Thinking about Orlando

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida

I was in the middle of a two-week road trip when I heard about the Orlando shooting. We were able to catch a few details while eating breakfast in hotels, but my internet-free flip phone never has much to say, and I was too busy driving 6,000 miles to really tune in to the story. When I finally was able to spend some time catching up on the internet, I was deeply disturbed by the tragedy, and equally frustrated by the reaction I was seeing on Facebook and the news media.

Let’s be clear. This act has nothing to do with Christians or Christianity. This was the choice of a hateful individual whose mind had been spoiled by a radical Islamic ideology. If we try to compare what urged Omar Mateen to murder innocent people to the internal conflict and hesitations we find in many Christians, we don’t really understand the difference. In August of last year, a Syrian refugee spoke to the UN Security Council about the horrors of being gay in the Islamic State. Here are some quotes from his testimony:

“In my society, being gay means death.”

“My father, who suspiciously monitored my every move, had learned I was gay. I bear a scar on my chin as a token of his rage.”  

“At the executions, hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding. If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death.”

I have a lot of Christians friends, from the deeply conservative to the radically progressive. None of them would throw a gay person from a building, or hit one in the face, or even claim to hate them. Not one. And it’s not because Jesus told us to love people. It’s because it is absolutely antithetical to what it means to be connected with the God of the Bible.

What about Leviticus? Doesn’t the God of the Bible tell his people to stone homosexuals along with adulterers and rebellious children?

At face value, it would seem that Scripture would support and even applaud the actions of Omar Mateen. But if it does, why don’t we see Jews or Christians acting on these Levitical mandates? Why would Jesus say that he didn’t come to eliminate the Mosaic Law, but to fulfill it, claiming that love for God and man is basically a summary of the Torah? The answer to these questions would fill another blog post, but for now, we should simply recognize that the witness of the Bible and the Quran are as different as the teachings and actions of their prophets.

When the gay marriage legislation was passed, I wrote a post about my own personal conflict over the issue: Ten-Foot Pole.

On the one hand, Jesus, who claimed to be a living witness of the mind and heart of Yahweh, emphasized love above all else. He didn’t speak a word about homosexuals, though he dropped the hammer on the hard-hearted conservatives of his day, claiming that they had more of a relationship with their Bibles than their compassionate, redemptive God.

However, on the other hand, as every parent knows, love does not mean letting a person just have or do whatever they want. When Jesus ate with the sinners and tax collectors, he called them sick, in need of a doctor. Obviously, love and acceptance are not the same thing. Does homosexuality fall outside God’s original intent as the Bible seems to claim? Or are those verses being misinterpreted?

This is not easy. If you disagree, I would guess that you either don’t have a close gay friend, or don’t have a clear grasp of Scripture. Either way, I urge you to be patient with the conversation, doing what you can to listen with an empathetic ear. It’s easy for me, a heterosexual believer, to make statements about what a person of a different sexual orientation should think or do. In the end, however, we will all stand before Christ. Our judgment will be personal. And it will be just.

If you think you are a fair-minded conservative, claiming to love homosexuals despite your conviction of Scripture, ask yourself this question: Would you think it was fair if Jesus allowed a fervent homosexual into heaven while rejecting a hard-hearted fundamentalist? Or would you show the same frustration as a first-century Pharisee, wondering how God could allow the uncircumcised Gentiles to inherit the blessings and promises of Israel?

If you think you are in line with Christ, loving and embracing all people despite their sexual preferences, ask yourself this question: Would you be comfortable with Jesus telling a homosexual that he or she put their own desires above the desires of God, twisting the clear witness of Scripture to move with the tides of popular culture?

I’m not about to assume what Jesus will decide, but I think these kinds of questions can test our hearts, letting us know if we truly love one another as we should, while at the same time truly embracing the authority and wisdom of our Creator.

14 thoughts on “Thinking about Orlando

  1. I am not A conservative or liberal, I am not well educated, I really never have done anything great according to these world standards or Christian standards. But I have live for 72 years, I have 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, I have been married 48 years, been a Christian for 48. I did go to Bible College, but I had to unlearn most of things I learn there.

    I fall short in what I am going say but it is my desire.

    There is one thing which means everything to me, that is the Lord Jesus Christ and His Heavenly Kingdom. He is my life, my business, my Hope, my hobby, my bread and meat. I think of Him and feel His present throughout the day and sometimes dream of Him at night. My love for Him is growing everyday, not lessens as time goes on. Therefore, I cannot carry on a friendship, or even a conversation without relating it to the Hope I have through Him. The faith that I have in Him along with His Holy Spirit drives and guides my life. I evaluate people, books, ideas and actions according to the Heavenly Hope and will it advance the kingdom of God.

         I marveled that the kingdom of God has continued to march forward. Empire after empire has come and gone; nations have been raised, and nations have fallen, but this Kingdom of God has remained. The Medes, Persians, Greeks, and Romans all have died out. The pride and schemes of powerful leaders such as Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Caesar Augustus, Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, and even Stalin have amounted to nothing more than confusion and needless bloodshed. All the so-called great countries of the world will be destroyed at Jesus Christ coming that includes the United States. The world is like the Titanic full of pride and self-centered. You can remodel, repaint, make it safer, make more law, fight evil but it is still going to seek, there is no Hope outside of Christ and the heavenly Kingdom of God.
     
         There is only one hope for mankind and that is through the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
     
         Christ wants us believers to seek His Kingdom, where He alone reigns as King. Speaking of this God-given desire, the writer of Hebrews goes on to say that Abraham and the ancient people of faith also sought for this belonging and resting place in God’s Kingdom saying; “For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11: 14– 16).
    I have heard from many Church leaders that Christians need to redeem the society they live in. They need to be involved in government, politics and every type of business and social institution so that they can make a difference. That’s what a lot of people say today. But let me ask you this: whose example are we to follow? The answer is that we should have the mind of Jesus Christ. Did Jesus involve Himself in the politics of His day? Think of what a difference He could have made if He had entered into government. But what do the Scriptures say?
    John 6:15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. So when they wanted to make Jesus King He departed out of there. He got away from them. Was Jesus being irresponsible? Was He neglecting His responsibility and duties? Of course not, Rather He knew that it was impossible to serve two masters. As He said in Matt 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Jesus was talking specifically about money and business there but how much more so is that principle true in politics. In fact, who was it that offered Jesus all of the kingdoms of this world? Was it His Father? No, it was Satan.   Mat 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
    What about the apostles and their disciples? Did they take a different course than their Master had? Did they get heavily involved in local Roman government and in business? No. As James said:
    James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.  So they understood clearly that you couldn’t be friends of both. The apostle John wrote right at the end of the first century. He said:  1 Jo 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
    Jesus said: Luke 17:26  And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the coming of the Son of man. 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
    Jesus is more concern about the salvation of mankind then making things better here on earth. Why?  2 Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
     
    “If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way— not in a human way that ignores God.”

    ― Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

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    • Ken, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your passion for God and his kingdom. If only more believers were so fixated on spiritual things that it would even invade their dreams!

      I hope you don’t take my call for empathy as compromise or a lack of perspective. It’s not. The reason I call for empathy is because every human being is an individual with real needs and feelings and aspirations, born with their own set of challenges. Just like the rest of us. As soon as we label a person “homosexual” and mentally throw them into a category of condemnation, we deny the heart of God for his creation, the heart of a Father that wants to redeem all of his Creation.

      If we are truly passionate about winning souls, we need to form real relationships with the people that need the presence of God in their lives. Real relationships are forged in mutual respect. No one wants to listen to a person that judges them, labeling them as “sick” before the conversation even starts. I can’t tell you how important it has been to sit down with my homosexual friends and see their tears, hear their private struggles, and realize that they are not just running around being rebellious and promiscuous and demanding tolerance.

      Many of my homosexual friends feel a sincere conflict with a God that oriented them one way, then demands that they live another. It’s easy for heterosexuals to insist that they chose to be that way, as if they WANT to struggle, but that hasn’t been true in my experience. I genuinely care about my homosexual friends, and wish I could be more help. Ultimately, I think we need to be patient with this challenging time in history and allow the Lord Jesus to make wise decisions with all of us.

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  2. It’s interesting to me that when Christians talk about homosexuality they talk about desire or lust. But when they talk about heterosexual relationships they talk about love. As we know sex is an expression (of many things). In the case of many of the gay folk or much of the time I know it’s an expression of love. I don’t spend as much time as it seems other Christians do thinking about their sex life. I spend more time experiencing their relationships. My experience is of being in the presence of God’s love. In many ways I feel it more than I do with many heterosexual couples I know. I can’t say for 100% why that is. It may be that for gay couples society is so hard on them that the ones whose love is very deep are more able to withstand the pressure. I don’t know. So my questions to myself are very different than the ones you pose. One question is “What is the Lord trying to teach me when I am in the presence of His love and it either fits or doesn’t fit what I believe it’s supposed to look like?”

    And of you want to call that “moving with the tides of popular culture” that’s your prerogative, but again, I think that assumption lacks rigor.

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    • Just to be clear. The two litmus test questions at the end were just there to challenge the two sides of the coin, not to really express my own point of view. Think of my “popular culture” line as hyperbole. 🙂

      I agree that there is a lust vs. love dichotomy in this conversation, and it is probably bound to the gay stereotype with a little homophobia thrown in there. Yes, LOVE is the key to this conversation, as long as we do not ignore the mandate of Jesus to fully love God and one another. That requires a kind of love that cannot compromise either experience, which is why I posed the two questions at the end.

      Is our love of mankind imposing on our love of God and his expressed will? Or is our love of God and his expressed will imposing on our love of humanity as a whole? I don’t want to assume a perfect answer. The challenge for me is to be 100% on both. Which is why I think this conversation never goes away.

      We need God’s heart for humanity without losing a vision for creative intent, assuming we can fully understand it. We do have a lot of insight in the Scriptures, but ultimately Christ will decide. And we need to do what we can to be good with him above all.

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  3. John, Our God is a jealous God. He wants a relationship with every ONE of us. He created a second relationship and blessed it for the procreation and continuation of his individual relationship with each of his creations. “they shall become one” Gen 2:24. If God created a ONE of man and woman, can man create one of two anythings other than what God has ordained? I’m still in awe of what God did, and find it difficult to think He made a mistake. God is Good! Blessings to all, jim PS: I want to love everyone as a brother and sister, but I have only one wife as Christ has only one bride, under God. Oh, I forgot, there’s a new world order….?

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    • Hi Jim. Thanks for jumping in. I think original intent is critical in this conversation. In fact, I’m going to use it in my next post that takes a shot at a solution to the challenge of this post. Thanks for bringing it up!

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  4. Down with religion! Beliefs and faiths represent a type of mental activity that produces an unnecessary and dangerous false sense of trust and wrongful information (thinking coupled with the feeling of ‘truth’). Faith rarely agrees with the world around us. History has shown that beliefs and faith, of the most intransigent kind, have served as the justification for tragic violence and destruction and sustained the ignorance of people. Replacing beliefs with predictive thoughts based on experience and evidence provide a means to eliminate intransigence and dangerous superstitious thought.
    Beliefs and faiths do not establish “truths” or facts. It does not matter how many people believe or for how many centuries they have believed it. It does not matter how reverent or important people think of them, if it does not agree with evidence, then it simply cannot have any validity to the outside world. All things we know about the world, we can express without referring to a belief. Even at its most benign level, beliefs can act as barriers to further understanding.
    I present a very simple observation at the limits of ignorance and knowledge: If you don’t know about something and you submit it to nothing but belief, it will likely prove false; if you know about something, then you don’t need to believe it, because you know it. Between ignorance and knowledge you have the uncertainties about the world, and the best way to handle uncertainties involves thinking in terms of probabilities. So what use does belief have?

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    • I think I understand your concern. From the outside, people of faith must look like fools with their heads in the sand, hoping their belief in benevolent spirits will earn them a mansion in the clouds, or a paradise with 72 virgins, or their own personal planet. They insist on holding to the claims of ancient, convoluted books that has been proven to be scientifically false and self-contradictory, willing to go so far as to spout hateful propaganda or fly planes into buildings. However, as a person on the inside, I would like to offer at least a little perspective.

      Some believers may think that coasting along with Christian culture, trusting in the rituals and formulas, might earn them a blessed life and a glorious afterlife, but most of my friends would claim that they have truly encountered the same God that was experienced thousands of years ago by people like Abraham, Moses and David, and continue to experience him in their daily lives. They believe in the overarching story of the Bible, which explains the existence and purpose of the material world in a way that requires just as much faith as the scientific propositions of men like Dr. Hawking and Dr. Dawkins, depending on your point of view.

      If you visited a remote tribe and started talking about the importance of washing hands and taking showers, claiming that there are invisible entities (germs) that could impact the quality of their lives, they might think you were delusional, and probably wouldn’t even peek through your microscope despite your passionate appeals.

      In a similar way, billions of people throughout the centuries have believed that there are invisible beings that are just as real as the visible beings present among us, making an impact on our daily lives. You might think that these “beings” can be imagined, created in the emergency systems of our brains. But how could you explain the missionary that sat at my kitchen table when I was a boy and told us of a dead African child that he prayed for and watched come back from the dead. Or my sister who felt invisible hands grasp her throat while she was lying in a stranger’s living room, then hear invisible footsteps cross the carpet as it left her. Or a friend who was about to get in a car accident, threw her hands in the air, and watched her car steer itself out of danger.

      There is a reason why so many horror movies are based on true events. And there is a reason there are so many reality TV shows about mediums and the paranormal. You can scoff at believers, but ultimately, in my opinion, science has not given enough of a rational explanation for these kinds of phenomena. Not enough to raise a faith in science above a faith in God. In fact, I think science supports a belief in God. But that’s another blog post.

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      • Again, you’re not addressing the issue of viable, active spirits operating independent of the material world and have nothing to do with whether or not we believe in them.

        Do you dismiss every encounter a person has had with a ghost or angel or demon or theophany throughout the centuries? Every one? Or have you just made up your mind without doing research or talking to many people?

        I would caution you not to base reality on what seems reasonable to you. Quantum Physics alone should teach you that. It doesn’t follow rules that we understand, but it is real and active and undeniable.

        Also, don’t forget that one of the greatest scientific minds of history, Einstein, was a man of religious faith. Faith and science are not mutually exclusive.

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    • Unless, of course, you take my stories into account, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of other stories, if not millions, of people encountering invisible spirits throughout the centuries.

      Just because something is not material or quantifiable in scientific terms does not mean it cannot be real. You have to see that your materialistic faith is still a faith. You deny something that billions of people embrace, claiming that they are ALL deluded. That takes a lot of faith.

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      • Millions of people believed that the earth is flat and the earth is a sphere, and the ”faith ” of all these people was of course false. The faith of those people who believe in non-material spirits is false too despite their quantity.

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  5. God had a very strict standard for His chosen people because they were to be a separate nation that was to be a nation of kings and priests, the light of the world, a nation that would be God’s channel of blessing to the other nations. The Levitical priesthood had an even higher standard of purity. And when Jesus preached his sermon on the Mount, He raised the bar/standard even higher–the standard became one not of just an outward action but of the inner heart.

    As God’s Anointed Savior, God’s level of perfection for His Beloved Son was absolute perfection. And this wasn’t just perfection in a beautiful garden with a full stomach (Adam and Eve), but it was absolute perfection and obedience while fasting for 40 days in the wilderness, and then again perfect obedience to His Father’s will while hanging on a Roman cross.

    When Paul gave a list of qualifications for supervisors and deacons in the church, He had a higher standard: Husband, of one wife, believing children, etc. Obviously, you don’t have to have one wife and have believing children to be saved.
    Having said that, I don’t believe homosexuals are going to rule and reign with Christ in the eons to come. However, they and everyone else will be saved through the work and ministry of those who do reign. Paul said that the saints would judge (set right) the world and messengers.

    The oneness and completeness that a man and wife find in each other is a picture of the oneness and completeness we have in Christ. Homosexuality is a picture of man trying to find completeness in man/flesh/himself rather than in God. Having said that, if Jesus was living among us today, He would probably be kind and gracious to homosexuals and would be angry and wrathful toward Pharisaical self-righteous “Christians.”

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    • Thanks, Charles. Great insight, as always. I especially appreciate how you mention the picture of oneness that a man and woman create. I think it reflects the Trinity, in a way. Two as one. I also agree that, although God create things a certain way, Scripture shows that the relationship between God and his creation has been estranged, and will ultimately be reconciled. Along the way, God works with a fallen creation with patience and love, always keeping his original vision in mind, always looking toward his ultimately redemptive plan.

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