Friday, April 25, 2008

Day of Silence

Today is what is being dubbed as the "Day of Silence". It's a nationwide (maybe worldwide?) push to bring awareness to the harassment, violence, and name calling that homosexual students face. It's of course sponsored and promoted by many groups. It's also of course opposed by many groups. Students in school are going to be silent for the day as a way to bring awareness to the issue and show support for those who are gay. As a youth pastor, I get lots of email and things in the mail from Christian organizations all the time. Many have focused on this day and warned of the slippery slope that a day like this can be. They have talked about the "homosexual agenda" and the "indoctrination" of our students. Many of these organizations have encouraged active opposition to our schools, including keeping kids home today. I was asked what I thought about it recently.

To be honest, I think that most of these issues that come up would just go away and not be that big of a deal if we didn't have such strong reactions to them. It's like when your mom used to say "they only make fun of you because of the reaction the get - if you stop reacting, they will stop messing with you." While I'm sure that analogy has its limits, I kind of feel like this issue is one of those things. We make it into a bigger deal than it really is. Many of the organizations I heard from were really hyping this thing up. I don't know if they had their facts wrong or maybe just my community is different, but many of the things they were warning about simply weren't true. There was no forced participation, there was no disruption of class allowed, there was no school sponsored events. It's simply a student club led demonstration of silence. What kind of indoctrination happens from people being silent anyway?

At any rate, I wrestled with what the Christian response should be to something like this. I definitely think the Bible is clear about homosexuality - it's a sin. But I don't share the view that somehow homosexuality is worse than heterosexuality outside of its proper context of marriage. I see pride, arrogance, envy, materialism, injustice, self-righteousness, hate, racism, lust, and every other sin as being right there along side homosexuality. In fact in the Scriptures it seems like things like being disobedient to parents is listed right along side homosexuality as sin all the time. I wonder why there is such a strong reaction to this particular sin? I understand for many they see it as an attack on the family. But so is divorce, and pornography, and selfishness, and lots of other things that we don't get that riled up about.

In youth group this week, I led a discussion about all of this. Our students really seem to get it. Most of them would agree that homosexuality is wrong. They believe the Bible to be their authority on that. And yet, they see that anger and protests really aren't the best way to respond to things like this. For one thing, they simply reinforce the picture that Christians are against everything. There is very little we are known for being in favor of. But secondly, they understand that grace is big. It's really big. It's big enough to cover my sin, as well as the sins of others. They also realize that the Scriptures are pretty clear about who gets to judge people for their sins, and it aint us. The Scriptures are also pretty clear about loving people, and that it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance. I love to picture Jesus when he was confronted with people in sin. Take the woman caught in adultery for example. Jesus agreed that the law said she ought to be stoned for her sin. But in an absolutely brilliant moment he is able to point out to everyone there ready to kill this woman that they are all guilty of the same law. When they all walk away shamed, Jesus turns to the woman and says "where are your accusers?" They are all gone, the woman responds. And then Jesus says "Neither do I condemn you." Wow! That is huge! Of course it doesn't end right there, because Jesus, like he always does, is constantly moving people closer to the kingdom and to Himself. He loves us way too much to let us stay where we are at, or to let us continue the way that we are living. He tells the woman "Go and sin no more." It's beautiful really. I don't condemn you, but take a step forward. Learn to live life better. There is a right way to live. There are things that are true. But Jesus seems to invite people to discover that reality rather than condemning and getting angry with sin. More than anyone else, it's the religious people that Jesus seems to get angry with.

There are many other examples of Jesus doing this same thing. The woman at the well who was on her 5th man, living with him, not married, divorced 4 times. There's Zachaeus, who was a well known swindler and thief. In fact his story is amazing. Jesus simply says "I must eat at your house tonight." Instantly, Zachaeus is transformed, voluntarily repenting of his sin and making restitution with everyone he had stolen from.

Well this is a long post. But I hope that the church will become more intent on taking on the name of Jesus than we will be with pointing out sin. Jesus - "Friend of sinners." How great would that be?


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