Comfortable Sins

I have been involved in an interesting conversation this week on another blog and wanted to share a couple of observsations here.

While the post was a review of Andrew Marin’s book Love is an Orientation, the comments below quickly shifted gears to sharing personal experiences concerning the relationships between conservative evangelicals and the LGBT community. Most experiences were from those in the Christian LGBT community who had experienced painful rejection and judgmental treatment from the church at large. Hurt feelings were still quite apparent as they wondered aloud how a church that tolerates gossip and greed and pornography and adultry can’t also tolerate a faithfully married gay couple who just wants to worship the same God they serve.

With the question posed like that, I wonder the same thing.

Why is it that there are so many “comfortable sins” we tolerate in the church, but have chosen to rise up in unified disgust with this one? Is it the fact that it’s the most unknown? The most feared? Is it because it’s the one sexual sin that has the fewest participants? After all, when more than half of unmarried church members admit to sexual activity in a given year and 20% of church going men admit to having had an affair at some point in their marriage, who’s going to speak out against extra-marrital sex? Who’s going to be the first to jump off the gossip train when 99.9% of us would be sad if it quit running? How can you confront someone with their greed when you are coveting what they have?

We might have a better chance of convincing the world that Jesus is worth loving if we first loved Him enough to present Him with a spotless bride. We can’t convince the world of their sin as long as we continue to hide our own.

Here was the conclusion I posted at the end of the blog:

I too have spent much time wondering about this issue of confrontation of sin in the church. Much of the problem, I believe, is that, for so long, the church has overlooked “straight” sexual sin and has suddenly decided to stand up to homosexual sin as an overwhelming deviation of the plan of God for sexuality.

The problem is not so much the response to homosexuality as it is the church’s response to sexual sin in general. I speak to this issue having been raised in a strict Southern Baptist upbringing and having struggled with my own issues concerning homosexuality.

As long as I continued to compare my sin struggles with other people, I had justification to continue in my sin. “My sexuality isn’t hurting anyone else! At least I’m not married and cheating on my husband.” or “How dare So-and-So tell me who I can and cannot love! Didn’t he get caught having and affair?” As long as we lower the standard for behavior to the level of humanity, we will always meet that standard.

As believers, however, our standard is not humanity, it’s a holy and perfect God who says we all fall short of His glory. …What we all truly do is justify our pet sins while condemning those who equally justify their own sins instead of ours. As long as we all look to one another as the standard for combating sin, we will never move. None of us. The rich man driving the Hummer will continue in his materialism, the deacon will continue to use pornography, the stay at home mom will be jealous of the working single woman and the working single woman will be bitter about her singleness, the homosexual will continue to identify himself more in his sexuality than in his role as an image bearer of God. When we compare ourselves to other sinful fallen people, we will never see the need to rise above our sinfulness.

So to get the conversation away from comparisons to other humans who live in a world with an infinite array of various shades of gray, let’s look back at the one perfect standard God set up. It is not the church that set up a black or white dichotomy of straight v. gay. There is no gray area with God. Gray areas are ways we attempt to justify our sin. Simple as that. God says we are foolish or wise, right or wrong. To commit one sin is to have committed them all in the eyes of a holy God. This isn’t to make God out to be a cosmic kill-joy bent on our destruction. He is a loving and holy God who desires us to recognize our sinfulness so we recognize a need for a Savior. Not only does He point out to us our need, He provides the needed salvation! We all fall short of His glory, not just those of us who commit sins the rest of us don’t like or understand. If God has one perfect way to do all things and we as people have found a myriad of ways to twist that one thing, then we need to see what God says about that one thing in order to be able to take a stand as a church on any issue of sexuality and gender.

First, what was God’s original purpose in marriage? Why did he create us to be in relationship with other people? What was His purpose in creating sex? It was his plan, after all… If God created it one way, why do we think we have a better way to it than the one who made it? And if you think that the Bible isn’t clear in what God says about sex, why do you even bother worshiping God at all? If we serve a God too weak to ensure that His intended Word to His people is transmitted to each generation of those who serve Him, then we serve a God too weak to deserve our worship and Paul was right; we above all men most deserve to be pitied.
It is possible to have a loving yet steadfast stance against all forms of sexual sin, but it requires us to take a hard look at how our own lives also don’t match up to God’s one perfect plan. And as fallen people, it’s always easier to look at the sins of others than to look at our own. …

The truth of the matter is that our heavenly Father desperately loves us, but He loves His own glory more. As those who claim to live our lives for His glory, we need to learn all we can about Him, his nature, his love, his holiness if we are to ever be conformed to the image of Christ. Pointing out the sins of others will never cure our own; only Jesus can do that, and thankfully, He has! It is only his redeeming work in our lives that can rid any of us of the sin which so easily entangles, whatever sin that may be.

So, what comfortable sin has you entangled? What are you going to do about it?

Encouragement for the Weary Soul

The two disciples who walked to Emmaus and conversed together, and were sad, were true believers. We may not judge men by their occasional feelings. The possession of gladness is no clear evidence of grace; and the existence of depression is no sure sign of insincerity. The brightest eyes that look for heaven have sometimes been holden so that they could not see their heart’s true joy. Be not cast down, my brethren and sisters, if occasionally the tears of sadness bathe your cheeks. Jesus may be drawing near to you, and yet you may be troubled by mysteries of grief.

The Lord Jesus Christ came to the two disciples, and took a walk of some seven miles with them to remove their sadness; for it is not the will of our Lord that his people should be cast down. The Savior does himself that which he commanded the ancient prophet to do. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.” Thus he spake and thus he acts. He was pleased when he went away to send us another Comforter, because he wishes us to abound in comfort; but that promise proves that he was, and is, himself a Comforter. Do not dream, when in sadness, that your Lord has deserted you; rather reckon that for this very reason he will come to you. As her babe’s cry quickens the mother’s footsteps to come to it more speedily, So shall your griefs hasten the visits of your Lord. He hears your groanings; he sees your tears—are they not in his bottle? He will come to you as the God of all consolation.

Observe that, when the Savior did come to these mourning ones, he acted very wisely towards them. He did not at once begin by saying, “I know why you are sad.” No; he waited for them to speak, and in his patience drew forth from them the items and particulars of their trouble. You that deal with mourners, learn hence the way of wisdom. Do not talk too much yourselves. Let the swelling heart relieve itself. Jeremiah derives a measure of help from his own lamentations: even Job feels a little the better from pouring out his complaint. Those griefs which are silent run very deep, and drown the soul in misery. It is good to let sorrow have a tongue where sympathy hath an ear. Allow those who are seeking the Lord to tell you their difficulties: do not discourse much with them till they have done so. You will be the better able to deal with them, and they will be the better prepared to receive your words of cheer. Often, by facing the disease of sorrow the cure is half effected; for many doubts and fears vanish when described. Mystery gives a tooth to misery, and when that mystery is extracted by a clear description, the sharpness of the woe is over. Learn, then, ye who would be comforters, to let mourners hold forth their wound before you pour in the oil and wine.
                                                                                                                –Charles Spurgeon, “Folly of Unbelief”, August 28, 1887

The entire sermon is well worth reading, both for those who need encouragement and for those love to encourage.