Saturday, January 17, 2009

Prayers in the spotlight

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?


Anonymous said...

I don't know why I should be astounded that Gene Robinson is going to give a prayer at Obama's inauguration. But I am. I suppose it has more to do with Obama claiming he was a christian during the presidential race. It's just more proof that this country is under judgement from God. There comes a time when God's patience wears thin...and I'm only using this statement as an anthropopathism. I know the bible speaks of God being a very patient God, and He is. Otherwise He would have wiped the human race off the face of the earth shortly after Adam sinned. But throughout history in the bible, God one way or the other has always delt with a nation who turned against Him. The route this nation is choosing to indulge in by leaving God completely out of the picture will one day bring about our downfall. For those who claim to be christians only because they believe Jesus existed and possibly even claim He died on the cross, will find my words absurd. They cannot fathom our nation under God's judgement. Their eyes are spiritually blind and the ways of the world is their belief system. But imagine, our newly elected president, (the first one in history), who allows a blatant slap in the face of God by allowing a man who defies God himself and a man who does not KNOW God, to offer some type of blessing for this nation. My words may be harsh, but we as beleivers need to wake up! My prayer for this nation is for true believers to stand firm and bold for the truth of the Word of God. The Church, as a whole, can make a difference and so can our prayers. Our nation will NOT be blessed because of a godless man spewing out of his mouth some vain words to appease the world, but the prayer of a righteous man availeth much!

Brian said...

And yet another thought provoking post, Gilbert. It is clear that you put a lot of thought and conviction into your words before publishing them, which to me is the most obvious sign of a talented writer. Write of what you believe and know. You're off to a great start with your blog - I hope you keep it going.

While I don't agree with your opinion that President Elect Obama (as an ardent supporter of his I just love saying that) somehow changed course by inviting Bishop Gene Robinson to offer the opening prayer. Other news stories suggest that Robinson was invited to speak in December - before the Rick Warren hoopla broke loose. I really have no idea who was asked to speak first and I have no problem with either man speaking. It is Obama's day and he has the right to pick whomever he likes to offer prayer, commentary, song or dance. I'm a huge proponent for that nifty little button which changes channels or mutes the sound that comes with every remote control and encourage everyone to try it out if they haven’t already done so. Personally, I plan to listen to both ministers’ prayers, then try and take something positive from each. But that’s just me.

As for the issue of Proposition 8, gays in the church, and political correctness, this opens another topic (or ten) for discussion. You sure know how to get your reader engaged – kudos on that. Admittedly, I am not a biblical scholar – just another Christian with my own opinions and a set of beliefs that come from my own personal relationship with Christ. That said, my opinion on the institution of marriage, is that it has to some extent has become a pawn in a political game. In the 50’s and 60’s a marriage between persons of differing ethnicities was not considered a “real marriage” by a lot more people than any of us care to admit. For some, sadly, it still is looked upon as a bastardization of the institution. Still today, if persons from different religions or cultures marry, they are disowned and ostracized from their own families. Then we have non-believers who marry at a courthouse or by a justice of the peace on a beach, yet they are still considered married by their Christian families and friends because they are heterosexual?

So what really is marriage then? If it is a solely reserved for the Christian, man/woman married in a church then what do we call those who don’t fit that description? I’m torn on this issue but not because I feel that gay “marriage”, interracial “marriage”, or mixed-cultural “marriage” is going to destroy a Christian man/woman marriage – because only those in a relationship have the power to do that. No, I am torn because there is so much focus on defining marriage. I feel as if a couple – heterosexual, homosexual, mixed culture, Christian or not... committed to one another in a monogamous relationship who chooses to make their commitment legal for whatever reason, then they should be granted the right to do so.

However, I also feel that is a church is, based on their established beliefs, is opposed to marrying whomever and for whatever reason should have the right to say No without repercussion. No one should be either denied or forced to comply with today’s accepted definition of marriage. To me the simple solution would be to make the legal certificate that bonds two people together state “Civil Union”, and then allow the churches, and the individuals to decide for them selves whether they want a declaration of faith on a separate certificate. My opinion is surely not going to sit well with many, but like our author, I am also known for my lack of political correctness. THEN – let the churches get back to the business of feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, ministering to the sick and disabled, and preaching to their congregations a message that brings Christ to the lives of those who attend that congregation. Thank God - in every sense of the word Thank God - that we in American live in a free society that respects our right to get up and leave if that message doesn’t sit well with us.

Side note to Anonymous:

A wise minister, from the church where I grew up, once told me that, “No man has the ability to say whether or not another person truly knows God. The nature of that relationship is known only by God and that person.” That simple statement was instrumental in how I view my own faith and that of my neighbor. It is a personal relationship and a sacred one that I do not feel any man is qualified or entitled to judge – that is up to God and only God.


Anonymous said...

Regarding Brian's comment:

It "IS" a matter of changing course when we allow homosexuality, abortion and other blatant sins to be recognized as something that should be accepted. Christ NEVER compromises sin. Who are we to override the word of God? It truly saddens me that as christians, we don't look to the scriptures for answers, but instead, incorporate human viewpoint into the mix of God's word. We are either for God, or against Him. There is no inbetween. That is not saying we are not to love the sinner. Jon couldn't have said it better...."we should love them, recognize their sin and help them through their journey out of thier sin by sharing the word of God with them". It's very clear what the bible states concerning homosexuality. The price of abusing God's institution of family (one man, one woman) will always produce loss.....and judgement. To basically say that a homosexual should be granted the right to marry is saying, "God, you didn't get it right when you destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and you didn't get it right in I Cor 6:9,10 and Rom 1:18-32. Yes, there are many serious sins, but God chose to expound on the sin of homosexuality throughout the scripture more than a few times for a reason. It destroys a nation. The entire institution of family is broken down. If the politicians use marriage as a pawn for their own political gain, that is their problem. It doesn't change the fact that God designed one man and one woman as the perfect entity. Nothing else is accetable to God and it certainly shouldn't even be considered that it's ok for gays to marry. As believers, we should stand on the word of God, no matter what the cost. The apostle Paul wasn't shy about setting the Corinthians straight concerning their sins, and neither was he shy when writing to the Romans about homosexuality. All I'm trying to express in my comment is "Do we as true believers compromise what is written in the inspired scriptures to make the sinner happy, or do we stand firmly in our belief in the sound word of God?" God is a compassionate God and we should be compassionate toward others, no matter what the sin. But we certainly are not to agree with the sin and basically say to ourselves, "each to his own as long as it produces happiness." Otherwise, live and let live. We can love the person, but hate the sin.

PS.....Brian, I know you love the Lord and I really enjoy reading your comments as well as I do Jon's. You've been a blessing to me.

Hidden Wizard said...

So where's the proof that your Christ wasn't Gay? He never married, according to the book, so how can THIS be normal?


Anonymous said...

To da'Wizrd:

Christ was God in the flesh. The bible describes God as Glorious, Perfect, Righteous, Good, Great, Faithful, Long suffering, Compassionate, Incorruptible, He is the Light, Pure Love, He is Just and True. He is Sovereign. God CANNOT lie. I'm curious as to why you asked the question "where's the proof that Christ wasn't gay?" I would love to believe you already know the answer to that question. And if you do not, I would love to share with you all the answers.

Brian said...

Thanks Anonymous, for the reply. Without going into a diatribe of why I disagree with you, I'll just respect your right to believe as you do and leave it at that.

Yes, I very much believe in God and I have a relationship with Him that no man has a right to question or judge. I maintain that only God has that right. That said, I feel as if the sins that the Bible continually expound on - allowing our neighbor to starve on the streets and with little or no health care - has become virtually ignored by many churches and Christians. Where is the weeping in the pews for the hungry child? Where is the outrage that many would prefer to see new carpet or a pretty stain glass window in their church when someone is sleeping on a park bench right outside?

I was raised Southern Baptist - which I will add resembles little of the one today - and my recollection the message from the pulpit was about helping others in need, loving thy neighbor, and promoting peace among all of God's children. It appears as if those days are gone. We have become a country and church divided as opposed to one united and working together. I'm sorry but that is not the message I feel that my God wants me to hear. Trust me - I've asked.

It is because of that I moved my membership to the most intimate church that there is. The only ones in the congregation are God and me - which I've come to benefit from greatly. He talks and I listen. I question and He answers. Heck, I don't even have to shave or put on a suit for the service. It works for me and I trust that yours continues to work for you.

So with all of this I choose to respect your right to believe as you do and to express your opinion even if I disagree with it. More so, I don't even mind if you choose not to respect mine - it's your right.

Taking all of this into account, this is Gilbert's blog and I don't want to be the one who derails his message or upsets his purpose. I enjoy the dialog and feel that we all benefit from open communication but I don't want to be disrespectful on his turf. I trust he'll tell us when enough is enough.


Side note to da'wizzard:

Cool blog you got. A real walk down memory lane - or Main Street towards Old Covington Highway I should say.

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget that God is Love. That is most important. If loving others means pointing out their "sin" while churching them, then let's not forget to remind all those who are divorced or married to divorcees that they too are sinners and subject to God's judgment. Christ never spoke out against homosexuality, but he did about divorce. Remove the blank from your eye before attempting to remove my splinter! I'm sure poring throught the Bible will yield up lots more sins too. Honestly, I don't see homosexuality as a choice any more than hair color is. We can choose to dye our hair, but its still blonde underneath. In the same way a person can "choose" a heterosexual lifestyle and be miserable and dishonest. People are who they are. Acceptance and tolerance are acts of love. Insults are not. Treat others kindly. Use your money to feed the hungry and shelter the poor instead of building big crosses along the interstate. Help people. In my humble opinion, that is what God would have us do.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog site! Christ did talk about homosexuality in the bible. If you are referring to Christ's earthly ministry and the "red letter addition" of the bible when Christ spoke in the Gospels, then no, that particular sin wasn't mentioned. But it has been mentioned as far back as Genesis 19 all the way through the New Testament to Jude 7. Christ is the Author of the scriptures from Genesis through the book of Revelation. The gospel of John cannot state it any better than John 1:1-7. Also Heb 12:2 tells us Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Christ is called the Word in John. It is His written Word we have in the 66 books of the bible. Any form of sin is a violation against God. Some sins have worse repercussions than others simply because of the nature of that sin. But because of God's grace and His death on the cross, anyone can turn to Christ for forgiveness and enter into the kingdom of God. That includes homosexuals, drunkards, liars, murderers, divorcees and etc. It's only through God's saving grace that we can be called a son of God. All have sinned. All of us are in the same boat until we reach out to Christ and accept His saving grace. We are to love others as Christ loved us and that includes the entire human race no matter the sin.

Brian said...

"Acceptance and tolerance are acts of love. Insults are not. Treat others kindly. Use your money to feed the hungry and shelter the poor instead of building big crosses along the interstate. Help people. In my humble opinion, that is what God would have us do."

Well said.