Homosexuality: Doing what Jesus would do pt2

What was the last great movie that you saw? Do you remember it? Movies and narratives has a great way of inspiring and depressing us, teaching us values and disvalues (ie. what not to value!), and etc. Many times, they provide us examples to follow and we learn how to act or react in various situations.

In the previous blog entry, I proposed that the church needed to take a stand for compassion and for truth and that by doing so, the church would be acting in a manner that is worthy of its calling.

In John 8:1-11, Jesus provides us a great example of taking a stand for compassion and for truth.[1] In short, the religious leaders bring him an adulterous woman and ask him what must be done. The answer, according to the Law, is to stone her. Jesus replies that whoever has never sinned can be the first to throw the stone. He then turns to write on the ground. The religious leaders shamefully slink off in shame and when Jesus looks up, they’re all gone. The adulterous woman waiting condemnation is not condemned, but is free to go.

I think this is a great story of Jesus, which provides us an example by which we can follow. There is a danger here of focusing only on one aspect of the story and not of the others, so let me try to make observations that show a complete picture of what Jesus did.

1. Sin is Sin

Jesus never tells the religious leaders that they are wrong in their observation, that the woman committed a sin and deserves death. Furthermore, he never tells the woman that what she did is ok or that committing adultery is acceptable. As Christians, we cannot tell people that having homosexual relationships or that entertaining homosexual desires/fantasies is ok. It’s not.[2]

2. The ultimate judge

Jesus indirectly affirms the law to stone an adulterer and but directly indicates that only the one without sin could cast the first stone. He was pointing out the hypocrisy in their hearts.[3] Did they really care about justice or were they merely using her to trap Jesus? Why were they condemning this woman for her sin when they themselves were sinful? Was her sin of adultery more grievous than their sin of hypocrisy and pride?[4] We should never use other’s sins and the resulting shame for our own benefit. Additionally, while we are to confront Christian brothers and sister with truth, our responsibility is not to disgrace people into being repentant; that is the Holy Spirit’s work.[5] God is the only one without sin and thus, as judge of the earth,[6] he is the only one worthy of judging people for their sins.[7]

3. Stand for compassion

When Jesus sees no one left but him and the woman, he asks the self-evident question of “has no one condemned you?” He sees a broken and shamed woman and acts compassionately toward her, withholding condemnation. It’s really easy for us to rant and rail against the sins and wickedness of others, until we are confronted with a human face which shows us the pain that one goes through by ostracized by society. When confronted with such a person, Jesus decided to act with compassion.

4. Stand for truth/righteousness

Interestingly enough, not only does Jesus not condemn her, but he commands her to not sin anymore. Widely forgotten or passed over by many using the story to push for acceptance of homosexuals, this half of the verse speaks volumes toward a God who is both compassionate and righteous. He loves us for who we are, but desires to see us changed. He invites us to come as we are, but to leave transformed. The Bible teaches us that in Christ, we are new creations and that as such, we should not conform our thinking to the way the world thinks.[8] Jesus espoused just that when he tells the adulterous woman to stop sinning.

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Narrative is such a powerful way to mold the way we think and shape how we respond to various situations. This passage is a great narrative and example from our Lord Jesus Christ to show us how we can relate to our homosexual friends and neighbors. He shows that we can both take a stand for compassion and for truth.

*This post series should really be posted in my other blog, but since I started it here, I will continue it for the benefit of those readers linked to this blog.  **The post on practical steps of how one can take a stand for compassion and truth will follow this. I believe that viewing Christ’s example first would be powerful for many of us.

[1] It should be noted that this passage is not in the earliest manuscripts. According to renown scholar on John, Leon Morris, “The textual evidence makes it impossible to hold that this section is an authentic part of the Gospel (of John)” but that also “we can feel that the story is true to the character of Jesus. Throughout the history of the church it has been held that, whoever wrote it, this little story is authentic. (Morris, Leon 2011; Kindle)”
[2] Gen 19:4-5; Lev 18:22, 20:13; Matt 15:19-20; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:9-10.
[3] Mt 7:1-5 Jesus tells us in vs 1 that we are not to judge. He also teaches us that we should take the log out of our own eye before we can notice the speck in our brother’s eye.
 
[4] Luke 11:39-44; 20:45-47
 
[5] Jn 16:8-11; There is a difference between confronting a fellow believer with their sin, showing them God’s law, and exhorting them to repent…and trying to put them down or taking joy in showing them how sinful they are or acting superior “for their benefit”
 
[6] Isa 45:19
[7] We should not judge others (in the sense of looking morally down upon others and feeling spiritually superior), but we can judge others (in the sense of showing how one compares to the laws God has given and whether we break them or not). This will be further explored in another post.
[8] 2 Cor 5:17, Rom 12:1-2

Homosexuality: Doing what Jesus would do

My youth pastor used to say,”If you throw an orange against the wall, what do you get? Orange juice. If you throw a Christian against the wall, what do you get? A Christian.” His point was that struggles, tough situations and trying times bring out what we are made of (ie. our true natures). Our nation is currently in the midst of a cultural war and I believe this can be categorized as a trying time for the church. For a variety of reasons, Christian views and positions are slipping in this society. More and more people view homosexuality as not only amoral, but moral with consenting love held as the highest value. In addition, opposition to this alternative lifestyle is now considered immoral.  As in past generations, there has been a shift in views, leading to a climax in the “cultural wars.” My desire is that the church, when thrown up against the proverbial wall, would show that its true nature is Christ-like.

So in these times, how should the church act in a manner that is worthy of our calling (Eph 4:1)?  Let me suggest that there are two ideas that the church must stand on.

 

1) The church needs to stand for compassion.

In the past, the church has fought for the rights of slaves around the world (and still do!), protected the widows and children, provided for the poor and etc. The church historically has sided with the hurting and the shamed, as we should be doing. Why then are we not coming alongside those that are hurting and are shamed the most in our day and age? Why have we created a church culture that gives grace, love and acceptance only to those who are perfect (aka. those who are spiritually mature, have all the Sunday school answers, etc)? A cursory glance through the gospels shows/teaches us that Jesus had a heart for the disgusting, unhealthy woman who was bleeding for 12 yrs (Mt 9:22), he had dinner with the despicable tax collectors (Mk 2:15) he protects (or stands up for) a sinful woman (Lk 7:36-50), he heals a crippled woman (Lk 13:10-17) and withholds condemnation toward an adulterous woman (Jn 8:1-11). And its not just Jesus in the New Testament; God in the Old Testament upholds justice for those treated as helpless and second class citizens (Amos 5:12; 8:4, 6; Micah 3:9-11). If Jesus protected people who were considered shameful and disgraceful, shouldn’t we do the same? Jesus was the epitome of what it meant to embrace the brokenhearted, to protect the shamed and to love the disgraced. To him, there were no requirements to receive his love and affections. He did not discern whether one was worthy of his time and love; instead, he gave his love freely to all who would receive it. We should act in the same manner.

 

2) The church needs to stand for truth.

Without a doubt, this will be unpopular and confusing in light of the first idea. First, we are not called to win the popularity contest (Jn 15:20; 2 Tim 3:12). While we want to reach as many people as possible, we should not confuse that with being popular. God’s truths are inherently unpopular. Remember, we’re talking about a Father sacrificing his son (Rom 3:25), the need for blood (Heb 9:22), of a woman who never had sex giving birth to a baby (Mt 1:23), etc. To a non-Christian worldview, this is crazy, weird, confusing and bizarre…and that’s ok! Our job isn’t to convince people (God’s job) but to convey the message. Second, how does the church stand for compassion by loving people who break God’s law while also taking a stand for truth? In some sense, it’s quite easy. Take a look around your church. Do you love your fellow church members? I hope the answer is yes! If you do, then you can also love a gay person. Such a person is no different in their spiritual standing from the sinner who struggles with his temper, with lustful thoughts, with pride, etc. Homosexual desires are not a super sin that God condemns more than others. No, in terms of legal guilt before God, it’s a sin just as heterosexual lust and adultery is. Homosexual acts does not lead one closer to hell than adulterous heterosexual acts. It’s not more of a sin, its no less of a sin, but it is as much of a sin (1). This is what the church needs to preach and take a stand on.


Of course, that begs the question, “How do we actually take a stand for compassion and truth?” It may be tough, but Jesus did it when he protected the adulterous woman, without condemnation but concluded with a command to leave her life of sin (John 8:1-11). I’ll explore the “how” in a following post, but I think its important that as a church, we should internalize these beliefs first. Then, actions will inherently flow out from our internally held convictions.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Mark 12:31 (ESV)

For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.

John 18:37b (ESV)


Footnote: (1) Are some sins worse than others? In terms of degrees of sin, that can be a yes or no depending on what you mean. There is a legal sense in which all sin is the same. When we break one of God’s laws, we break the whole law (James 2:10-11). That is the sense in which I focused on above. The other aspect is the consequences of sin. Some sins have more harmful consequences to ourselves, to others, and to our relationship with God. Implications of degrees of sin can be found in John 19:11; Ezek 8:6, 13, 15; Mt 5:19. Degrees of seriousness in consequence is illustrated by looking at the consequence of a new Christian striking someone through losing his temper and a prominent Christian leader striking someone through losing his temper (Grudem 1994; 612).

3 Types of Apps for Leaders

There are many characteristics and tips one can learn in how to grow as a leader. We have a plethora of books to read and a saturation of conferences to attend. Like viewing the options at a very large buffet, we’ve more than enough options for leadership development. Many times, we’ll see an overlapping of principles and lessons taught. There’s only so much one can learn about being a leader. There’s the art of delegation, the art of listening, empowering others, servant-leadership, developing communication skills, developing successors or succession plan, etc. However, typically, one area that has been missing in the past was the area of technology. I believe that only in recent years has the topic of utilizing technology started to come up and even more so with the advent of the internet and mobile devices.

Here, I want to share three types of technology, specifically cloud-based apps/programs, that I use in my leadership capacities. In various ways, I think this can be useful for anyone to be and to grow as a leader.

 

1. Storage

I primarily use Dropbox and Skydrive for my storage (and sometimes Google Drive; more on that below). Basically, these are programs in which you store files onto your computer through the Dropbox or Skydrive folder. These are then synced with your account online, which then allows you to access them from multiple locations. For example, I’ve Word documents and powerpoint notes that I took while in seminary. I saved them to my Skydrive folder on my computer. Now, I can access those files while on my computer (via the regular Windows file system), on my iPhone and iPad (via the Skydrive app), and on someone else’s computer (via signing into the Skydrive website on their browser). Additionally, you can share files with others and/or send it to them by creating a link for them in these programs. 

So how do I use this in terms of leadership? I put into Dropbox/Skydrive all the pertinent files that I need for whatever organization or event I’m leading. For example, I’m the youth coordinator for Chinese Missions Convention in 2013. I’ve put all our documents on Google Drive and Dropbox so that in our high-level meetings, I can easily access the relevant information through my iPhone. This allows me to keep my laptop at home. I’m also able to share the documents that I’ve created so far in planning for the event with my teammates. Cloud-storage allows me access and sharing of information quickly and easily. As a leader, you don’t need to remember everything, you just need to be able to access and get information out quickly.

To get started on Dropbox, click here

To get started on Skydrive, click here.

 

2.  Productivity

This category is similar to the one above, but instead of merely storing files, you’re working on files. My two programs here would be Evernote and Google Drive. In short, each allows me to create documents through their program and then access it anywhere. Evernote’s strengths are primarily in taking down ideas and Google drives’ is in collaborative work.

How does I use these in terms of leadership? For Evernote, I take down notes for blog and/or sermon ideas. If I come across a good sermon illustration, I write that down. I also use Evernote, though the Chrome extensions of Peek and Clip to Evernote, to save good blogs that I read (remember: if you want to lead, you got to read). Lastly, I use Evernote to record my own sermons so that I can listen to them afterwards and critique them. This is part of the process of self-evaluation for self-growth. For Google Drive, I primarily use it in the context of meetings. I hold a video conference call with my core team for the CMC youth program about twice a month. During those meetings, we all sign into Google Drive and open up the document that holds our agenda. This allows us to be on the same page, to know what we need to talk about and take down notes together. As a leader, holding good meetings is important. You want to stay on track, you want to be respectful of people’s time, you want to keep people engaged, and you want to accomplish the goal(s) set for the meeting. Google drive can help with that.

To get started on Evernote, click here.

To get started on Google Drive, click here

 

3. Reading

If you want to lead, you need to read. This is a drum that’s been beaten so many times from leadership books, seminars and conferences. While the concept can be developed more fully another time, here’s how I apply this through technology. I buy most of my books now through Kindle, Amazon’s product line of tablets and e-book readers. The beauty is that its also a program that allows you to buy books through them and then read it on any device (smartphone, tablet, laptop). Kindle also syncs among devices your reading location, the bookmarks used and quotes highlighted. Best of all, you can access your whole library from a single small device (smartphone, tablet, etc) anywhere

How do I use this in terms of leadership? Easy. It removes barriers to reading and it encourages me to read. If you want to grow as a leader, you need to read. Using the Kindle app accomplishes that for me.

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With the increase availability of smartphones, wifi and 4g/LTE, I believe there are a lot of tools to help you as a leader. While this entry merely skims the top, hopefully it’ll get you started in thinking of how to leverage technology toward your benefit. They are not substitutes for leadership, but they are supplements to leadership. Use what you can to grow as a leader as well as leading.