We’re almost 2 weeks away from it now, but I continue to get comments on the “Sound Bites” series that essentially dealt with the issue of gay marriage.
I was expecting a poop storm of controversy from both sides of this issue and anticipated an avalanche of email that frankly I don’t have time to answer. I also wanted people to get as much clarity as possible & to give those who see things differently from where the sermon came out to be able to push back a little, so as a part of the weekend we had an “Extended Chat Room” – essentially almost 2 hours of Q & A. I had people write their questions on paper so they could ask what they really wanted without feeling embarrassed or pressured to go with what they felt like the flow of the group was.
There were 3 questions I wanted to discuss – I will paraphrase them here:
QUSTION: WE HAVE SAID THAT JOURNEY IS A “COME AS YOU ARE” CHURCH & THAT OUR DESIRE IS THAT OUR DOORS STAY WIDE OPEN. BUT DO HOMOSEXUALS HAVE TO CHANGE WHEN THEY COME TO CHRIST?
ANSWER: Not changing is not on the table for anybody that comes to Christ. In this particular message I said that Jesus desires to come in & wreck your life. He will not leave things as they are. He will turn us away from our broken strategies for security, significance & happiness. No one who comes to Christ should think that He is planning to leave his or her life as is. He will insist on Lordship over every area of your life. Including your sexuality. There will be several Romans 12:1 moments along they way.
MY QUESTION: why we are so concerned to make sure that gay people who come to Christ change, yet we are content to let the greedy, covetous person (something Jesus seemed far more concerned about) stay as is indefinitely. The gossip (which Peter lumped in with murderers) can hide out in the church for years. We need to cast a big enough vision of the “with God life” that all the things standing between us and God, greed, harsh speaking, pride, gossiping, pornography, homosexuality, religion everything is “loss” that Paul said he gladly endured to gain Christ. Jesus said that when it is like a person stumbling on a treasure in a field which when one finds it, sells all that he has for JOY so that he can gain the treasure.
QUESTION: ARE WE WATERING DOWN THE GOSPEL JUST TO GET MORE PEOPLE IN THE DOOR?
ANSWER: No! We are not adding one drop of H2O to the radical sinner loving grace of God. We are going to take grace risks & keep our focus on the “power under” Kingdom, looking for opportunities to serve & love even those who consider us their enemies.
MY QUESTION: Why do we always think more severity, more legalism, louder volume means we are NOT watering down the gospel. I am thinking of Jesus 3 back-to-back parables in Luke 15. They were given in response to the complaint that arouse about Jesus hanging out with scumbags. Essentially the parables are saying, “you are concerned with the kind of people being let into the kingdom? Well it’s way worse than you think!!!” Of course the story climaxes with the shocking, outrageous story of the Prodigal Son”. That’s the gospel. No, we aren’t watering down.
QUESTION: WHY DON’T WE JUST SAY, “THIS IS A SIN”?
ANSWER: We did. We do. We will. But one thing that IS different about doing church that includes seekers is how you talk about things. I am convinced we can talk about anything in our services & still be seeker inclusive. But you can’t do what some of us have come to call “fly by-s”. A fly by is when you just drop a off the cuff comment to the crowd from whom you expect knowing nods. This works in a crowd of seasoned church people (actually I don’t think it does; it just seems to, but this is another subject). You assume that people are basically up to speed & share your biblical background, your church culture assumptions & conclusions. If seekers are in the house, you need to fit your comments into God’s vision for their lives, for this world, for the life-together community called the church. I think the reason a lot of people have a negative view of God & bristle at his prohibitions is that WE have not learned to speak of them in the context of vision. Also, there are a lot of things that are “sin”. Homosexuality is not commented on very often in the scripture. Yes it’s there, but not nearly as much as say, greed, oppression of the poor, idolatry etc. Why is this the line in the sand sin? As Greg Boyd says, when did this become the deal breaker sin?
The night was a great night. The vast majority of the questions were basically along the lines of “how do I put this radical love thing into practice with my gay friend, co-worker, children, brothers, parents”.
I’ve said before I think we need & most people are Journey are hungry for a new way of speaking about this. Hopefully this has moved us to that end.