There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whomJesusloved. – John 13:23 NASB
If you ever want to learn how to make things fair in life, have more than one child.
It seems no matter how hard we try, one of our four children is always wondering why he or she has it worse than everybody else, and why some sibling gets it so easy.
“My chores are the worst!”
“She got to play the XBox for a long time!”
“He got to go to his friend’s house, why can’t I?”
“IT’S NOT FAIR!”
I don’t feel too bad. If Jesus’ own disciples bickered and accused Him of playing favorites, then I figure this is a normal fact of life.
In the Gospel of John, the writer (John… shocking, I know) uses the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved” five times to refer to himself.
Maybe it was humility; he didn’t want to write his name in the account, like “me me me, look at me.” But it kind of comes across to my ears as a proud statement. “I’m the favorite. I’m the one He loves. Neenur neenur neenur, you’re just plain ol’ Peter.”
But maybe this phrase is neither humble nor proud.
Maybe it’s a statement of a wonderful and incredible fact.
John understood. He really got it. John’s the one who later writes all about love in the church (read 1st John). He’s the one who emphasizes over and over again that Christ’s followers are “beloved of God” – and he even uses “beloved” as the collective title for his readers.
Beloved means dear to the heart, favored, favorite one. To call myself beloved of God speaks of confidence about His love, security and certainty that “He likes me… He really, really likes me.”
That’s not arrogant, either.
It is arrogant when we add “more than you” either consciously or unconsciously. It is arrogant if we presume to add “but not you” when we think of some group we don’t like. It’s foolish for us to think God should limit His love to suit our desires.
But we can confidently say that we are beloved of God, dear to His heart, favored and special to Him.
It pains my heart when my wife apologizes or worries needlessly whenever I seem frustrated or upset by anything. It hurts when my children say they are afraid to admit a bad decision for fear that “Daddy might get upset.” That tells me that I have not fully communicated to them the unchanging and unconditional love in my heart. They don’t understand that each of them is my absolute favorite. Each of them holds captive the full measure of my love. So, in my imperfection, I must work to communicate that more clearly.
God, on the other hand, has communicated His love. He has told you that you are His beloved, you are His treasure, you are the one He loves. When He plays favorites, we all win.
I’m usually a pretty calm person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. It takes a lot for someone to really get under my skin.
I do have my moments. Technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, for example, is like turning on a flamethrower in my chest. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft products, with all the ways you try to ‘help’ me by complicating the simplest tasks.)
My dog peeing everywhere, just brazen and unashamed. Yeah, that gets me ‘perturbed.’
But mostly, I keep calm and drink my coffee.
One thing that does get on my nerves is when people spew venom in the name of Christ.
I really hate it when they use children as their excuse.
I really, really hate it when they look right past their own faults to point at the faults of others.
You can’t expect mercy for your sins while proclaiming judgment on everyone else’s.
(I probably hate that because I’m often guilty of that myself.)
So… at some point or other I got signed up for a “defend marriage as one man and one woman” page on Facebook. I only recently noticed some of the stuff they post in pursuit of their cause.
I’ve gotten into it with the faceless individual(s) behind the page. Every now and then, someone says something completely asinine, and I feel compelled to share a reasonable voice with a logical counterpoint to the ignorance. It would be one thing if people were having thoughtful discussions and clarifying how their beliefs intersect with government and freedom and tolerance and all that. Most everyone I know is willing to admit we may not all agree, but we can disagree in a civil manner and hopefully all learn something from the debate.
Not everyone seems so inclined.
This little tragedy of grammar and graphics got posted on my wall today:
I don’t know why, but I happened to read the ten comments on the picture.
It was like a religious frat party, with people giving each other textual fist bumps by reminding everyone about God’s original plan for marriage and how sad it would be when the child eventually says, “I wish I had a father.” Someone ridiculed the smiling faces, conveying the tragic nature of this hypothetical union and its dangerous impact on the child’s development. Someone simply responded with, “Oh, barf!!!!!”
I’ll leave aside the fact that there are children being raised by gay couples around the world and not all of them are collapsing under the burden of self-loathing or grief. Both sides will point to various “experts” with studies that “prove” that gay couples raising children is “no harm done” OR there is irreparable damage. Whatever. Let’s just agree that there are a lot of kids out there who are going to grow up with two mommies or daddies (yes, this is a proper time to use the plural ‘daddies’).
And they’ll be just fine.
There was one voice of reason, who made the outrageous and satanic comment that “Making fun of gays is not going to help. This is a serious issue and a heated debate which deserves a thoughtful response. Insulting people is only going to burn bridges.”
One voice out of ten.
You can’t hear my sigh, but trust me, it’s a long one. (My wife can attest to this.)
The response from the page?
“We don’t believe putting adult lusts above the needs of children deserves consideration.”
Those dirty gays, sacrificing the souls of impressionable young kids on the altar of desire! /sarcasm
Full disclosure: I’m Christian, if you didn’t get that yet. I believe what the Bible says, though I understand a lot of it comes down to interpretation and theological debate. And the Bible seems to clearly identify homosexual activity as a sin.
But that’s not all it addresses.
What do I mean by that? I’ll let my response on Facebook to that picture speak for itself:
“Putting adult lusts above the needs of children is terrible, but people do it all the time. It’s just their sins are heterosexual. Or perhaps just gluttony, or alcoholism. Maybe it’s simple neglect. Maybe even it’s how some parents worship their work or ministry by devoting all their time and attention to those things while forsaking their responsibilities to their children.
“Maybe it’s the arrogance of adult Christians who forget that they’re looking down on the needs of some children out there, children who think they’re gay, who know they’re different from most everyone else, who absolutely know without any doubt that the Church is the very last place they’ll find love or acceptance (and I don’t mean acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a human being worthy of Christ’s sacrificial love expressed through us).
“Maybe our need to communicate how disgusting homosexuality is gets in the way of God’s desire to communicate to THEM how incredibly powerful and merciful and life-changing His love is, and maybe it gets in the way of His desire to communicate to us that in His holy sight all our sin is just as repulsive and ‘barf-worthy’ as theirs. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
I don’t want to abuse God’s mercy or call sin ‘righteous.’ That’s not within my purview.
I haven’t torn out any passages in my Bible that claim homosexuality is a sin.
The difference is that I’m paying attention to the rest of the passages too.
What if Abraham Lincoln was really a vampire hunter?
Oh, they’ve done that, have they?
One of my favorite comic series growing up was “What If?” comics by Marvel.
They’d take key story lines from their most popular characters’ series, and then change one decision, one action, one coincidence. The rest of the book would tell you what would happen if, say, the popular jock got bit by the radioactive spider instead of nerdy Peter Parker… or if Wolverine’s girlfriend(s) never died… or if Victor Von Doom was part of the Fantastic Four instead of being the villain.
Sci-fi shows like Star Trek often use time travel to create a “What if?” of their own. There are series of novels exploring what-ifs. What if World War II was interrupted by an alien invasion, and the various powers of the world had to come together to fight back?
If all of that is too geek-chic for your tastes, a perfect example is It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey explores the question, “What if I was never born?”
Maybe it’s all the Chick-Fil-A and Jim Henson Company pics on Facebook…
But I have been thinking about a “What If?” for a while now.
What if it is scientifically proven that homosexuality is a genetic trait?
Now, I know many of those who might read this are probably convinced that it is genetic, or at least, not a choice.
I also know many people who are convinced it is a choice – at least on some important level.
Individuals being the strange and unique creatures that they are, I doubt that there will ever be conclusive universal proof one way or another. Our internal motivations are a whole mix of genetics, environment, outside influences, and past experiences.
But my point is, even though there’s no “conclusive” evidence on the subject yet, the consensus is forming quickly that in many cases, sexual orientation isn’t something we up and choose.
What does the church do with that?
I think we have a few options.
1) Go full ostrich. This, I fear, is our default position. “Science is a conspiracy of well-meaning but misguided atheists who were trained in liberal colleges to reject God and accept whatever the Leftists tell them.”
But you’re reading this on a computer or perhaps a cellular phone, accessing my published rants across streams of information being transmitted over fiber optic cable or simply through the air from your 4G network… all brought to you by the advances of, yes, science.
“That science is ok. The science that appears to disagree with the Bible is bad.”
It should go without saying that ignoring reality is a poor plan. But I’ll use a biblical example to make a point about healthy faith instead. Look at Abraham: he knew what God said about him having a child was nigh impossible. He considered his aged body and that of his wife. But he also knew that God promised, so he trusted what God said. (See Romans 4:17-21 or so… or read in Genesis from chapters 12 through 22 for the full story.)
Abraham didn’t ignore reality or “faith” it all away. Neither should we.
2) Abandon our position. We could always edit our Bibles, stop preaching about homosexuality, and give up political causes concerning “defending” traditional marriage. I’m sure some would appreciate this greatly. If we’re not vilified for “hate speech,” we’re mocked for backwards, ignorant, Bronze-Age religious standards. Forty years from now, the church’s crusade against homosexuality today may look like how we now view those who railed against interracial marriage in the sixties.
That said, our calling is not to adjust ourselves to whatever the majority believes. We’re not to be conformed to the world, but transformed by God so that we can show His love to the world.
3) Examine our position. There are several theological arguments concerning translation and context for verses that, on the surface, condemn homosexuality. It can’t hurt to double-check our sources and see if maybe we’ve missed something along the way. We may claim that God’s Word is perfect, but we also proclaim that we are not. As we learn more about the world around us, it makes sense to consider how that might affect what we have always “known.”
Religion is notoriously difficult (as in impossible) to prove. Much as we’d all desire it, God hasn’t shown up on CNN and Fox to announce His presence and put all the debate to rest.
For the Christian, we’ll say, “The Word of God and the incarnation of Christ is all the proof people need.”
But it’s not.
It’s more than enough for some, and rational arguments can be made. But God isn’t known for cooperating in scientific experiments or providing empirical proof, and that is what some people genuinely expect.
If we’re convinced we know it all, to the extent that we don’t ever need to question or reconsider any subject, then we’ve missed some of the mystery and majesty of the God we claim to serve. Check the “Love chapter” in 1st Corinthians 13. We only know in part. We haven’t achieved perfection, and we don’t know God the way He knows us. So if you have been led to believe that “the perfect” in that chapter is the Bible, well… look around. We’re not there yet.
4) Adjust our priorities. Maybe this issue could stop being the focus of so much political or cultural effort. We don’t picket against fat people, even though gluttony is a sin. (For many of us, myself included, the hypocrisy would be too obvious.) We don’t picket against nonbelievers, be they atheists or adherents of some other religion. We don’t hold rallies against arrogance or greed (two sins that probably deserve a lot more hellfire-n-brimstone preaching in the West).
Perhaps we could stop caring about whether someone is gay, and start caring about that someone.
“But they have to know what the Bible says about their sin!”
First, it’s not a secret. Second, I know a lot of proud people, and selfish people, and angry people. I know rude people and promiscuous people. I know people who steal and people who lie and people who just don’t care about anyone else. That doesn’t mean I rage against them. I’m supposed to love them regardless, and I try to do so.
Third, and most important, the Lord knows I still struggle with a bunch of my own sins, and I do know what the Bible says.
I find I benefit more by learning about the grace and mercy of a holy God that reaches out to me in spite of my sin. That inspires me to live better.
I assume the same is true of others. It’s that whole Golden Rule thing.
Hey, I thought of another “What if?”
What if we cared more about people than about what those people do?
The young men gathered at the event were able to stand for the first time in openness and honesty before their peers. They were no longer required to cover up their private lives to save their public reputations. The burden of secrecy was finally lifted off their shoulders after years of living a lie.
And fears of violence or reprisal proved unfounded. Despite being a minority — just 10% of the population, on average — the attendees talked of the acceptance and tolerance they experienced.
“It’s just not a big deal to my friends,” one man shared with a wide grin. “They know me, and they know this is a part of who I am. Our friendship matters more than our differences.”
I received a forwarded opinion piece in an e-mail from a Christian friend today. The article expressed deep concern that the Pentagon “broke with history” by celebrating its first gay pride event.
In the realm of “blinding flash of the obvious,” let’s do the math. The policy change allowing homosexuals to serve openly went into effect in September of 2011, three months after the last LGBT Pride month.
So… duh. This is the first such month that the Pentagon could even remotely support that without blatant hypocrisy.
They acted in accordance with the policy changes they’ve put into effect. Were we wanting duplicity instead?
But the tone of the article is what really got to me, with its one part fear-mongering, one part disgust.
We — the Christian community in America — are mostly operating under a double standard.
That “news story” description at the top could easily apply to Pride month. But that wasn’t my intention. I’m thinking of the way many of these same Christians would respond if the situation was different. What if this was a news story about a church function in a predominantly Muslim country? Or perhaps if it was an account of a meeting in China under communist rule?
Most of the Christians I’ve met would rejoice at the thought. Our brothers and sisters across the world, permitted to serve God openly in a place formerly hostile to expressions of faith? That would be wonderful news!
It would also be “breaking with history.”
My news story is fictional, but I know the hopes and the prayers of my fellow believers… and my own, for that matter. We look for change in governments that are opposed to open expression of religion. We desire a shift toward freedom and individual rights, even if that’s not the historical way of the nations in question.
Abandoning social norms is acceptable if the change agrees with us.
And we act like our stance on religious freedom makes perfect sense; why doesn’t everyone see it our way? Why shouldn’t Christians be allowed to believe in God in a public fashion in these other countries?
But God forbid that homosexuals in America should have a chance to live openly instead of hiding who they are.
Shortly after joining the military, I learned that the standard I use to judge or limit other people’s activities can very easily be turned around against me.
It’s natural that we believe our moral standards are the best. People can call that arrogance, but that’s a silly argument. I believe what I believe precisely because I think it’s the best, most accurate choice. And everyone else does exactly the same thing. If I thought my beliefs were flawed, I would give them up. I expect we all would.
The danger in having a strong belief or moral standard is that you risk applying it to everyone else, regardless of what they believe.
It’s great that I believe the Christian Gospel and the moral standards of the Bible. That’s the choice I’ve made based on my faith.
But why should I act like that’s everyone else’s choice too?
We set ourselves up for needless conflict and miscommunication when we expect others to align with our beliefs when they do not share those beliefs. I expect people who claim to be Christians to act like Christians. I expect people who aren’t interested in Christianity to live how they choose, not necessarily according to my rules.
News Flash: they didn’t sign on for my moral standard.
People of other faiths or no faith are going to live in accordance with their beliefs. That’s a good thing.
We always hope that our missionaries to other countries would be permitted such freedom. We want them to be able to worship and live out Christian values even if they are the minority.
Why is it we’re fine with the majority imposing values on the minority here in the States?
The standard I use to limit someone else’s freedom will sooner or later be used to limit my own.
For example, some of my Christian friends would balk at the thought that other religions could use Base Chapel facilities for their own religious ceremonies and meetings–especially those pagans and Wiccans! The latter term would come out in the hushed whisper that somehow conjures a mental image of spitting on the ground. “I can’t believe they let them into the Chapel!”
One of my Wiccan coworkers tried to get a rise out of me by pointing out how the Chapel opened its doors and permitted them to meet in the facilities.
“Good,” I said. “The day they tell you that you’re not allowed to meet there, they can come tell me the same thing.”
Celebrating freedom is more than just getting to do what I want. Freedom for all means that I also celebrate the opportunity for others to do the things I oppose.
I don’t need a back-seat driver in my life telling me what to do. I don’t need to be one for someone else either.
The home of David M. Williamson, writer of fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, and cultural rants.