Monday, June 30, 2008

Loving The Sinner

MESSAGE: Power To Forgive Sins Pt. 1 (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 5.12-15

If you missed SHOUT this past week and you want to continue reading this blog, you need to go listen to the podcast. I'm not going to get into the gist of the message and the scripture here (which you'll need to know to get what I'm going to say here). What I want to talk about today is what happened in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday morning and how we as Christians should/must react to it.

If you're not aware already, one of the biggest celebrations of gay pride in the Midwest took place in Minneapolis this past Sunday by way of a gay pride parade, music, dancing, demonstrations, costumes, chants, etc.

"I like [the festival] because it actually shows tolerance. It shows what it means to be inclusive and by having a parade like this, where a lot of people can come, you can expose children and people to the fact that our society can be an open place, where everyone can get along," said Chauncey Dunn.

There are a million things wrong with this guy's line of thinking (tolerance, being "inclusive," exposing children, "can't we all just get along" mentality, etc.) A few quick Google searches will get you some results of pictures and videos from this year's gay pride celebration, which I can't in good conscience post on this blog.

Simply put, there are several things that irritate me about the whole gay agenda and the gay pride thing in Minneapolis this past weekend. I see quotes like the one above, and I watch posted videos and look at pictures of the event, and I end up shaking my head in disbelief.

Also, a lot of what I see makes me want to abandon any hope of ever getting the message of salvation to these people. I look at the quote from Chauncey and wonder how the gospel would EVER make sense to that guy. Is it even worth the time and effort to try to minister to this sub-culture?

This is the attitude that I feel the majority of the Christian church (and I must confess, myself as well sometimes) has with demographics such as the gay community: they're too far gone in their sin to ever come back. And thus, the church has to an extent, abandoned all hope in regards to ministry to these people.

This attitude is wrong, unbiblical, sinful, and full of pride - and it is NOT the attitude Jesus had.

When Jesus conversed with and healed the leper in Luke 5, he transcended several stigmas placed on people of the leper demographic: social stigmas (lepers were outcasts, not to be associated with because of their disease), and spiritual stigmas (lepers were considered to be such because they were under judgment by God - in other words, too far gone in their sin to ever come back - see above). What does Jesus' interaction with the leper mean? It means that he couldn't have cared less about the social stigmas of interacting with a leper. It also means that he had a desire to meet people in their sin and draw them out of it. He didn't abandon hope of getting the message of salvation to sinners; he didn't shake his head and sigh and be disgusted; he didn't think that the sinners he dealt with were too far gone in their sin to ever come back.

So what do we see Jesus do? He reaches out to sinners in their sin. He obviously knows the extent to which they are steeped in sin (no better or worse than homosexuals by the way), and reaches out to them because he loves them, he cares for them, and he wants to save them.

Unfortunately I think that we (the church) are all to quick to look away when we see people like homosexuals and think to ourselves, "They are too far gone in their sin to ever respond to the gospel." Then what do we do? We shake our heads in disgust, maybe complain to our friends about them, gossip at church about how evil homosexuals are, and sit back and enjoy our religiosity. If that's what we do, then we've got a joke of a faith, and we're no better than the Jews who were in disbelief when Jesus told them that he came for the humble sinners, and not the proud and self-righteous (I fully acknowledge, however, that many homosexuals are proud and self-righteous, but we need to minister to them anyway, even in their pride and self-righteousness - it's what Jesus did).

On an earlier blog, I posted a quote from a woman named Phoebe Palmer that has been weighing on my mind recently: "I have set it in my mind that one soul outweighs the universe." Do you believe that? If so, you need to realize that this includes the souls of people who disgust you and make you shake your head in disbelief.

What does it mean to minister to people like homosexuals? First of all, it does NOT mean condoning the lifestyle, or excusing the sin. This has become a problem with some Christians my age who have identified the problem with the church that I listed above. They recognize the problem and they want to minister, but sometimes in the end, they end up encouraging the sinner in his or her sin without ever addressing the sin problem (or repentance). Jesus didn't come just to love and accept people - he came to "cleanse" them, like he did with the leper. True, he did come to show love, but it wasn't some type of squishy, emotional love - it was a perfecting love (thanks, Jimmy Mac). That is to say that Jesus never shows anyone "love" without including a message to them about their need for salvation (you see this with Jesus and the rejects of society, and also with Jesus and his interaction with the wealthy and elite). We can't just go around "loving" people. Quite frankly, it doesn't work. I've been "loving" a lot of non-believers (unregenerate sinners, pagans) for a long time now, and they haven't come to Christ. So "loving people" can't be the only thing we're supposed to do. We're supposed to love the person, and let that love motivate us to deliver the gospel to them. In order to minister to people like homosexuals (I single out homosexuals merely because of the recent gay pride activities - you can place any and every person and people group on the list of people who need to be ministered to, because we're all sinners) you have to do what Jesus did: love the person, recognize, acknowledge, and confront the sin, and then offer them the means for cleansing.

So what has happened to the church? Why do we sometimes shake our heads and feel that it's a fruitless endeavor to minister to the likes of these? It's quite simple really: pride. We think we're so great and they're so terrible. We think we've got some kind of special merit that they don't have. We think there's something lovely about us that makes Jesus want to save us. Nothing could be further from the truth! Every human being on this planet has the potential for the most evil, perverted, disgusting, murderous, acts imaginable. In order to minister to sinners we need to realize that WE are sinners. In order to minister to homosexuals we need to realize that we have that same potential for sin within us, and it's only by God's grace that we haven't gone down that particular route (whatever that route may be: lying, sexual immorality, porn, stealing, lusting, coveting, etc.).

I like the way The Way of the Master suggests to minister to those who are gay: if a homosexual tells you that they were born that way you say, "Yep. I was too. I was born with the same potential for sin that you have," and then take it from their into addressing the person's specific sin, and then go into the gospel.

May God give us wisdom to see ALL people as he sees them: sinners in need of redemption. May God give us the strength and the courage to reach out to ALL people who need him. May God give us a burden and passion for the lost. May God give us compassion to look upon people in the same way that Jesus looked upon the leper. May God give us all these things in order to preach the gospel to all people, to the ends of the earth.

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