How many have been turned against Christianity by the involvement in Canadian politics of Christian churches who want to prohibit same sex marriages, even making widely publicised submissions to Parliament in an attempt to do so? How many have been turned against Christianity by the campaigns organised by Christian churches who oppose homosexuals being accepted into society on an equal footing with everyone else?
Jesus set his followers a task. It was not a political task, neither was it a social task. It was a spiritual task. It was to search out and look after all those wanting to serve god. It was to find all those of the right heart and bring them into a personal relationship with Jesus. It was to tell the whole world about god's Kingdom and how it would benefit all of mankind. It was to let everyone know that Christ came and died to bring everyone into a personal relationship with him. It was to tell of salvation and forgiveness of sin. It was to describe the Love of god for mankind. It was to glorify god's name. It was to shout out loud the Good News.
Are those the things that spring to mind when we read of a Minister from a Christian church vehemently condemning Gay marriage? No! Absolutely not! What springs to mind is condemnation, criticism, hatred, contempt, a myriad of specious and carping comments to deprive others of their way of life. That is not the task Jesus set his followers but that is the task carried out. Just ask ordinary people in the street.
The Apostle Paul understood the task Jesus set very well. He talked about it very extensively in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9, where he describes his ministry. He notes his motivation in verse 16, where he says:–
“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to god, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”
It is important to understand at this point that Paul was not saying that he became those kinds of people in a literal sense. We know this since he starts by saying “unto the Jews I became as a Jew”, but it is well known that Paul was born a Jew and so could not “become” one. He already was one. One cannot become what one already is, obviously. Paul confirmed this himself when in Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 22:3:–
“I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward god, as ye all are this day.”
If he did not mean what he said literally, then what are we to understand Paul meant when he said that he "became as a Jew"? The most obvious explanation is that he was saying that when he was in the company of Jews he behaved as if he were Jewish. He used Jewish terms and approaches to matters, he spoke with Jewish phrases, he "became" Jewish in a behavioural sense. This was, though, with a limit. As he says, "being not without law to god, but under the law to Christ", in other words, doing this while remaining faithful to Christ. So, when he became as a person "without law", he did not actually break the law, but used the terminology and social practices of people who did, thus “fitting in”, as we might put it today. He became "all things to all men" and a “servant unto all, that I might gain the more”, as he expresses it, adopting the behaviour patterns and interests of any group in order to fit in. This "fitting in" then becomes the means to preach the message of Christ to them and bring them into a position to become Christian.
Among those that Paul became like were homosexuals. We know this because he referred to homosexuals when he was describing what some Christians had been before becoming Christians. It is at 1 Cor 6:9, in the same letter in which he talks about his ministry, as he says:–
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of god? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of god. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our god.”
Note the point he makes right after the list, “And such were some of you:”. This makes it clear that the list is not a list of condemnation, although many misuse it that way, it is a list of those whom Christians should help. It is a list of those whom Christians should “become” so they may be converted. Rather than condemning such people, Christians must minister to them, associate with them, fit in with them, become them in the same manner as Paul became as a Jew, so that they too might be saved.
Some, however, prefer to see this list as a list of reprehension, as a list of those rejected by Christ, as a list of those to avoid, as a list of those to be condemned. Those who see this list in that fashion miss the whole point of Paul's letter. His letter is about the Christian's obligation before god to preach to the spiritually lost. As he states:–
“for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
First he lays out the obligation on Christians to preach the message of Christ, then he draws attention to the fact that many Corinthian Christians had been behaving in a thoroughly immoral way, then encourages them to approach all those still doing those things, encourages the Corinthians to mix with them, fitting in, in order to have an opportunity to bring them the Christian message. Paul does not condemn homosexuals here, nor the others mentioned, he identifies them as a group for salvation.
The approach to others that Jesus demanded his followers should follow was outlined in a parable at Matthew 18:21-35, and those condemning their homosexual and lesbian brothers and sisters should read it then bow their heads with shame:–
“Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would make a reckoning with his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, that owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.’ And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred shillings: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay what thou owest.’ So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay thee.’ And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, ‘Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me: shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow–servant, even as I had mercy on thee?’ And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due. So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.”
Notice this, because it is often overlooked, Jesus said “From your hearts”, not begrudgingly because you have to, because that is not forgiveness. From your hearts means freely and without rancour, without any little mental reservations or notes of sourness. It means fully and completely. It means absolutely. Remember this as well, if you think god does not know what is in your heart, you are sorely mistaken.
Do you really appreciate what it means when Paul emphasised humanity’s nature in Romans 3:23:–
“all have sinned, and come short of the glory of god; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
It means that none of us are any different from anyone else on that list. All of us are the same and to condemn others is to condemn ourselves, because if they cannot be forgiven for what they do, then neither can we be forgiven for what we do. If we condemn them for their behaviour then god condemns us for ours.
So, I ask, where is our ministry to homosexuals and lesbians in Canada today? Which church ministers to them? Who are the missionaries living among them, befriending them, living like them, going to their parties, talking to them, walking the parades with them? There is a lot of condemnation, but where is the work towards salvation? Where are the Christians who have become as homosexuals so they may save some? They are few and far between indeed.
Jesus laid a serious obligation on his followers, and it applies equally to ministers and elders in the Church as to laity, perhaps more so. It is found at Matthew 18:6 and is repeated in Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2:–
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
To ask the opening question once more, “How many have been turned away from Christ by the attitudes and actions displayed towards homosexuals?” Even if it is only one, that is enough for those who are responsible to be condemned themselves.
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