Inauguration 09 has put prayer in the spotlight once again as various groups have celebrated or become outraged over what prayers will be offered up at this momentous event. First, we saw gays outraged over Obama's choice to allow Rick Warren to pray, since he was publicly supportive of Proposition 8 in his state of California. They saw the invitation as a slap in the face of their cause to see gays given the same treatment as traditional man/woman marriage.
So as we should have suspected, Obama's see-saw team crumbled under the pressure and invited gay New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson to offer prayer at the kick-off event. While conservatives expect Warren to deliver a prayer in the name of Jesus, Robinson has made it very clear he will not offer up anything resembling a Christian prayer. In the New York Times, he said that "this will not be a Christian prayer and I won't be quoting scripture or anything like that." He goes on to say that he might pray to "the God of our many understandings," a phrase he learned from a 12 Step program he was in at one point. It should not come as a surprise for someone like Robinson to offer up a non-Christian prayer, much the same way that it is no surprise that an apple tree doesn't yield oranges. I don't expect a non-Christian to pray in the name of Jesus. Robinson told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that "God never gets it wrong. The church often takes a long time to get it right. It is a human institution, but one capable of self-correction. I believe in my heart that the church got it wrong about homosexuality. There is great excitement in my heart to be living in a time when the church is starting to get it right." I can sense his enthusiasm and joy in his proclamation, but can't share in his celebration. To be frank, the only part of what he said that I can agree with is the first statement that 'God never gets it wrong.' After that, I got a little lost. No, I take that back. I was trying to shake all the nonsense out of my ears so I could make sure I was actually hearing correctly. We went from God to Humanism in just a few brief words.
Let's look at it piece by piece.
First, "the church often takes a long time to get it right. It is a human institution...." As soon as I saw this, it made perfect sense why Robinson would not be quoting scripture. He doesn't know scripture. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says to Peter "on this rock I will build my church." Note that Jesus will build His church, not man. If Robinson meant that it is made up of humans, I could accept that, but that is not what he means. He says it is capable of self correction. In other words, people can choose at will to rewrite scriptures to suit themselves and their own self-interests, in this case the gay lifestyle. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness (John 16:8). If Robinson would submit to the conviction of the Spirit of his sinful lifestyle, he would experience a more intimate relationship with God. Yes, I called homosexuality a sin. I know that is not politically correct, but I'm not running for anything and I'm not very political anyway. So why should you expect me to be politically correct? Before you start calling me a homophobe, intolerant, gay-hater, or some other media-hyped name, let me make a few things clear. I am not "afraid" of gays. I have had close friends in the past who chose that lifestyle, but I never agreed with or embraced it. As far as tolerance, I can tolerate it as long as it is not forced upon me, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the media. I can't "force" my religion on others, but the gay lifestyle forced on me is done in the name of equality and freedom. I don't hate gays either. I can love them just as Christ loved them. Unfortunately, our society has this blindness that claims I have to embrace and support it to be loving. If I substituted murder for homosexuality in Robinson's statement, people would say that is outrageous: " I believe the church got it wrong with murder. It's not really wrong. I'm glad to see the church is finally getting it right." There is no end to where scripture-rewriting will go. Hence, why Robinson doesn't use scripture. He obviously doesn't believe it's truth. I am merely saying that we don't have the right to decide something is not a sin simply because we don't want to wage war to rid the sin from our lives.
So how should the church respond to gays? We should love them and accept them and help them in their journey out of sin, just as we would someone caught up in any other sin. Can you be a "gay Christian"? It depends on what you mean. I believe you can become a Christian while gay, but you won't willingly stay there. The Holy Spirit will continue to sanctify you and lead you out. Mind you, it may be a lifetime process, but you will be in the process nevertheless. All believers are in process. Philippians 2: 12-13 says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." The answer is not to rewrite the Bible, but to allow God to rewrite your heart. That is what I pray for Bishop Robinson and his flock and any of you out there in the same situation.
I love the way Jesus handles people caught in sin. In John 8 we read the story of the lady caught in adultery. Jesus calls for the one without sin to cast the first stone. No one casts a stone and they all leave. Jesus asks her if anyone has condemned her and she replies that no has condemned her. Jesus says "Go now and leave your life of sin."
Jesus is not about instant condemnation and death for sinners, though he could take that approach and still remain totally justified in it. He is also not just about grace. He is about grace (loving acceptance of the unworthy) and sanctification (helping people grow into being Christ-like). Jesus is saying this to Gene Robinson, Rick Warren, me, you, and all of those we know. He says,"I love you more than you could ever imagine. I died and took on God's wrath against sin, so you wouldn't have to. Leave your life of sin and come to me."
What prayer do you want lifted for our nation?