There Is No “Sorta” With Sin

During a recent perusal of various Christian blogs on my reading list, I stumbled across this article from Britain on how to deal with the rise of cohabitating couples, many of whom are in long-term partnerships which include shared assets and property, as well as children.

How should the church approach cohabiting couples? Two perspectives

It speaks of the struggles a partner may face, especially the female, if the cohabitees split up.

How should a Christian organisation, devoted to supporting marriage and family life, approach cohabitation? There is a juxtaposition between advocating strongly, and singularly for marriage, and supporting the millions of children in this country whose parents cohabit, and who could be left vulnerable to financial insecurity and homelessness should the relationship break down.

Though the articles purports to be from a Christian/Church perspective, there is no mention of the Biblical prohibition against adultery.  No mention of sin, or of the inevitable consequences of willful sin.  No, it’s all about how to best address the problems of this demographic by both providing for their needs, while gently suggesting that those in married relationships are more stable and secure.  About how we need a more “enlightened” policy with regards to our cohabitating brethren.

We often see questions like this: How should we approach this or that demographic within our church?  How do we “deal” with cohabiting couples, teen promiscuity or alternative lifestyles? More and more as homosexuality becomes mainstream, churches are faced with the same question of how to approach the issue of homosexuality? How do we treat or respond to homosexuals and homosexuality if we want to be seen as a more approachable, enlightened church?

Answer:  We treat them the same as everybody else.

There are no special categories of sinners.  With apologies to my Catholic brethren, there aren’t categories of sin. It’s not venial or mortal:  ALL sins are mortal.  It’s an all or nothing relationship. Sin is binary. 0 or 1. On or off. Yes or no. It is, or it isn’t. There is no “sorta” with sin.

So, when viewed in that context, homosexual sin is no different, no better, no worse, no more or less under condemnation than heterosexual sin.  Sin is sin.  We don’t get to ignore the ones that make us uncomfortable.

If I’m a man, chilling at the beach, ogling women in bikinis, I’m in exactly the same category as if I’m man, chilling at the beach, ogling guys in their speedos:  Sinner.

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman{or man} with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her{him} in his heart.” Matt 5:28

If a church is conflicted about how to address the problem of cohabiting couples, teen sex, or homosexuality, then it definitely has a problem; but perhaps a far bigger problem than how to tune their outreach ministries to appeal to these seeker-groups.

It’s actually pretty cut and dried.  Reeeeeal basic.  If you are going to preach the Word, then be true to the Word.   The Bible is full of examples, both metaphorical and actual, of people being forced to choose between what they want, and what the Word of God says is permissible; the two being almost universally at odds.

If you have couples living together, sleeping together, outside of marriage,  then they are in sexual sin.  Sounds archaic and overly simplistic in today’s more enlightened, liberated society, but that’s the simple truth.   If we are more worried about keeping people happy (as society defines it), than about teaching them to be obedient to the word of God, than we risk loving them to death.  We are, in the long run, not doing them any favors.  Too often today it comes down to being true to the word of God OR preaching a squishy gospel that soft coats the hard edges of truth in order to be more palatable, more “relevant,” more inclusive.

When faced with the problem of how to deal with sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, the conversation should go something like this:  If you people want to call yourselves Christians, then you need to live according to Christian principles.  What that means is that you move out, find your own places, and stop having pre-marital sex {{insert shocked gasps, I know}}.

If you are teens experimenting with sex: stop.  Plain and simple.  You don’t just cut back — you cut it out.  If you are cruising YouTube for the sexy videos or Webshots for the drunken Spring Break candids…STOP.  Alcoholics cannot afford to just cut back on their drinking, they need to stop, because there is no middle ground.  You are either drinking, or you’re not.  You are either sleeping with your girlfriend, or you’re not.  You are either engaging in homosexual acts…or you’re not.

Binary. Either/or.   Yes or no.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.

There’s no easy answer for the “issue” of homosexuality.  So much of our culture these days is so affirming, and tolerant, and supportive, and all be-true-to-who-you-are.  “Baby, I was born this way!” sings Lady Gaga.

Except that, the practice of homosexuality is quite simply forbidden by the Bible.   So where does that leave you? The same place as everybody else:  with a decision to make.

Do you be true to yourself, or true to God?  If God doesn’t allow promiscuity or adultery between heterosexual couples, do you think that homosexuals get a “bye” because they’re special?  A highly vocal chunk of society would have you think that, but it’s simply not true.

The Body of Christ should respond in love to those struggling with sin of any kind, but a love based on the truth of the Scriptures.  Granted, we risk being branded “intolerant” or “haters” if we do, but the truth is that there is no one more intolerant of sin than God.  God HATES sin.  But he loves us enough that he sent Christ to die in our place, that we might have a way out of the sin and death towards which our earthly wants and desires will inevitably lead us.

~ Steve Berven

WWJD or WWYHMDL?

A while back the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets were all the rage.  They still pop up now an then.  Like tying a piece of string to your finger, I believe the the WWJD bracelets were supposed to be reminders to live your life in a more Christ-centric way, to evaluate your actions in the context of what you think Jesus would do in a similar situation.  It is certainly an appealing and catchy sentiment that appeals to our desires to “do the right thing.”  There’s just one problem.

It’s asking the wrong question.

Asking WWJD means that you are guessing.  You’re taking your best estimate as to what YOU think is the right answer in this situation.  You are trying to live your life like Jesus lived his.  So, does that mean that are you wondering if you should go overturn the tables in the temple courtyard?  Should you go live in the wilderness for 40 days, or get in the Pharisees’ face about their legalism?  Should you go hang out in the lunch room at IRS headquarters so you can fulfill your mandate to consort with tax collectors?

Uh….probably not.  See, the thing is, you CAN’T LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE JESUS, because he was the Son of God.  He set an unachievable goal.  He didn’t set us an example to follow…He gave us a path to follow!  He didn’t come to give us a list of do’s and don’ts…He came to show us the way to the Father.  Jesus only gave us two commandments…”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27)

I propose that you can’t really do the second one until you start doing the first one!

So, instead of wondering WWJD, what we should be asking is, “What Would You Have Me Do, Lord?”

See, the thing is, we don’t have to wonder.  We don’t have to guess.   As believers in Christ we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we have a hot line straight to God, such that when difficult situations arise, we don’t need to look to our bracelet…we can go right to The Source.

While, granted, WWJD fits better on a bracelet or a T-Shirt or a bumpersticker than “WWYHMDL,” we need to understand that relying on our best guess estimates makes us the arbiters of truth.  It becomes too easy to live life according to a series of handy, and often changeable “Jesusisms” that reduce His Word to little more than philosophical precepts.  We might as well ask what would Gahndi do, or Buddha, or Oprah.  Jesus was not just another philosopher exhorting us to live better lives.

He called us to live our lives in service to Him, and the only way we are ever really going to know what that is supposed to look like is to ask…HIM.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 14:12

The key word in this passage is the word “seems.”  There is an answer which “seems” right to us, a way that “ought” to be correct, or a solution that “feels” good.  Except that, if it is OUR way, then it is wrong. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord , and turn away from evil.  Prov 3:5-7

Lean not on your own understanding.  Rather than do what “feels right,” study the scriptures, pray, come before the Lord and ask Him to tell you what to do.

We are too easily swayed by the ways of the world to trust our own judgement when it comes to spiritual matters.  So, instead of settling for What Would Jesus Do, let’s keep asking, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

You may not always like the right answer, but it’s always better than feeling good about the wrong one.