Are my politics filled with Grace and Love?

Daily Readings: Numbers 29-30, Psalm 43, 1 Corinthians 5

In full transparency, I really didn’t want to write this blog. I delayed posting it because I am fearful that people will skim it, read only parts of it, read it through their own personal lens instead of with an open mind, and then jump to conclusions. This is a post where I would like to ask that you read start to finish if you read it at all and attempt to see the full message instead of focusing on any individual sentence.

Here we go…

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

This post is about folks outside of the church, but I feel compelled to write a quick reminder that we will all fall short of the glory of God and we will all sin. When Paul is referring to not even associating with people inside of the church living a lifestyle of sin he is talking about people that are unapologetically living a lifestyle of sin, have no interest in changing, justify what they are doing, preach a false doctrine, and are attempting to lead others astray as well. He is not talking about throwing people out of the church that are struggling with sin issues in their lives. If that was the case, we would all be thrown out! For more context on this, you can check out this post from a few weeks back: Tacking on verse 25

Let’s move on to today’s post.

One of the things that begins to happen when you are intentionally open about your faith in your normal day to day life and not merely when you are in a church context or purely when you are with other believers, is people start asking you about major cultural topics to get your take on them. For a combination of reasons (politicians on both sides stirring the pot, the media enjoying division, and some major religious leaders that find it an easy target) an “us vs them” debate that happens more frequently than others is about homosexuality.

As a marketplace missionary, people occasionally come to you ready to attack. There will always be some people waiting to pounce and put you on the defensive and make you come off as a bigot. This can be an incredibly challenging topic, and I would encourage all Christians to heed Paul’s advice that we see in 1 Corinthians today. When it comes to sin issues of any type, we are not called to judge those outside the church. If someone is not a believer in Christ yet, that is simply not what we are called to do. Jesus modeled this same behavior over and over again in the gospel when he would tell his followers, “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” or “First remove the plank from your eye before trying to help a brother remove the speck from his.”

The Bible is not ambiguous about our role as Christ followers when it comes to sin in the lives of unbelievers.

But people are going to ask, so how do we answer?

I will tell you exactly what I say. You can feel free to critique it, pick it apart, and give me feedback. I am open-minded to articulating an answer better than I currently am! I think responding well to questions like this starts with remembering the message of the gospel and constantly keeping in mind how much we have all fallen short and the sin issues that we all still struggle with on a daily basis.

Again, if you are going to continue reading from here, I would ask that you read to the end and not simply skim.

My conversations typically go something like this:

“Aaron, you are Christian, what are your thoughts on gay marriage?”

“Quite frankly, I don’t understand why it is an issue the church feels the need to get involved in at the political level. I don’t think individual churches should be forced to have a marriage ceremony in a religious context that they don’t believe in, but I don’t understand why we are up in arms about the government giving out certificates of marriage.

The United States was specifically set up with a separation of church and state. If we pick this one issue to legislate, why not every other one? The Bible talks far more about greed and how we handle our money than homosexuality and yet we don’t put a cap on wealth a family can hoard. The Bible speaks out against drunkenness and I don’t hear Christians clamoring for a law putting a three-drink limit at all bars and restaurants. There are tons of other examples. I just think there are more important things Christians could put their energy towards and am not sure why we focus on this issue so much.”

“But what do YOU think? Aren’t people born that way? Why would a loving God create someone to be gay if that is a sin?”

“Listen, Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality a single time while on earth. It is mentioned other times throughout the Bible, but not anywhere close to as many times as greed, jealousy, lust in general, and other sins. So regardless of whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong, if Jesus was a politician, it certainly wasn’t the central issue he was here on earth campaigning against. One thing I know for sure, though, is that I have fallen woefully short in all of those other areas time and time again throughout my life. I sin constantly even though I don’t want to. There is a sinful nature in all of us. Jesus was extremely clear when he told us to worry about the sin in our own lives instead of condemning others.”

“But what would you tell someone who is gay and wants to know what you think and whether or not they are living against God’s will in their life?”

“Well, I would first ask them if they are Christian. If they are Christian, I would ask them more about their story, how they came to Christ, what their walk has been like, and if they have taken that issue to Jesus in prayer and dove into God’s word with an open mind and open heart. I would ask them if they are willing to follow whatever God says on the matter.

If they are not Christian, I would tell them that it is not my place to judge them and that my opinion on their lifestyle doesn’t matter and that I am sorry if other Christians have ever made them feel like they are inhuman in someway for the choices they make and life they live.

I would then ask them if anyone has ever shared with them who Jesus actually was and what his message actually was. If they were open to listening I would then tell them about Jesus and how he has worked in my life. I would start with the many areas in my life where I know I have not been in line with what God has for me. I would share that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God and that he loves us like crazy anyway. I would tell them about our perfect, loving father in Heaven that wants what is best for us even when we don’t see it ourselves and that I am constantly learning that lesson over and over again in my own life. I would share how Jesus came down from heaven and gave his life for us so that he could have a relationship with us.

I would tell them that, ultimately, it is not my job to tell them how to live, nor is it any other Christian’s job, but that there is a God in Heaven that is very real and loves them more than they can ever imagine. I would ask if they would be willing to get to know that God better. If they are, I would grab coffee with them another time, explain the gospel in even more detail and eventually invite them to church, help them get plugged in to a starting point type of class that helps them really explore what it is all about in even more depth, and ultimately I would and walk alongside them as they are making a decision whether or not to give their life over to Christ.

If they eventually did, I would encourage them to take the question of their lifestyle to God.

If they are not open to having that conversation about the gospel in the first place, I would simply tell that God still loves them and if they are ever willing to learn more, I would love to sit down with them, but in terms of their lifestyle, I don’t think it is my place to judge.”

Ultimately our job as Christians is to bring people to saving faith in Jesus. If people genuinely come to know Christ and give their life over to him, God is capable of transforming hearts and I believe that God’s will and ability to transform is better than mine!

As a church we do not do ourselves any favors by attempting to legislate individual choices unless they directly hurt or infringe on the rights of others. Drunk driving kills a huge number of people every single year. Drunk driving is already illegal, but if we really wanted to hone in on one sin that had the potential to harm others, it seems like drunkenness would be a good start since you can’t drive drunk if you can’t get drunk. Not only can drunkenness result in drunk driving, but it can also cause domestic abuse, ruin families, and have all sorts of other negative consequences. Last I checked Christians weren’t lining up at the ballot box to bring back prohibition.

Jesus spent a large chunk of his time talking about helping the poor and marginalized. If the Christian church was going to throw their collective political weight behind an issue, that one was talked about quite a bit more. How are we doing at that currently?

When we talk about these issues, a large percentage of the church all of a sudden become champions of individual freedom. A vast majority says that it is the role of the church to provide help to those that need it and not the role of the government.

To be clear, I am not arguing for or against either of these positions. I am merely stating that we have an interesting way, as a church, of being incredibly selective of which issues we decide truly outrage us and what issues we will throw our collective political weight behind. I would challenge anyone to go back and read the entire book of Matthew, every single word Jesus spoke while on earth, and see if you come to the conclusion that we are fighting the right cultural fights at this moment in time. Are our collective actions bringing others to Christ or pushing them away?

This all stems from fear of “others”. If you are not gay, there is not a lot of risk of you accidentally being gay on a given night. However, you might have one too many beers. You might slip back into your porn addiction. You might be consumed with jealousy for a week, month or year. You might covet your neighbor’s things. You might grow incredibly angry and overreact. You might not honor your mother or father. You might lie. You might steal. You will definitely have idols.

“But Aaron, those are individual sins! Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice!”

How are you at guarding the Sabbath as a lifestyle choice? That one was actually on God’s Top Ten list. Homosexuality didn’t even appear on there.

We meet all of these issues with grace because we can relate. We could see ourselves struggling in these areas next time and wanting others to meet us with grace, forgiveness, and love.

Jesus calls us to spread a message of love and grace.

Jesus and Paul are the two main teachers throughout the New Testament and both of them were crystal clear on our role when it comes to judging people outside of the church and how we should approach them.

I vote we listen.

Thought to ponder

What media have I been consuming, speakers have I been listening to, or authors have I been reading that have potentially been pushing me away from the message Jesus gave of love, grace, and forgiveness?

Stop beating the donkey!

Daily Readings: Numbers 22-24

Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Numbers 22:21-35

How often are we Balaam?

There have been so many times in my life where I can look back and realize, in hindsight, that I was sitting atop my donkey beating the poor thing repeatedly while an angel stood in the road opposed to what I was currently doing.

These times in life don’t have to be major sin issues. The angel standing in our path trying to stop us doesn’t necessarily have to be there for the purpose of helping us avoid pitfalls for our own personal lives. (Although, that is certainly frequently the case!) Occasionally God has a specific mission for us on a given day, week, year, or season in our lives and we are too focused on our own priorities to notice the angel standing in our path attempting to redirect our steps.

Perhaps it is a person at work who is really struggling, but we haven’t taken the time to notice because we are worrying too much about our own current situation. Maybe it is a ministry opportunity that our church family is in desperate need of filling that we would be perfect for, but we are more concerned with how we want to use our time instead of what God wants to use our time for. From time to time it may just be a stranger that could really use a smiling face, a kind word, and a prayer from someone they just met, but took the time to see the humanity in them, and paused their busy life to have an impact.

There are times when I am completely in tune with God and these opportunities for kingdom level impact seem to be all around me. However, frequently, I just beat the donkey.

It is amazing how stubborn we can be when pursuing our own will for our lives instead of having our eyes open to see God’s will. It usually ends with us feeling like Balaam; foot crushed, plan stalled out, frustrated at our current situation, and unsure why our plan seems to be failing so miserably at the time!

We beat the donkey…over and over and over again.

And we wonder why life is hard at the moment.

As marketplace missionaries, one of the most powerful prayers we can pray every single day is, “God, open my eyes. Help me see the angels in my path directing my steps. Show me your will today. Use me for impact.”

When this is the posture of our hearts it is amazing how God always shows up. It is still amazing to me that the God of the Universe would choose to use us in all of our brokenness to reach and bless others.

Today, slow down and stop beating the donkey. God might just have someone in your path you are meant to impact.

Thought to ponder

When have I recently been too worried about my own plans, responsibilities, or stressors in my life to be attentive to those around me and open to God’s will for my day, week, month, or year?

Ignoring the burning bush

Daily Readings: Exodus 3-4

“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you.”

-Exodus 3:10-12

Throughout our readings in Exodus today we see Moses continually push back against God’s will for his life. God spoke directly to Moses from a burning bush. God laid out for Moses exactly how the plan would go. When Moses was still nervous that the Israelites would not follow him, God demonstrated for Moses that he would be there to help him perform multiple miracles in the sight of the Israelites if they needed additional convincing. After all of this, surely Moses would be inspired and motivated to go liberate his people! Moses was God’s chosen one to bring his people out of bondage! What an amazing calling!

And yet that was not the response Moses had…

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses.

-Exodus 4:11-14

How often in life are we like Moses? I know in my own life it is typically not a burning bush, but rather a combination of circumstances that seem to be God guiding me down a certain path where my life experience, God given strengths, and skills developed over time, can be used in a powerful way to further his kingdom.

This has occurred for me multiple times in regards to career choices as well as ministry opportunities. Many times, I have chosen to jump at God’s calling. In these instances God has always shown up in a powerful way when I have gone full speed down the path he has placed me on. However other times, I have responded like Moses.

“God, you have the wrong guy.”

“What if this doesn’t go well?”

“I am really not excited to take this on.”

Sometimes it has simply been, “I just don’t want to.”

The danger I have seen over and over again in my own life and in the lives of people I have had the opportunity to mentor, is wanting to project God’s will onto our own emotions. If we “aren’t feeling it” towards a particular vocation, ministry, relationship, etc. it is extremely easy to fall back on, “I think God is leading me towards…” We want to believe that our will for our own life must be God given, and therefore his will as well.

Sometimes that is absolutely correct and those feelings of nervousness, frustration, fatigue, etc. are from God and his way of pointing us in another direction. Frequently, however, it is just us trying to run from the task God has put in front of us. We want God’s will in our lives to match our will for our own lives! The key is never being afraid to ask ourselves, “Am I having a Moses moment? Is this simply me pushing back against God’s will in my life?”

There is no place in scripture that says we are going to going to feel constant excitement, passion, and desire to follow the path God has laid out for us. In fact there are many examples beyond just Moses where the opposite is true. Frequently, the people God uses the most throughout his story push back. They say, “Nope. This is not what you built me for. This isn’t what I want. Clearly you must have a different plan for my life. I need to follow my own heart and my own gut feeling.”

God says, “I will be with you.”

So the next time you are about to “go with your gut” or “follow your heart” on a decision that doesn’t seem to really line up with the gifts, abilities, and life circumstances God has brought you through, lift it up to God in prayer. Ask advice from Godly people in your life. Take some real time to ask yourself, “Is this a Moses moment?” in my life? Am I trying to avoid what God has clearly put in my path?

When opportunities in life seem to big, too challenging, too risky, or too stressful; we would always prefer to say, “God, you have the wrong person!”

God is always there to respond, “I will be there with you!”

Thought to ponder

Where in my past have I potentially had a Moses moment towards God’s will in my life? What is an area in my life currently where I might be saying, “God, you have the wrong person?”

As always, thank you for reading! Your comments are a great source of encouragement. If you think this post could be helpful for someone you know, feel free to share it!

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