, and we could all name verses in the Bible that the modern day church has decided not to bring up anymore. Furthermore, I know people, guilty of the very sins that these verses talk about, who, like the servant forgiven of his dept who is unwilling to forgive others of theirs (Matthew 18), are unwilling to forgive people around them who’s sin hasn’t yet been forgiven by the church. And, keep in mind, these servants still owed. These aren’t debts, long overdue, that had eventually been paid off. These were debts still owed! Those servants were, if you will, still very much living in sin.

And so, I have to ask again, where does grace end? What verses do we continue to hold over people’s heads, and which ones don’t we? And does grace have anything to do with this at all? I’m driving at something here that I’ve been wrestling with for a couple of years now, and very few people are going to be happy about it. But please know, I don’t write this to be controversial, I write this because I sincerely believe we’ve picked and chosen verses based on convenience and popularity. So here goes…

I understand that there are verses throughout the Old Testament that we, as Christians, no longer stick to because they’re a part of the purity code, a code that God told Peter and the New Testament church to let go of. But there are other verses, like the ones mentioned above, that Jesus himself declared. Yet many have been willing to (and I’m being gracious with my words here) graciously set those verses aside. So why then, when it comes to a topic that Jesus never addresses, have we not been willing to do the same? And the topic I’m talking about here is homosexuality.

I’m not going to argue whether or not homosexuality is ever a choice for some people. One reason I’m not going to argue it is simply because we still don’t know enough about it and, therefore, really can’t make any educated arguments either way. However, among the ever increasing number of homosexuals that I know, I don’t know a single one who up and decided to be gay. In fact, I only know homosexuals who tried and tried for years to be anything but gay, often even getting married in a desperate attempt to “fix it”. So, if for these people it was not a choice but was truly something that they were either born with or had cast upon them through some tragic event, yet for many who have been divorced it was a choice, how is it that we condemn homosexuals but not divorces???

Now listen, lest anybody get the wrong idea here, I’m not out to condemn people who have gone through a divorce. Far from it. And I’m not necessarily out to defend homosexuals. What I am out to do, however, is point out a position in most evangelical churches that is just hard to stand by. It’s on shaky foundation, at best. It’s one of those things that I have a hard time discussing because, were I to take the traditional church’s approach to the conversation, I would not be able to look people directly in the eye as I did it.

And so I pose the following questions:

Is it possible that Paul’s humanity and cultural bias got mixed into the words that God was giving him at the time? Bare in mind that, if you say no, you’ve got an awful lot of explaining to do on key topics such as divorce, women’s place in the church, etc.

Is it possible that Christ’s death and resurrection covers sin beyond what we’ve accepted or even understood?

And, if you’ve answer no to either of the above questions, what does this suggest about the state of the modern church and the state of the modern Christian?

Likewise, if you’ve answered yes to either of the above questions, what does this suggest about the state of the modern church and the state of the modern Christian?

Btw, I won’t be writing a follow up to this post where I lay it all out for you because, frankly, I’m personally a bit stumped. I just don’t know. Thus I find myself wondering if, if I’m going to ere, if I be should be sure that I’m erring on the side of grace.

Be kind and all comments are appreciated.