Thursday, December 15, 2005

'Human Rights' Ordinance 622

Generally I prefer to work toward positive change... especially within the Church itself... and spend little time with 'issues'... and especially not civil-governance issues. I'd much prefer accentuating and encouraging those who are in the trenches everyday, joyfully serving their Lord and our neighbors, and sharing the gift of eternal life with whomever would like to have it.

Occasionally though, if we really love our neighbors as ourselves, and want the best for them as we want for ourselves -- including a great community to live in -- we have to stop and speak to societal issues... sharing what God clearly says in His scriptures. He loves us and wants the very best for us. So we share His Word not from a platform of personal piety or our perfection in living it out. Often we share it from a platform of personal experience... that 'flying in the face of God' never works out well. And the fact remains, that although the Bible is the world's most used book (despite the claims of SBC Yellow Pages, LOL), way too few have ever read it cover-to-cover... much less studied it over-and-over.

Recently, two pastors stepped to the microphone at the Indianapolis City Council chambers, and advocated on behalf of this bill which extends beyond the constitutionally-protected classifications, and now would specially confer 'non-discrimination status' to others based on sexual-orientation and gender-identity.

I've corresponded with one of those pastors, and much of the following was developed from that email-conversation. [Btw, many, many other pastors of course spoke out against such special legislation.]

I offer the following as food for thought for all of us -- or perhaps to challenge everyone to prayerfully reconsider just how faithful we're being to the Church's historic position of looking to scripture as the rule for faith & practice.

Btw, none of us can in this lifetime fully live out what we know to be true from scripture -- for example, the Apostle Paul exclaiming 'what a wretched man I am'. So please do not take this as being anything other than a challenge from one sinful-but-professing believer to another, to pursue the higher standard, God's standard.... and encourage others to do the same.

And yes, it probably does very much come down to "how we understand the message of God which comes to us through the Bible". I'm not 'the last word' on how to do this. But it seems at face-value... that we should be able to take God at face-value.

Easy to say, but is it easy to do?

At the very least we might agree to take Jesus at his word and prioritize what He prioritized... "Love the Lord with all your everything and love your neighbor as yourself." Or follow the OT prescription to "Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly." Again, these perhaps are easy to say, but how should we live them out?

Walk humbly? Not easy to do for those of us born in sin, with propensities to pride. Nonetheless, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I must seek to be conformed to His will. So I need to try to take the accusatory tone out of the issue at hand -- we're not the judge of others. [But neither are we entitled to re-judge and find as innocent those behaviors which God has judged as sinful.]
Love mercy? You bet. We're called to be imitators of God. He's self-sacrificing by nature, and exudes love and patience.

Act justly? God's sense of justice is equally called for. He's made perfectly clear what He finds as honorable and glorifying, and conversely, what He finds abhorrent. And there are enough examples in the Bible to make us all blush -- thus our personal need for the Savior.

Love our neighbors as ourselves? If we've found peace with God through redemption and forgiveness of our sins, then similarly we should hope & pray for our neighbors to likewise enjoy that availability. If we enjoy housing and job opportunities, we should hope for that for our neighbors as well.

Love the Lord our God with all our everything? The highest command of all. We need to prioritize His standards, not our own. Let us not consider evil what God calls as good. Or vice versa. God has clearly laid out his decrees and design for the world. Few disagree about which behaviors God calls 'sinful'.... including all sorts of sexual sin.

I suspect to this point, we agree on all the above. So how do we then apply it to the issue at hand? May I suggest for consideration...

* Leaders preaching the Word of God faithfully -- including clearly condemning immoral sexual practices. Let people clearly know God's standards, and thus, where our churches stand on the standards. And thus delineate the chasm which calls for a Savior.

* Admitting we're ALL sinners. We were ALL born in sin. John says we were all born-liars, for instance. We all have a propensity to offend God. Yet we've no 'right' to simply say to God or to each other, "Get used to it." We're called to a higher standard, and are greatly in need of a perfect redeemer... and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us overcome some of our propensities.

* Extending mercy -- including offering the gift of eternal life, and the peace & joy of life that accompanies it. Rescue the perishing. Jesus quickly came to the defense of the adulterous woman being confronted by religious leaders who did not have the legal authority to stone her. Yet his mercy did not exceed his perfect sense of justice -- he required her to 'go and sin no more'.

He in no sense advocated on behalf of her sinful lifestyle.

Likewise He's forgiven me of much, but in no sense advocates for licensing it.

Our watershed question in the issue at hand is, are we rescuing the perishing or are we giving the impression of advocating for legal recognition and acceptance of a sinful lifestyle?

My hope and prayer is that everyone will take a careful, prayerful look, at which we're doing the most loudly.

And if the latter, where does it end? Who will go to bat for special protection of 'oppressed' born-liars because they lied on job-apps? Oppressed born-thieves because they stole from previous employers? Oppressed born-murderers because they have a hard time finding a place to live? The list goes on & on, and could easily include all of us -- shall we all obtain special rights to live out a sinful lifestyle without sanction?

Pastors, I'm sure that you prefer to speak God's joyous positive message from the pulpit and encourage your flocks with the good news of Jesus Christ. But do you occasionally condemn unhealthy habits such as smoking? Or how about biblically condemned actions such as excessive drinking? How about speeding? Prostitution?

Certainly secular society effectively does speak their sense of morality into such issues... and then even legislates their sense of morality into law because such things negatively impact society. But by no means have they (yet) developed a smokers bill of rights or special protections for prostitutes in their pursuit of happiness.... and then imposed it on the rest of us.

Whether choice-based or intrinsically a part of a person's human propensities toward these actions, society does not specially protect them in matters of jobs or housing. So why singularly yield to a line of thinking that equates homosexuality as entitled to "civil rights"?

One might conclude simply that indeed there exists a homosexual agenda that some very well-intentioned people are falling prey to. Even inside the Church.

Again, I challenge you to reconsider what it is you're leading your flock toward, not to mention what you would lead our city toward.

That being said, there is Christ-like love and advocacy for 'the oppressed' -- just visit Wheeler Mission and you'll see Christians housing homeless murderers, thieves, and other human beings who have lost homes & jobs -- often due to all sorts of immoral behaviors. Job training occurs. Christian employers take on folks based on mercy, not merit. But at no time does Wheeler advocate for changing society's rules toward godliness. Instead they help people recognize sin and its consequences. They help lives get truly transformed by preaching the Word carefully, and practicing it lovingly.

To love our neighbors as ourselves, is to want a godly set of rules to live by that will tend toward godliness and great opportunities to know a personal redeemer & friend... forever.

To do otherwise, is to want something less for our neighbors than for ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for so ably stating what so many of us believe in our hearts but are less capable of expressing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Neil! Beautifully written and right on! Thanks for standing in the gap with us!

Ginny Cain