Don’t Apologize on my Behalf, Mr. Chambers: The Theological Implications of Corporate Apologies


I’ve had several people ask my opinion on today’s press release from Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International.

In it, Alan makes the following statement:

“It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the Church’s treatment of the LGBTQ community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt,” said Chambers. “Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.”

I have watched the changes in the last year in Exodus International very closely. In 2005, when I first sought hope and healing concerning my lifelong unwanted same sex attractions, I found both in an Exodus affiliated ministry. I worked for that same ministry for a brief time, attended Exodus Freedom conferences, served at Love Won Out events, and even spoke at the Freedom Conference held at Ridgecrest two years ago.

I have a deep love and appreciation for the courage and compassion of those who serve with Exodus and whom I consider to be friends and fellow workers in an extremely isolated and challenging area of ministry.

Because of that, I have remained relatively quiet about all of the changes taking place, but I’m beginning to think a response to these latest comments may be in order. Please pray for wisdom and grace as I process through Alan’s statement and seek to see his heart while still clinging tightly to truth AND love of Christ as found in His Word.

Honestly, I haven’t digested all of Alan’s statement quite yet, and I would like to listen to his message from the Freedom Conference tonight before fully commenting.

However, my initial thought applies to us all.

As believers, we need to be VERY careful both asking for and offering forgiveness on a corporate level, both from a group of people and to a group of people.

If we are to forgive like Jesus, we do so individually and specifically, not generally and corporately.

To apologize with “we” statements concerning the Church borders dangerously on universalism, and I would respectfully ask fellow believers to refrain from apologizing on behalf of the Church to an individual or to another corporate body of people.

As a priesthood of believers, not a single one of us speaks on behalf of the whole.

If you want to apologize, do so for yourself, but not on behalf of the entire Body.

To read Alan’s statement, click here.

Advertisements

The Protecting Shadow of Jesus


I read a student essay today that I wanted to share with you all.

The question was: “With which anonymous person in John 7-9 do you relate most and how does this specific story fulfill John’s purpose for writing as stated in John 20:30-31?”

A basic “reflect and let me see you get it” essay. I wasn’t expecting anything too terribly profound. Then I read this.

I hope that, when I grow up, I love Jesus half as much as this 9th grader. She chose to write about the woman caught in adultery:

“I relate to her because I’ve been caught sinning, maybe not as publicly, but I know the humiliation. I also know the feeling of Jesus’ shadow over me, protecting me and standing between me and my accuser. It doesn’t make the situation any less humiliating, but it does help me realize that I don’t need man’s approval because I have a Savior that will back me up every time.”

God has me “teaching” these kids b/c I have SO MUCH to learn from them. What a beautiful description of our Savior.

The Faces of Islam


In recent days, there has been so much violence in the Middle East directed toward Americans. And our reaction is, understandably, to take a defensive position. I want to defend myself and my friends, shout from Twitter and everywhere else that not all Americans are “like that” (whatever “that” may be). Whether the riots are about the anti-Islam movie trailer or not, I want them to know that some Americans watched and thought it was horrible. Horrible acting (at the very least), horrible caricature of their culture, disrespectful, most likely offensive.

But I also want to say, “Violence is certainly not the way to protest a cheap movie that portrays your faith as violent.”

I want to say those things to them. But I have no way to make contact with the Muslim world. I do, however, have the ability to make contact with the American, Christian world. And with this tiny little platform I have here on the Internet, I want to remind you that while this may be the face of Islam we think is blowing up the world today…


(Photo Credit, Mohammed Abu Zaid, AP)

…these are the faces of Islam that rocked my world and flipped my perspective upside down when I spent time in Kabul and Dashti Barche, Afghanistan, in 2007.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Don’t let the face of Islam overshadow the faces. Remember the faces.

Pray for the faces.

Pray that the Prince of Peace will continue to make Himself famous in the lives of these precious people.

Pray that Christians in America will remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness.

Pray that we will see these people not as our enemies, but as prisoners of war who are held captive by our spiritual enemy.

Pray.

The Sins of Our Youth


Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O God! Psalm 25:7

This was the daily verse that appeared in my Twitter feed this morning. Thinking on some things I knew were coming up today, I was reflecting on the past a bit, and I was in a regretful frame of mind. My knee-jerk reaction to reading it was, “‘Remember not the sins of my youth.’ That must be nice. I can’t seem to get away from them.” Not exactly a heart of thankfulness to a loving and forgiving God, but I’ll blame it on the fact that I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and being awake definitely helps my spiritual well-being.

There are times in which it would be nice to be able to forget the sins of our youth. Some choices we make really do stay with us for a lifetime, even when we want to shake them off, be free from them and literally move on. But what we must remember is that Christ, by remembering not our sins, does allow us to move on. Those choices cannot be changed, and the consequences remain, but there is freedom from the condemnation of those sins. The word remember here isn’t the opposite of “forget” but means “don’t hold it against me”. The psalmist is saying, “I’m not that person anymore, please don’t hold my past over my head anymore.” And he makes a case to God for why God should not hold his sin against him.

First, the psalmist says that God’s love is everlasting. A loving God forgives sins, never to bring them up again. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Isaiah says that in God’s love he took our sins upon His back, delivering us from a pit of destriction (Is. 38:17). Love doesn’t throw us back in the pit.

Second, the psalmist tells God that no longer holding our sin against us is for the sake of His goodness. How is forgiving our sin good for God? One way is that it enables us to join Him in His work. Now, does God really need us to do His work? No, but in His plan, He asks us to join Him in His Kingdom work. Makes sense to me; work is always easier when you’re doing it with people you love. But what the psalmist is saying is that, when our sins are forgiven and we are able to stand up from underneath their oppressive load, we can then take upon ourselves His easy load of service for the Kingdom. We can’t carry our sin and His Kingdom simultaneously. When we allow Him to take the sin, and the accompanying secrecy, shame, guilt, condemnation, it frees us up to serve Him like He has called us to serve Him.

A prime example of this is found in the life of Peter. I relate more to Peter than to any other person in Scripture, and he is a great testimony of being set free from the sins of his youth for the ultimate goodness of God. In Luke 22, Jesus tells Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus knows that Peter is about to fail Him miserably. He says, “I’m praying that you won’t. But when you do…” Have you ever had a conversation with someone like that? Has anyone had that conversation with you? “I’m warning you. I know where this is headed, and it’s going to be bad. I don’t want you to, but I know you’re going to anyway.” That’s pretty much what Jesus tells Peter.

But He adds something to the end of the statement. He adds hope and purpose to the failure. He tells Peter, “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

So why does God forget our sins but not allow us to? One reason is because we can’t use past failure to connect with and strengthen others if we act as if it never happened. God trades in our beauty for ashes, He restores the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25), and He works all things together for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28). And for Him to be able to make the worst decisions of our life beneficial, they must be exposed to the light and applied to the lives of others.

My ashes couldn’t have been traded for beauty if there hadn’t been people who had previously been sifted by Satan like wheat and then obediently strengthened this sister. Same goes for me. When I want to forget my times of sifting and “move on” with life, I remember that those times are a waste if they are not used to strengthen those behind me who are still spinning from their own sifting.

So I am thankful that God remembers not the sins of my youth. But today I am equally thankful that He makes sure I never forget them.

Do You Bully Jesus?


Yesterday’s post was admittedly inflammatory. Yet I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit working through Paul intended that passage to be so. God is serious about sin, and He desires us to be as well. Our Savior is only as big as we recognize our need to be saved. Small sin, small savior. Usually one made in our image that we pull out in times of trouble, like he’s a good luck charm. That’s not a Savior; that’s an idol. A lucky rabbit’s foot, maybe.

Paul’s illustration of forcing Jesus to participate in sexual sin is shocking. It jars us to the core. It scars for life, as one friend told me this week when I shared the illustration with her. But how does that same principle play out in the sins that we as people find not quite so heinous? Humans are notorious for ranking sin, and usually the sins of others rank far worse than our own pet sin. But to God, they are all equally heinous. There are not big sins and smalls sins because they are all infinitely offensive to an infinitely holy God. It’s not that there are no big sins; it’s that there are no small ones.

“I don’t participate in any sort of active sexual sin,” you may say. Don’t think yourself in the clear. This principle of forcing Jesus into sin applies to ALL sin, not just sexual sin.

In addition to my counseling ministry, I teach at a local high school. And if you work with teens, you daily deal with the one recurring and constant torture: bullying. Whether it’s physical, verbal, psychological or technological, bullying and peer pressure are a daily part of the teen age experience. But it’s not just for teens. Once I had a student ask me in tears how old you had to be when girls would stop being so mean and just be nice to one another. I told her that I wasn’t sure, but when I reached the age that it happened, I would let her know. I’m 31 and I’m still waiting.

Bullies are generally defined as those who pick on or mess with other students. Those who force others to do things their way, who run the show, command attention, fear, and control. Nobody likes a bully, usually even the bully.

If we apply the principle found in 1 Corinthians 6, that because we are one with Christ in the Spirit, sin in the life of a believer forces Jesus to participate in acts against his will, then we can only conclude that every time we as believers sin, we bully Jesus. Think back to the day of His crucifixion. He knows bullying intimately. He was beaten, scorned, mocked. I can imagine that growing up wasn’t a piece of cake for him either. He never took part in bullying other students and was probably mocked as well. We know his brothers picked on him and claimed He was crazy right up to the moment He appeared to them after the resurrection. Jesus knew the pain and rejection of being bullied on this earth.

Jesus knows it today. He desires to be with us and we psychologically bully him by isolating and ignoring His call to our hearts for worship and fellowship. He wants no corrupt communication to proceed from our lips, but only words that will build up fellow believers, yet we force him to participate in venomous backbiting and gossip. Jesus desires to be healthy physically so He is able to do the will of the Father to best of His ability, yet we entrap him in physical cages of gluttony like a 6th grader stuck in a locker.

Understanding the heart of Christ helps us understand the brokenness He experiences over our sin. At the end of Luke 19 we see both his broken heart and his righteous anger over the hard heartedness of His people and the blatant sin that it caused. While looking over the city, He weeps for their short sightedness and coming destruction because of their refusal to repent and believe. Once He gets to the city, He righteously cleans out His Father’s house of prayer. Jesus loves his people fiercely; but He hates their sin severely.

So what do we take from this short series on the impact of sin?

1. God’s Word is for our good, the best and ideal from the only One who loves any of us perfectly, as we desire to be loved.

2. Refusing to trust Him and His love leads us to false loves and choices that cause us, at best to settle for less than what He has for us and, at worst, brings us horribly painful consequences.

3. Our sin breaks the heart of God. All sins. Every last one. His heart breaks because of His great love for us and his great hate for the sin that damages our lives and separates us from Him.

4. To solve this seemingly hopeless situation, He showed His great love for us in that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The one who was bullied took the punishment for the bullies so that He might have relationship with them. Oh, what a Savior!

Tony Dungy is my Hero


Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who hare spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, deceives himself. Galatians 6:1-3, ESV

I watched the press conference yesterday morning in which the Philadelphia Eagles formally announced their signing of Michael Vick. There has been great public outrage since word leaked Thursday night that the Eagles had signed him to a two year deal. One person in Philadelphia wondered aloud on a radio program why Vick had not been executed for his role in a dogfighting ring. The fact that, as a society, we are more outraged at dog fighting than we are of child molestation or spousal abuse is outrageous to me, but that’s another subject for another time. What impressed me during this press conference was Michael Vick’s mentor and adviser, former NFL coach Tony Dungy. Coach Dungy is an outspoken Christian. In fact, one of the reasons cited for his decision to leave coaching was the fact that he wanted to have more time to contribute to the lives of young men who needed guidance and direction. He left a multi-million dollar job to pursue the work of mentor ministry.

The Eagles have been blasted in the media for giving a second chance to Vick when he hasn’t proven that he deserves one. Last time I checked, that’s why we called a “chance” and not a “guarantee.” Michael Vick doesn’t deserve a second chance. None of us do. But Coach Dungy didn’t provide Michael with a second chance, he extended to him the grace of Christ. He didn’t sit at his home in Tampa and pray that Vick would contact him. He went to Leavenworth and extended grace to him where he was. Grace doesn’t say, “There’s help available to you after you do this list of things to prove you deserve it.” Grace says, “You don’t deserve it, but I’m giving it to you anyway.” What Vick does with the grace extended to him is ultimately up to him. What we do with the grace extended to us by God is up to us.

I understand the world’s reaction to Vick; those in PETA who have set animal life as their idol have no concept of the grace and mercy of Christ to work in and change the life of a person. What I don’t understand are those who claim to be Christians who join in the verbal lynching of a man who has done what he can in the limited amount of time given to him to show himself to be broken and contrite. What he has done to “deserve a second chance” is that he has been willing to confess his sins, apologize for them, humbly speak out against them, and then allow a mentor to walk through life with him. I don’t know too many of us average joes who will allow someone to truly mentor us, for to be mentored you must first admit you don’t know it all and second, submit to the guidance of another.

Part of the problem with the prison system in America is that it is not truly designed to rehabilitate offenders. It’s used to mark them with the Scarlet Letter of “Felon” and then, as a pridefully blind society, we force them to carry that stigma for the rest of their lives. If you tell someone they’re nothing but a worthless ex-con enough times, they will believe you. Coach Dungy has set an example for his fellow Christians of how we should respond to those who have paid their debt to society and need to be brought back into society with the goal of making them productive members of society.

Mentoring takes time, it takes wisdom, it takes commitment. But it’s a command of Scripture that applies to the lowest of criminals, to the most famous of criminals and to everyone in between. After all, Scripture tells us that if you are guilty of breaking one law, you’ve broken them all in the eyes of God, so none of us is really aren’t any better than the dog abuser, the child molester, the thief, or the murderer. Before Christ, we are all criminals in the eyes of God, and we all need a mentor to guide us through this life.

Put in the wrong circumstances at the wrong time with the wrong people, I’m sure I would be capable of anything. May I never think so highly of myself to look upon anyone caught in sin and say, “That would never be me.” Such a self-righteous attitude is the first step down the slippery slope to entanglement in atrocious sin. I know. I’ve been there before, and it took someone willing to walk with me back up the dirty slope to get me out. And if, God forbid, there is another lesson I must learn in this life that must begin in the pit, I pray there is a Tony Dungy standing there who is willing to walk that road alongside me.