Tuesday, February 21, 2012
A few weeks ago, a man named Josh Powell blew up his home in Washington State with his 2 small children inside. On purpose. The world was left to wonder why. How can one be so cruel? How could a man do that to his kids? Why is their so much cruelty in the world? Thank goodness that we had Westboro Baptist "Church" to answer these very important questions for us. According to this "church", it all happened in Washington because of the state's recent "rebellion"; a reference to the state's support of same sex marriage. God was punishing Washington. Westboro has protested a number of military funerals because the "church" (note the repeated use of quotation marks) believes that our soldiers are dying in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan because of our country's tolerance for homosexuality. They hold up signs like "Pray for more dead soldiers"; logic so skewed and twisted that it is beyond my ability to even comprehend it. I've seen pictures on the news that showed Westboro children that could not have been more than 5 or 6 years old holding up signs with messages that I won't dare repeat. You can Google the "church" if you want to see them for yourself. My 5 year old son recently held up a sign that said "Good Luck Dad, we love you" at the 5K I ran several weeks ago. The "Westboro kids" hold up signs condemning the world to the eternal pit of fire; unless of course it repents. At least according to the 4 year old. This, in my opinion, is just about as sad as it gets.
This is not a blog about whether or not I believe that homosexuality is sin/not sin, right/wrong, a choice/born that way, so if that whole conversation makes you uptight then you can read on. I have my feelings about it that are personal to me and the people that I know and love. I do want to say this. It seems that the church (not just Westboro) has made it a habit of demonizing the people that it calls "sinners". Not only that, but it seems to pick and choose which "sins" among the many are worthy of this particularly charged demonization and condemnation. Maybe I missed it, but I've never seen or heard the church actively communicating the fact that those who abuse their wives to the point of sending them to the ER in the middle of the night are going to the above mentioned eternal flames. I don't see the church holding up signs that are condemning people who blow up their kids. I haven't noticed the church demonizing pornography, genocide, or child abuse. Again, maybe I've missed these regular displays, signs, protests, and "occupy-like" movements by the church because I don't get around to watching the news every day. But if I were a betting man, I'd bet the farm that the reason why I don't see these things is because they simply aren't happening. In fact, my bet would be "all in".
I've been doing a little research. I've noticed that in the Bible, when Jesus sat with "sinners" like "tax collectors" and "prostitutes", etc; his interaction with them was far different. Sometimes, Jesus would even hang out with lepers. Lepers were considered ritually unclean, which was about the worst possible state of condition a human being could be in. You were an outcast if you were unclean. No one wanted anything to do with you. Period. Jesus did in fact point the finger when he encountered people like this. Funny thing though, the finger got pointed at the "finger pointers". Jesus had some "not so nice things" to say to the self righteous legalists who seemed to make a living out of pointing out the faults of others. Like this one time when Jesus sat (reclined) at a table with the afore mentioned "sinners". The Pharisees (legalists) jumped on that one like a fish to water. "Why is he sitting with them"? Part of his response included this, "I desire compassion...I did not come to call the righteous but sinners". Guess what? That word "sinners" included (or includes) everyone. If you are reading this blog then like it or not, you fall into that category. You are a sinner. So am I, there's just no getting around it. You also get the grace of the cross. WHAT DID HE JUST SAY? Yes, you also get the grace. May not make sense my fellow believers, but you get it. Oh, by the way, guess what Jesus did one day when an unclean and socially unacceptable leper came right up to him and begged to be healed? Jesus touched him. SCANDALOUS!!! He touched a leper, which meant that Jesus was now unclean!!!! At least according to the rules. Those rules were not the same as Jesus' "rules". His rules are not the same as our rules either. "My ways are not your ways", he said. Thank God.
So to the "Westboro-like theologians/churches" of the world, time to fess up. You know who you are. To call yourself the "Body of Christ" means to act like you actually are the Body of Christ. The message is salvation not condemnation. Point your finger at one you call a "sinner" and the finger can be pointed right back at you. That statement is true for everyone but the sinless Jesus. What were those words again? "For God did not come to condemn the world but to save it". That's the Gospel of John. Those are the words of Jesus. And again. "Forgive them Father", Jesus is quoted as saying as he hung on the cross while looking down at the people who were calling for his death and giving him sour wine and gall to drink. And to put it another way. "Do not judge others, for you will be judged by the same measure that you are judging them". Yep, that's Jesus. Grace rules the day in God's Kingdom. I don't claim to know who's in and who's out or who gets the "pit" and who gets the clouds. I don't know who spends eternity "smoking" or "not smoking" as the familiar church signs declare. I do know that when I condemn/judge that I'm usually doing it to make myself look better and feel better. At least I'm not as bad as that guy, right? I know that Jesus loved the people that the world said were not supposed to be loved. He accepted the unacceptable. And then in one great and awesome act, he saved the world and asked a couple of things in return. Believe. Repent. Love God. Love neighbor. Love self. Love neighbor? Love self? What does that mean?
It means to love sinners I suppose.