Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Church and Sin

Hammer left a comment on my last post with a link to an article by Al Mohler about the need for Christians to truthfully confront the sin of homosexuality. Trinitarian Don also makes some very good points today about sin, objective truth, the Church, and homosexuality.

While I fully agree with the truth of what both Don and Al wrote, I don’t like how homosexuality often gets singled out by Christian leaders when referencing and discussing sin. Al stated, “The church is not a place where sinners are welcomed to remain in their sin.” It sounds like Al hasn’t been to Church lately. Churches nowadays are packed with greedy, lustful, deceitful, proud, selfish, and sexually immoral believers who are quite comfortable in most of their sins. Pastors and other Church leaders are just as comfortable in some or all of these sins. I’m sure I also have blind spots in regard to my own sins.

Some sins are worse than other sins and all sins have gradations of evil. Homosexuality is no different. A homosexual relationship with one partner is different than a homosexual relationship with many partners. Advocating homosexual marriage is different than advocating acceptance of homosexuals. Struggling and failing to overcome a homosexual lifestyle is different than proudly proclaiming a deviant sexual orientation. If Christian leaders and lay believers wish to demonstrate the love of God towards homosexuals, they need to place homosexuality and the gradations of homosexuality on the list of all other sins where it belongs and quit singling homosexuality out as the worst of all sins.

Additionally, if Christian leaders and lay believers wish to be taken seriously when proclaiming the truth of homosexuality, they need to increase the references to the sins of greed, lust, deceit, pride, and selfishness. Perhaps they could start by proclaiming the truth in their own Church and make a few believers a little uncomfortable.

15 comments:

Rick and Gary said...

I'm a bit suprised at the premise. To an outsider, it seems that Christians do little other than "confront the sin of homosexuality." Perhaps that's just what makes it to the media, but still. . .

I'm not an expert on what consitutes a sin, but I would image that there are many sins that 1.) hurt other people and/or 2.) tempt all or most Christians. Homosexuality is not one of them. Peace, Rick

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick,

As much as I disdain the mainstream media, I don’t think it is just your perception because most of the time it seems that way to me too. For anyone who does not consider the Bible authoritative, all talk of sin as described in the Bible must seem odd. Do you have any thoughts on the reliability of the Bible?

I know people who do consider the Bible authoritative who don’t let their children watch anything other than G rated movies but are very comfortable sneaking into the Disneyland Hotel without paying for a room to let their children swim. I know believers who have trouble paying their bills, but still always take an expensive vacation every year. I could go on an on about all of the contradictions I have witnessed.

It doesn’t really surprise me, but it does trouble me that so many people can believe in the authority of the Bible and still pick and choose what they consider to be sinful. It seems like most people define sin based on what others do wrong, not on what they do wrong themselves. Perhaps I am not much different, but I do consider fixing myself more important than fixing others.

Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you let me know what you thought.

Dean McConnell said...

In many ways I agree with your comment. I think we do not deal strongly
enough with common sins. It is a lot easier to be critical of sins that
you think "other people" commit and that you do not see every day in
yourself or your church. The church has a serious problem with
pornography for example. Yet you hear few sermons about it and most men
experience little real victory in this part of their thought lives, not
because it is impossible, but because we cut ourselves a lot of slack on
something seen as difficult to stop and in some sense, "natural."

You are also right that, while all sins lead to damnation unless covered
by the blood of Christ, there is a hierarchy of sins. Not all sins are
the same. This is why human law forbids murder but not anger, even
though Jesus makes it clear that without God's grace both will send you
to hell in the eyes of our just and holy God.

But, I do think that while advocating public measures that facilitate
homosexual recruitment or that say it is ok - such as gay marriage or
gay advocacy in schools - is far worse that Homosexual sex, promiscuous
homosexual sex is worse that occasional, and an open homosexual
lifestyle is worse that quietly struggling with it. And, acting on the
desire is worse than the desire. But, I think because homosexual sex is
"unnatural" and because it is avoidable for most people, even people
with the desire for it, it is "worse" than many other sins. Paul does
give it a prominent place in Romans 1, where he talks about the
consequences of rejecting God's truth. It is also an easy place to hold
the line on social values. On top of that, it is important because it
is the area where the current push to expand what society considers
acceptable conduct is taking place. We already lost the battle with the
"playboy lifestyle" in the sixties.

If we can keep homosexuality in the "antisocial" column of common
perception we can save thousands of kids from heartbreaking pain that
will occur if they are recruited to the "gay" life (I do not believe
they are hard wired that way even if there are biochemical propensities
or triggers). Next maybe we can drive the playboy lifestyle and sharp
business practices back into the "unacceptable" column. Such
perceptions matter. Life without major sins id nicer for everyone than
life with the major sins. It would be wonderful to have a culture where
we could focus on helping each other with pride, impatience, gluttony,
sloth instead of the life threatening sins that currently hold our
civilization in thrall.

This said I do not think people should "hate" homosexuals or persecute
them. There but for the grace of God go we all. They need the gospel
and the love of Christ. But a gospel that says sin is not sin, or that
we are acceptable to God just as we are, without atonement or
justification, or that it is ok not to struggle against sin and just
institutionalize it, is not really the gospel at all. It is a dangerous
counterfeit.

Hammertime said...

David,
Inoticed a disconnect between a quote and an application. You quoted my pal Al, "The church is not a place where sinners are welcomed to remain in their sin" and then discussed how there are many churches with many people who are comfortable in their sin.

The truth of the first does not indicate the falsity of the second. There is no contradiction.

There are many reasons why this is so. There are many false churches. There are many weak preachers. There are many false Christians. Homosexuality is being forced into the limelight, not by the Church, but by homosexual activists - it has been since the early seventies. If you check out Sermons by Jonathan Edwards or Charles Spurgeon or W.A. Criswell, you will little about homosexuality before it became much more vogue.

Simply put, in a true church, with a strong pastor, we hear plenty about the sins of the heart that lead to the sins of the flesh. In fact, we hear plenty of both. The tendency is to single out one or the other based upon the leaning of one's congregation. It's easy in a liberal church to avoid homosexuality for no one wants to hear about it. It's easy in a fundamentalist church to preach a lot about it, for they dont' struggle with it.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

I didn’t mean to disparage your pal Al. I wasn’t trying to single him out. I probably should have left out the part about his Church attendance. I sometimes forget that California Churches are not representative of other Churches around the country. However, you seem to at least partially agree with me that many or even most Churches do not preach the full Gospel and the multiple number of sins that are preventing Christianity from holiness.

My primary concern is for Churches and Christians to quit pointing our fingers outward when we have so much work to do in our own congregations. Secondarily, I want homosexuals to know they are no different than any of the rest of us. We all have sins we accept in our own life. Some of us struggle more than others. Many of us accept sins in our own lives that I think could be considered much worse than homosexuality, but for some reason are considered more acceptable.

If I was a homosexual, I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with Christians. We make them out to be villains when most of them are no worse than the rest of us.

I know we need to stand up for a just culture in our society outside of Church. I think the over-emphasis on the sin of homosexuality has hurt us because we haven’t balanced our rhetoric with more holy actions in other areas.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Dean McConnell,

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. You are a welcome addition to the blogosphere since you are such a good writer and clear thinker.

Please see my response comment to Hammer. Some of what I was going to address with you, I addressed with him.

Could you elaborate more on why you consider some sins to be natural and some sins to be unnatural? I have heard the distinction before, but it doesn’t make sense to me now. Selfishness and greed may be natural, but both are still sinful and opposed to holiness. Murder, for most people is not natural nowadays, but murder is still the worst of all sins. Homosexuality is much more natural than running a marathon, but homosexuality is considered sinful while running a marathon has no moral connotation. Theft is very natural, very sinful, and I also believe it to be much, much, worse than homosexuality.

Thanks for taking up my challenge. I am trying to think through this and right now I have more questions than answers.

Rick and Gary said...

Dean McConnell's hierarchy of homosexual sins is interesting (although from my perspective, it would be a hierarchy of homosexual sins or virtues).

However, when Dean says "struggling and failing to overcome a homosexual lifestyle is different than proudly proclaiming a deviant sexual orientation..," he implies from the context that the former is less sinful than the latter.

If by "proudly proclaiming," Dean refers to homosexuals who are simply open and honest about who they are, he's both wrong and, indeed, insisting that homosexuals bear of false witness.

Honesty always trumps dishonesty.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick,


Thanks for another very good comment. I admire the temperance of your remarks regarding a subject that is often driven more by emotion than logic.

Like you, I place a very high value on honesty and truth. I don’t believe every thought of every person always needs to be articulated, but I would rather know what a person thinks in their own words than make wrong assumptions about them. Truth is an attribute of God himself.

I am convinced that those of us inside the Church need to struggle more with where homosexuality needs to be placed on the list of sins. I don’t pretend to know more than Dean McConnell or other established leaders, but I have a sense that most of us haven’t given this matter enough thought and prayer. I want to challenge Christian leaders to do more of both in order to create a Church environment that welcomes all sinners and admonishes all sin because it seems to me like we only welcome some sinners and only admonish some sins.

In my own life, when I became a believer by submitting to the Lordship of Christ and asking him to forgive my past sins, I noticed that some of my sinful ways were immediately changed, some of my sinful ways needed effort and prayer on my part for me to change, some of my sinful ways I have not been able to overcome regardless of prayer and effort, and some of my sinful ways I probably am not even aware of yet. If God could love me before I believed in him, I don’t think he loves me less now even though I am not aware of all of my sins.

I have to draw a line, however, between living in some sin like all of us do, and advocating sin as normal and equivalent to God’s perfect plan. If God’s perfect plan is for one man and one woman to marry until the death of one spouse and have sex only within this married relationship, then any other type of marriage or any other type of sex is sinful because it is less than God’s perfect plan.

I can understand how a case can be made that gay marriage where two people of the same gender make a lifelong commitment is closer to God’s plan than not making the lifelong commitment, and I would agree, but I still think it is contrary to God’s perfect plan and therefore advocating gay marriage is advocating sin. I don’t expect you to agree, but I do hope this makes sense to you.

xblairx said...

good day sir,

i appreciate the way you talk about this subject. i think that there needs to be more dialogue between opposing viewpoints, and the respectful way in which you do that is appreciated by me! thank you.

blair

David M. Smith said...

Hi Blair,

Thank you. In my mind, I’m always respectful, but I don’t always make a respectful impression on the people I dialogue with. It’s good for me to know when I actually achieve the respectful tone I desire.

I agree with you about opposing viewpoints. I don’t need to agree with others, but I do want to hear what they say. Likewise, I have no expectations that others will agree with me, but I do want to be heard.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Rick and Gary said...

Hi David -- That makes perfect sense to me. I imagine, from a religious perspective that I do not share, gay marriage could be compared to divorce.

And yet, I haven't seen any proposals to amend the Constitution to prohibit divorce, or divorce involving young children, or re-marriage after divorce, or even a limit of, say, 10 divorces and remarriages per person.

Perhaps that is only because the prohibition of gay marriage is politically advantageous, whereas the prohibition of divorce is political suicide. Nevertheless, I find this hypocrisy highly frustrating. Best, Rick

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick,

I still haven’t completely resolved this issue for myself in my own mind to complete satisfaction, but yes, from my religious perspective, and it may be only my perspective, homosexual marriage is roughly equivalent to divorce and advocating homosexual marriage as normal and healthy is roughly equivalent to advocating divorce as normal and healthy. Some very devout followers of Christ have not been able to save their own marriage and I suspect some homosexuals will not be able to change regardless of their devotion to Christ. I don’t see why we can’t label both acts as sinful and at the same time show grace to those who have done their best.

There was a time in our country when divorce was much more difficult to get during a time when divorce was considered harmful to society and harmful to the families involved. I still believe divorce should be a last resort, but I have mixed feelings about laws that would prevent someone from ending a bad marriage. The repercussions of higher divorce rates are still rippling through society.

I do agree with you that there are plenty of political calculations and hypocrisy from our elected leaders. There is also a lot of unnecessary anger. We should have a debate and then let the political process work to decide the law. Then we should debate some more based on the results. We don’t need all of the hostility, but I can see why you would be frustrated with the political process due to the lack of honest debate and honest votes.

Hammertime said...

David,
I'm writing about divorce and marriage over at my blog. I'd appreciate your input, as well as Rick & Gary's.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

I’ve been reading all of your posts on divorce, just like I read everything you and Mrs. Hammer write. You haven’t written anything that I would challenge.

Like you, I believe marriage is a lifetime commitment. Marriage is probably easier for some couples than other couples, but it is not without challenges for any couple. No two people fit perfectly together. Through marriage, people learn of their need for grace, patience, and unconditional love. Through marriage, people mature like a fine wine. Through divorce, people spoil like old milk.

Maybe I would go a little further than you to say that even though I have never been divorced, my marriage has been affected negatively by my previous relationships.

Hammertime said...

That is certainly true. In fact, I became rather "extreme" in the run-up to meeting Mrs. Hammer because I recognized this. I was not willing to get involved with someone I would not considering marrying based upon their realtionship with God, values and core beliefs.

As I have told young people for years now, you cannot control who you fall in love with, but you control who you date. You don't knwo if you'd marry her? Don't date her. Get to know her in the company of others first, if you can. Restrict your intimacy. Set boundaries beyond what others think is ok. Marriage is worth it!

We are trying to hammer it into our 11-year-old son, and only time will tell if we are successful. We pray we will be for all of our children.