Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hand in the Pot

Ok...I'm sorry but I have to get my hand in this pot. If you haven't heard yet, the United Methodist Church supported a pastor in not giving membership to a homosexual.

I honestly have mixed emotions. I am not one to "condone" homosexuality as right practice, but I do grow tired of the endless ramblings of the conservative right. (That's why I tried to get y'all to read Andy's blog.) We've got to keep lines of communication open here folks. I don't understand why a UMC Pastor who beleives homosexuality to be a sin would turn away a homosexual from membership. Even if you believe homosexuality to be a sin it doesn't make sense. Do we send liars away? NO! We love and we encourage them to grow and to change. We do not simply excommunicate them from the community.

Either way you slice it, whether you believe homosexuality to be a sin or not, I don't think Jesus is happy right now. I know that I am not an authority on Jesus or all of His opinions but I feel strongly about that one.

I pray, along with Andy, that we can find a way to dialogue and converse about the issue. It's not easy. It's hard, but more than worth while.

To be honest, I probably shouldn't have gone this rout because I really haven't gotten a handle on all of my thoughts. I just wanted to make you guys aware. Brad also commented with much vigor and passion. If you would like to join the discussion, go to Andy's blog.

Concerned...Lost...Down Hearted,

We have two essential problems here. The first is that we as humans have made church into a club with memberships and dues. It is a concept that is never found in the bible, and it is horribly offensive to me. Second Jesus bled and died that sinners might have life. I am a sinner, the guy who was rejected was a sinner. We are the same. At no point do the red letters say "Go, wash behind your ears. Clean your mind of all impurity. Become perfect, then come and hang with me." On the contrary, he loved hookers, and thievs, ate with liars, and con artists, and even if I dare say it loves homosexuals.
My heart goes out to that man, but it also goes out to the church and pastors who believe they 'get it'. Because they just don't. Matthew 25:41-45 41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Thanks for the comment D. It seems no one wants to try and tackle this. Perhaps they are saying, "It's not my denomination, so I don't have to worry about it." To that I would say, "What ever happened to the Catholic(in the orirginal since of the word) collective, Christ's church mentality. That too grieves me.
One extra layer to consider: the guy who was turned away was baptized. What does being baptized mean if not being a member of the body of Christ?
This pastor's idea of church membership seems to be as Dusty indicated, becoming a part of a club. Yuck.
- Andy B.
Ok, so yeah, I too feel sick and disgusted right now, in fact I have tears in my eyes. I work with a lot of gay people and one of them is probably one of the strongest christians I know (that in itself baffles me) but, wow, I don't know what else to say. I very much agree with my smart husband!
At school there was an article hanging up about a man who bombed abortion clinics because he believed it was murder. How do you even tackle that thought process? To me it's the same with this membership of a homosexual issue. It's hard to even think about how to start a discussion when it seems so backwards.
Wow, I don't even know what to say. I read all of Andy's posts and it was a little over my head. But I get it now, I don't like the sin of homosexuality, but you hit it right on the nose when you said about homosexuality being a sin and lieing a sin and sinners fill up our pues, we are not perfect. It hurts me to know that He was turned down. Is this just a problem in the methodist church? or is it bigger than we think?
Most of us are familiar with OT 2 Chronicles 7:14 -"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
There is a principle here which has never changed, as it was given to us by the One who never changes. The principle is the concept of repentence, or "turning" from our wicked ways. Jesus told the prostitute, "Your sins are forgiven. Go, and sin no more." He did not expect her to continue on in her former lifestyle. She was to be different. Now I recognize that none of us are perfect and that we sin. But we do not choose to make it a practice in our lives. The liar does not tell a lie and continue to tell lies without feeling a sense of guilt, which leads to repentence and a turning away, walking in the opposite direction of his sin.
This is where we have the rub with the homosexual community. Two problems arise in addressing their desire to be accepted in the christian community. First, they seem to have a problem recognizing that their lifestyle is sinful, and second, since they cannot admit the sin, it is impossible for them to repent. Most evangelical churches require that people who seek membership need to have a real relationship with the Savior. To have relationship requires repentence, beginning a life as a new creation in Christ. Paul spent a great deal of time trying to get people in the early church to understand how important it was to have a "walk" consistant with their belief system. He believed identification in the church to be so important, that those who violated Godly principles should be put out of the body. That's the doctrine of church discipline, and not too many find that appealing anymore either. If Paul would teach us to put out of the body one who is unrepentent of known sin, why would any evangelically minded church rush to include in it's membership, those "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." Romans 1:32. Doesn't church membership also require the candidate to embrace the doctrines of the body that they seek to join? Can a homosexual in good conscience, do that?
We owe the homosexual compassion. We owe them the Gospel. We do not owe them church membership (unity with the body) until such time as there is repentence and a turning away from a lifestyle that is so clearly anti-scriptural in both the Old and New Testaments.
As we deal with the homosexual community, we should in no way send a mixed signal. If we say we love them, then let's tell them the truth. Let's tell them what the scripture says about their behavior. Let's let the Holy Spirit take our witness, and work in their hearts. It is up to Him to ultimately change them. Remember that even in the early days, the disciples ran into people who liked some of the message of Christ. Many of those same people eventually fell away because they found doctrine that "is a hard saying. Who can hear it?" John 6:60
Having said all of this, I conclude by adding that I believe we live in the last days. This issue of homosexuality may well be one of the topics spoken of in biblical prophecy. There will be issues that separate children from their parents, and husbands from their wives. Whatever the topic, let us take refuge in the truth of what the Bible has to say. Our thinking and emotional connection to the problems of man, though "reasonable" to us, may make no sense when laid alongside God's standards. He has told us plainly that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. Recognizing that, we should tread cautiously on difficult matters where our feelings, or the feelings of others can be interjected into the debate. Our ultimate search must be, what does God say?

Mr. C
For those wondering...Mr. C is my father. Thanks for the comments dad.

One question, what if the liar isn't repentent but continues to lie. Do we excommunicate them? What if we don't know that they are lieing and they hide it very well. Are we promoting a "don't ask, don't tell" mentality as the military does? If so, as God's church, should we have policies similar to the military?

I don't think this issue is as black and white as some would make it seem.

Love ya it was like 8 questions
In answer to your 8 questions...
Scriptural instruction for the habitual liar is the same as any other issue. First, we confront alone. If that doesn't work, we confront with a witness. If that doesn't work, we take it to the church. And yes, if the non-repentent one does not hear the voice of those who have the courage to point out his sin and hold him accountable, then it is the duty of the church to discipline the member. I prefer the word discipline because it is not intended for the action to be permanent as excommunication implies. If the discipline is effective the member will repent, and ask to be restored to the body, which is the ultimate goal of discipline.
If the offender is particularly skilled at lying (or any other unGodly act) and is able to do this undetected (it probably won't take long to surface..."be sure your sin will find you out") the church and it's members can only be responsible for what they know. It is not a matter of not asking and not telling. Sin is usually self-evident when it is discovered. We are responsible to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to be accountable for their (and our own) behavior. Galations Chapter 6 makes that very clear. And in answer to the question posed to Jesus about being our brothers keeper, yes, indeed we are.

Mr. C
Wow. Apparently my brother-in-law has a brain and can think through things after all!

Kidding aside (you know I kid, Ken, I kid!), I'm in agreement with you on this.
Galations 6:1-10 - If someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead thatperson back to the right path...3. If any of you think you are something when you are nothing, you decieve yourselves...7. Don't be decieved, God can not be mocked. People reap what they sow...Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Absolutely true! And doing good to someone might even include administering the discipline they need. You have to admit, they sure give us plenty of opportunity.

Mr. C

Why is it an us vs. them issue? As sinnners aren't we all in the same boat? These aren't ficticious 'they's'. It just scares me that our immediate reaction is to 'cast the first stone.'
It isn't us versus them, it is the standards of God versus mankind. It is true that Jesus challenged the Judaizers "that he who is without sin, cast the first stone". Since no one could do that, he said to the harlot, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more." It is on the last part of his statement that all of the argument rests.
In all of this debate, is there acknowledgement that homosexuality is sin? If it is, how do you propose to handle the "go and sin no more" command with one who refuses to accept the principle of repentence? Would you be inclined to accept into membership a pedophile who insists nothing is wrong with his pedophilia, or a murderer who insists that nothing is wrong with his murderings, or a wife beater who insists that nothing is wrong with wife beating, or etc., etc. I think you get the picture. If we insist on accepting individuals with serious moral conflicts, have we reduced church membership to literally no more than a club, the very question that emerged at the beginning of this dialogue? Church membership is vital to Christianity. It is the clear, outward demonstration that we believe in, and submit to, someone much larger than ourselves. It should be important enough to us to protect it's meaning, in a world that has been turned upside down by humanism.

Mr. C
"you have to admit, they give us plenty of opporunity." Those were your words dad, not mine. You made it into an us vs. them.

Dad you should go over to Andy's blog and check out his whole conversation about context and idealogues. I don't think that we are hearing each other. That might not help but it will give us both something to think about.
OK. I went to Andy's blog and read everything that Andy had to say. The striking thing about the entire commentary is that all that is there, is what "Andy" has to say. I found no scriptural support for his point of view. It is completely based on "I thinks", "I feels" and "this is the way I see its". If you want to base your doctrine on what "Andy" has to say, be my guest. Until Andy can start showing me "Thus says the LORD", I'll rest in the position that I have arrived at, based on the scriptures I have cited. I love you son. Please be careful.

Mr. C

I was only referring to Andy's comments on contexts and idealogues. I don't agree with Andy on the homesexual front. It wasn't really a conversation on biblical issues. It was a commentary on how individuals think. My point is that sometimes it's hard to get outside of ourselves and view the world from other peoples perspectives. I have trouble doing that, you have trouble doing that, we all have trouble doing that.
I get so frustrated reading thoughts on topics such as this. We have NO right to point our fingers at any sinners, regardless of their sin. Yes, Jesus called us to "go and sin no more." We are supposed to keep each other in line and encourage one another to strive for Christ-like perfection. But, how can we do that if certain sinners aren't allowed in our church? I know that this case concerned membership only, but how long will it be before we start putting other restrictions on attendance and involvement? I am a sinner. I think cruel thoughts about people, I am selfish, I am judgmental, and I don't have the kind of self-discipline that I should. I pray to God about my sins and repent...but I keep doing them. No matter how much God wants to keep my heart warm, I continuously chill it with my own agenda. So, I am a sinner who repents but continues to sin. Should I not be able to join the church? I see no difference in my sins as compared to a homosexual's "sins." Yes, we can say that homosexuals live in sin without repentance, but how many of us can see into their hearts? How do we know that they don't continually struggle with their feelings? My point is that no sin is worse than any other, all Christians are sinners, and all Christians who repent have a huge possibility of repeating that sin. If we're all in the same boat, why can't we all join the church and support each other?
I know this must seem frustrating, but there really is a difference, not in the kind of sin, but in our individual reaction and how we deal with our sin. You have said, and rightly so that you sin and repent, continually. And God is mercifult to us by standing by His promise that, "if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness". If any homosexual were to do just what you described that you do, then I have no quarrel with them seeking Church memebership. If they are seeking to do what you described, that is, to be conformed to the image of Christ, then by all means let them join, crucify themselves daily as we are to do, and do everything in their power to avoid the sin which so easily besets them, just like you and I do.
But make no mistake, if the homosexual or any other "kind" of sinner wants us to accept them, and by accepting them give them the notion that what they do is not "sinful" or wrong, I simply cannot go there. It is clearly wrong. They want us to accept homosexuality as normal, and not sin. Our differences lie in the fact that you and I both know that we are sinners, and we need to be forgiven. The Gay community at large does not want to be in the same category that we freely admit we are a part of.
In all of our discussion, no one has picked up on the instruction that the Apostle Paul gave us; to put out of the church those who deserve such action. Why do we choose to ignore that kind of instruction, and why do we not see how that instruction relates to the issue at hand? Will someone, anyone, please answer that?

Mr. C
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