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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Listen to Words

One of the popular arguments among "progressive Christians" is that the support of gay marriage is in line with the civil rights movement. We are also told it is the new version of accepting Gentiles into the church. As I sort of laid out yesterday there is a popular (among them) argument that is called the "shellfish argument." Basically it sounds like this: "Well the Bible condemns eating shellfish and we eat shrimp." Yesterday, based on two NT texts, we pointed out how silly this is. Today I want to begin with the end of the Acts reading about Peter's vision. Acts 11:18 in particular.

If one sees a parallel between Gentiles//Gays then it might be helpful to listen to the actual words. Peter said that the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentile household. Seeing that they had received the same gift as he and the apostles (this is the Gentile Pentecost event!) Peter says, "If then God gave them the same gift that He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" Ironically, Peter echoes the words uttered by Gameliel in Acts 5:33-39 ("if it is of God you will not be able to overthrow them") at his own trial before the elders. So this is one principle which must be remembered. The work of God may not fit what we expect (as true for conservatives as it is for liberals).

Tolerance and grace are interconnected. Sometimes people assume other groups cannot ever be part of God's people. Our own prejudices undergirds the judgments we make. We need to be attuned to our motivations. The church debates on marriage are fueled by politics and personal feelings (good and ill). The desire to be nice is nice, but it has little to do with truth. The desire to exhibit power over another is political and not inherently evil, but it is not centered in The Cross. No one is exempt from sinfulness.

Where I think the progressives make the error is not carrying the analogy of gay//gentile far enough. The final words of Peter are key. "Then God has given even to Gentiles the repentance that leads to life." Tolerance and openness is true. God's unconditional love is true. God does not rule out anyone ahead of time. He calls all people into relationship with Him. However, that call means one is invited to repent of one's sins. This leasds to the question, "what sins?" which leads to the answer, "those things which God has identified as outside His will." In areas of sexual morality the list is pretty clear.

Recent surveys indicate the younger people, even Christians, are more open to alternative sexual life styles. However, it is also the case that they buy into lots of sexual immorality of all sorts. People who "hook up" are not the ideal judges on sexual morality. We live in a hyper-sexual culture. We live in a relativist culture. So, yes, kids are more accepting and this is another indication that they need to come to conversion as well. Maybe church numbers will drop. Maybe people will say we are too harsh. That is fine. They said the same thing in ancient Rome about our ancestors....

Today we read Romans 14 at Morning Prayer. It is also something tokeep in mind. It is a powerful reminder that we are not to judge one another. Is sexual morality to be paralleled to the issues Paul identifies (debates on holy days and dietary practice)? Perhaps, but I think not. It is fair to ask the question. However, regardless of our opinion, we should embrace Paul's words, "let us not judge one another or put a stumbling block in the way of another." The recent news coverage of the gay professional athlete is but the latest step in this social debate. I have not seen any theological reason to undo church teaching. I have seen no exegetical or theological or moral argumentation that makes it clear that this "new thing" is of God. It is about power. In the past some unfaithful Christians abused homosexuals. In the present some unfaithful Christians have begun to abuse others in the name of tolerance. Sin. We need repentance. All of us.

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