Sunday, June 30, 2013

Insufficient Love / Insufficient Hatred

A couple weeks back, Exodus International, a prominent ministry that offered hope for homosexuals who wished to be made straight, called it quits. Exodus president Alan Chambers offered an apology (posted at Christianity Today) that left many Christians scratching their heads, and others lauding him for his humility. The apology was primarily for the negative emotional consequences that many of the program's participants experienced as they tried to divorce themselves from the homosexual lifestyle. However, he went further in addressing the Church as a whole, apologizing for our attitudes towards the LGBT community, while proposing a new ministry to bridge the gap between the two.

Now, I could go on to present my own feelings about his apology, in what ways I thought were positive, and in what ways I felt he went too far, but what I really was struck the most by was the reactions in the comments below the CT news article. A vast majority fell in one of three categories:
1) Those who were offended by his apology, citing Scripture for God's view of homosexuality as sin,
2) Those who applauded him for his loving, accepting attitude towards the LGBT community, and
3) Unbelievers who simply found the argument to be justification for their unbelief.

What I took away from the conversation was how we as the Church find ourselves struggling to find the right balance between love of the sinner and hatred of sin. In our imperfect humanity, we are insufficient in both extremes. Even those of us who hate the sin of homosexuality do not hate it sufficiently, as our Lord does, because we don't hate it for the perfect reason. If we're honest with ourselves, we mostly hate homosexuality because we have no draw to it. We don't understand how anyone could be tempted in such a way. As a sin, it is very unappealing for us. On the other hand, heterosexual lust is something we can relate to. We hate that we struggle with it, but deep down, we really love to indulge that sin. This same love of sin that we hate to love applies to many other things that we give ourselves liberty, and a little grace, to accept in our lives. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that we don't make any effort to abstain from these sins, but we're probably a whole lot more forgiving of ourselves when we give in than we are of the homosexual who won't let go of his/her sin.

So how do we hate sin as God hates it? We need to recognize sin for what it does to us. Every sin harms the sinner, and most likely others in the process. God hates all sin because it is damaging to his creation. We are all created in His image, and He hates to see His creation suffer. His hatred of our sin is out of His perfect love for each of us. That applies to those of us who call ourselves believers, just as it does to the practicing homosexual. This perfect love produces perfect hatred of sin. Though many of us who stand for biblical truth are speaking out on the sin of homosexuality, we are incapable of sufficiently hating the sin, because we are incapable of sufficiently loving the sinner. Those of us on the other extreme of the argument, though they base their arguments on love for the homosexual, likewise do not sufficiently love the sinner, because they don't sufficiently hate the damage the sin is incurring on the ones they say they love. God loves us, but that doesn't mean He desires to give us what we want. Our ways are not His, and vice versa.

The point of view that brings this all into focus is that which is shared by the unbelievers. Looking in, they see the hypocrisy of those of us pointing to the sin, pointing out our own sins that we're not sufficiently offended by. On the other hand, their embrace of the sin should be alarming to those within the Church who find themselves agreeing with their godless views. It's a reminder that we need to find the right balance. One of the most quoted passages in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 13. The first verse states, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." The comments below the article gave me, as a believer, an unpleasant sound. I fear they are fairly representative of the American Church. I know it doesn't help when the secular news media puts the spotlight on the absolute worst examples of our point-of-view, but there are ways we can improve. We need to be mindful of how we appear in the eyes of the sinner. We need to learn to speak, as Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, "the truth in love." It's a balance that may be impossible to achieve in this lifetime, but I know we can do better. I know we can learn to better love the lost. We need to see them as Jesus saw them. Matthew 9:36 says, "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." We need to learn to see the lost this way.

As for the unbeliever, (if you happen to be reading this), I'd ask you to learn to extend to believers the kind of grace you ask us to extend to you. I hope you recognize that being a Christian doesn't make us perfect. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness. As insufficient as our love for the sinner may be, our Lord's grace is sufficient for all of us who believe. Romans 5:12-21 speaks of our sin, and Jesus Christ's sacrificial atonement for it. Verse 17 says, "For if by the one man’s (Adam's) offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." I pray that you will one day experience the perfect love of our perfect Lord, despite our imperfect attempts to convey it.

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