Bear with me, this is a little long, but it is an important topic for us to discern as we navigate this life and invite others into relationship with our Savior!
Answer this question for me – Is gluttony a sin? There are a plethora of scriptural references you can look up to back the claim that gluttony is sinful! So, having this interpretation in your head, and fully believing that God agrees with you, do you go out and find the first overweight person and tell them they are fat and need to repent of their wicked ways and get their eating under control?
How about this one – Is getting drunk a sin? Again, many references to support the notion that getting drunk is sinful; however, if you go up to someone who is drunk or even later when they are sober and tell them they are a sinful drunkard and need to repent or they are going to hell, odds are that they will shut you out and label you a hate-filled Christian.
In a world where The Church congregates in thousands of different denominations, locations and interpretive belief systems, it is sometimes difficult for someone far from God to navigate what is True and how it applies to their life. And, if we are all honest, when we were first seeking we were drawn to people who didn’t judge us and repulsed by people who were self-righteous. This, I believe, is one of the biggest reasons Jesus was loved so deeply by those who were marginalized by society and the religious elite due to their sinful natures. It is also the same reason those being shunned for their sin despised the religious people of the day. Same holds true in our day!
Unfortunately, scripture has been twisted and interpreted in many different ways to agree with those following specific belief systems. For example, alcohol by many denominations is strictly forbidden, and many even go as far to interpret the scriptural references to wine as simply grape juice. However, in many other denominations, alcohol is fine as long as it is taken in moderation – which again is up for interpretation.
You see what I am saying here? Regardless of what we may believe to be true (based on our beliefs, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s revelation), how can someone who may be seeking to know the meaning of life, and possibly even wondering if there is a God, begin to navigate what is true and what is heresy when the “religious” systems of the world cannot agree on interpretation of scripture? Why wouldn’t those who are searching look for a group of people who will love and accept them for who they are, and subsequently, seek to find out more about the God they follow? As followers of Jesus we may have differing beliefs and differing interpretations of scripture, many of which may be true while others may be very twisted, but we cannot condemn people for their behaviors and beliefs then expect them to even consider following the God we follow. The one non-negotiable Truth that we must all hold is that faith in Jesus is the only way to spend eternity with God – yet, many people who do not follow Jesus think there are many ways to God (sadly, many people who claim to follow Jesus are confused on this topic as well)! This post is not about what is right or wrong or to start a theological debate, it is simply something that needs to be said if we ever want to lead lost people to Jesus! Lost people (people who do not have a relationship with Jesus) will never respond to a message that focuses on their behavior instead of Jesus’ message of grace and love! And truth is typically irrelevant to the lost until they begin a relationship with Jesus – then He, not us, will be the One who guides and convicts as He sees fit!
Something God has really been hammering home in my heart is the debates going around in the “church-world” regarding same-sex union, gay priests, gender assignment, and homosexuality – “Can you be gay and be a Christian?”. Let alone the identities of transsexual, pan-sexual, asexual, etc. Again, some of the mainline denominations have affirmed gay priests, conducted gay marriages regularly, and interpreted the scriptures in ways that do not condemn or condone homosexuality. Other groups completely, and vehemently, condemn the gay lifestyle and anyone in it, around it or even talking about it – trust me; I am talking with and about this group a lot and I feel the push back from the “religious”. Regardless of where you fall on this lifestyle, there is still a group of people that are deeply loved by God and in need of the same Savior that saved us from our sinful behaviors. As we fight over who is right and who is wrong, and I have my belief as well, we are driving this marginalized group of people far away from our God…”Why follow a God that these crazy people are following, He probably would condemn me too! Why bother?” By the way, they are being marginalized by the religious, not by God – and there is an eternal difference between the two! Religious focus on law, God focuses on grace!
The Law in the Bible was manipulated by the Pharisees (religious) to condemn people who didn’t fit their constructed religious mold. Yet the Law was given to show us that we are not capable of attaining the perfection of God on our own; by the way, perfection is a pre-requisite for spending eternity with Him, so none of us can measure up on our own accord. The Law always points us to the Gospel because our inability to be perfect was nullified by Jesus’ ability and willingness to be the perfect sacrifice…He died as a perfect substitution for us while we were all still sinners! The Law is there to show us we need the Gospel, and the Gospel tells us that we need Jesus! It is never our job to point out what we deem to be sin in others; the Bible is to be read as a mirror, helping the reader become more like Christ. When we use the Bible as a hammer, it loses its intended purpose given by the Author! Judgment comes from above, not from someone walking alongside!
Bottom line here is this – I care less about where you fall in your beliefs regarding human behavior than I do about the people who have been turned away from local churches and individuals simply because most are too afraid to enter a relationship with someone who thinks or acts differently than they do. It’s OK to believe that homosexuality is a sin as long as you don’t condemn someone else because you hold what you deem to be their sin up in the light while you hide your sin in the dark. I believe Navy Blue is Black because when I look at Navy Blue it appears to be Black to me; but just because I cannot distinguish between the two colors doesn’t give me the right to tell my wife she is wrong when the real issue is my own vision! How’s your vision? I personally have some great relationships with people who do not believe being gay is a sin. We are still the best of friends even after they ask what I believe and I share that I believe being gay is a sin based on what I read in God’s word – actually, since we have been completely honest with each other in these conversations, I can say that my relationship with each person has become a deep friendship that is based on mutual love and respect. Why? I feel it is because my goal is not to change someone or tell them they are wrong or sinful; my goal is to develop a relationship with the people God places in my path in hopes that they may fall in love with the Jesus, the One I wholly love! You might say, “Sounds like you have an agenda to me!”; yet it’s not an agenda when you place Jesus in the center of your entire life – it’s actually who you are in Christ! To hide your faith is actually contrary to who you truly are! People in general are OK with us having our own opinions and convictions (regardless if it is based on scripture or not) as long as they are not being condemned for their own or shut down for sharing their beliefs. Differing opinions, convictions and beliefs make for incredible conversations! If you are truly open to loving God and loving people you may blessed in building some incredible relationships with people who are very different from you – the same way Jesus did when He walked this Earth calling sinners like us to trust in Him! With relationship comes opportunity to share your heart with others…and with your heart surrendered to Jesus, sharing Him becomes easy even when the “tough” topics of our day seem to cloud our judgment! So let me ask you, are you seeing people through the eyes of Jesus? How is your vision?