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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Roundup on righteousness

A few days ago I linked to a fine post by Catez Stevens titled Share the Love: City on a Hill or Salt of the Earth? Catez thoughtfully commented on ways in which Christians deport themselves in the world, i.e., the way they conduct themselves among others, both Christian and not. I stated that I hoped to write commentary of my own on this subject and am still hoping to do so in some depth; it is an issue I am working through myself. In the meantime, though, I would like to call attention to some other posts that I’ve seen related to the topic and offer a few general thoughts.

The first thought is that proper behavior and speech flow from a proper attitude of heart and mind, that of utter dependence upon God for one’s sense of well-being. Not terribly easy to achieve for any of us, which is why we must constantly be turning our hearts and minds toward Him – not for our salvation but for the working out of our salvation, our service to Him, and our pleasing of Him. We must not require the proper behavior of others such that, without it, our sense of well-being is threatened; we should not require it in order to feel a sense of our own worth, or power, or authority. Nor is the righting of every wrong up to us – if the world is going to h*ll in a handbasket...let it! God is omnipotent. We need to make sure that we ourselves are not in that handbasket, that’s all.

This requires honesty in heart, mind, and dealings with others. Our initial motivations may be pure, yet when it comes to expressing our concerns we may take a less than transparent approach. This lack of sincerity, which is really a form of pride, may not result in a message that communicates our real concern or the godly truth that we hope to communicate. Yet of course communication is racked with human foibles – it can be difficult to express clearly what we really mean. It may be difficult for the receiver to understand what’s being communicated, either due to the means or his/her own differences in use and understanding of language. But we must try for honest and forthright, yet gracious, communication.

(Do I consistently do the good I speak of in these two paragraphs? No, I don't. But please pray for me and I’ll pray for you, ‘K?)

Now for the roundup:

1) Alan at Thinklings asks, Was There Any Compassion in the Church Before Brian McLaren? He quotes David Chilton:

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
This means that true religion, as well as showing compassion, must demonstrate a firm commitment to biblical standards. We must now allow ourselves to capitulate to pagan ways of thinking and acting. [my emphasis]

as well as George Grant and Mark Horne, who say:

It is the sad tendency of modern men to either do the right thing in the wrong way or to do the wrong thing in the right way. We either hold to the truth obnoxiously or we hold to a lie graciously. We are either a rude angel or a polite devil. Often what poses as a cruel orthodoxy is defeated by what poses as a kind heresy.

. . . Those that hold to the Biblical standard are often anything but the picture of Christian decorum. While those that play fast and free with the moral tenor of the faith are often generous to a fault.

2) Pastor David Wayne, the Jollyblogger, whom I respect immensely, addresses the manner in which Christian disagreement sometimes takes place, i.e., with a view towards utter depravity, as well as the manner in which it ought to take place, i.e., with a view toward total depravity, in Depravity and Disagreements.
Total depravity means that sin has permeated every aspect of our being. Utter depravity means that sin has so permeated us that everything we do is fully evil, we are always as bad as we can possibly be.

...(paraphrase)“It never occurs to anyone that those on 'the other side' of the theological divide, or of the issue of the moment, are merely wrong, they must be evil, stupid, apostate or some combination of these.”

...Using utter depravity as an evaluative lens is easy. You can deem a particular error or set of errors to be so serious that you can write the person in question [or their view – my insertion] off forever (this is what people want to do with N. T. Wright). This way you can move on and never have to deal with them again.

Or you can acknowledge total depravity - recognize that sin is present in everyone on their best days, while realizing the image of God and common grace remain. This means you have to do the often long and laborious work of addressing issues on a case by case basis. It also means that you will sometimes be thought to be speaking out of both side of your mouth because you may be pointing out flaws one day and praising a person the next. But I do think that is a better way.

Amen.

I’d like to add that I think that Christians can sometimes view their fellow believers in a “Jekyll & Hyde” sort of way. If they are in agreement, then total depravity (or maybe even temporary-suspension-of-any-kind-of-depravity) may reign in their attitude. However, if they are in disagreement, “wrong” may indeed equate with “utterly depraved,” and not necessarily of the person but of their view.

3) On the WorldMagBlog, we read of Brokeback backlash for star. Michelle Williams plays the wife of one of the main characters in Brokeback Mountain. Says the headmaster of Santa Fe Christian school, which Williams attended,

We don’t want to have anything to do with her in relation to that movie. Michelle doesn’t represent the values of this institution...We’d like not to be tied to Brokeback Mountain.

The headmaster, Jim Hopson, could’ve perhaps chosen his words better (said something like, “We admire her acting ability and achievements but don’t support her decision to star in ‘Dawson’s Creek’ and Brokeback Mountain; these shows are not representative of our values.”) But there is nothing wrong with making clear where the school stands, while not condemning Williams herself.

Was Hopson wrong to turn down “a request from a Union-Tribune reporter to visit the school and chat with students about the movies and one of their own being up for an Academy Award?” Yes, perhaps. The school could’ve been hospitable, discussing and expressing support for acting careers and acting success while still making a statement about the importance of choosing roles in a morally upright manner. I’m sure that such dialogue is or should be happening among Christians both associated with the school and aware of Williams’ activity, and it wouldn’t have hurt to involve the reporter in that either.

The news article linked in the post quotes Williams’ mother as saying that some Santa Fe Christian staff and faculty members have called to congratulate her and Michelle. Is this appropriate or necessary? Probably not. However, were one to run into Michelle in person, it would be rude not to congratulate her on her acting success.

One might equate this with, say, running into an old friend who happens to be gay and has just gotten “married.” What would be the appropriate response, were he/she to inform you of that fact? To ignore, or condemn it right then and there? I think not. Would congratulating your friend in a polite way communicate approval of the marriage? I don’t think so necessarily. And why put up a wall where there needn’t be one by failing to acknowledge it? I don’t think doing so would accomplish anything for the kingdom of God.

A closing thought:

We must not curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness, with the same tongue (or heart, or mind) with which we praise our Lord and Father. (James 3:9).

Likewise, we must never revel in the downfall of someone who has fallen because of their sin. Is it right for another person to revel when we ourselves reap what we sow? Isn't the reaping itself enough reproach? None of us owns our own righteousness; it is imputed to us by God alone. It is His transforming work within us that grants us any rightness we have, else, as the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Righteousness does not merely consist of not committing the “big sins,” i.e., cheating, lying, stealing, killing, abusing, being sexually immoral, etc.; it consists of right attitudes towards God, ourselves, and others.

19 Comments:

  • The headmaster, Jim Hopson, could’ve perhaps chosen his words better...

    And Michelle Williams could've perhaps chosen her movies better...

    ...running into an old friend who happens to be gay and has just gotten “married.”

    Or how about running into an old friend, who happens to be a non-Christian, and has just gotten a divorce simply because they fell out of love with their spouse? And they feel great about their decision... are congratulations in order?

    While we must not curse men, we've still got an idea of what the "big" sins are, right? Remember (well, maybe you don't... afterall, I'm a bit older than you) Steve Taylor's Whatever Happened to Sin? Or maybe something a bit more orthodox, like Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the hands of angry God? Or maybe something a bit more contemporary, like Mere Orthodoxy?

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 2:55 AM  

  • Rusty,

    Nothing I am saying excludes what you are saying.

    And Michelle Williams could've perhaps chosen her movies better...

    Yes. I said this. "We admire her acting ability and achievements but don’t support her decision to star in ‘Dawson’s Creek’ and Brokeback Mountain;" "The school could’ve been hospitable, discussing and expressing support for acting careers and acting success while still making a statement about the importance of choosing roles in a morally upright manner."

    Or how about running into an old friend, who happens to be a non-Christian, and has just gotten a divorce simply because they fell out of love with their spouse? And they feel great about their decision... are congratulations in order?

    No. I don’t think the 2 situations are completely analogous. As David said in his post, each case must be dealt with individually; no two are exactly alike. This does not change the rights and wrongs in any way, nor make them relative to the situation, but it does affect how we approach different situations (interactions especially). The rights and wrongs themselves affect the way we ought to approach each situation. (i.e., it’s not just a few “big” rights and wrongs that apply, it’s all of them. I think that in our passion and zeal we may tend to focus on a few of them and forget about some of the others, esp. the ones lurking in our own hearts. I’m indicting myself here too.)

    Yes of course some (not all) have still got an idea of what the “big sins” are – I’ve never said otherwise, except to suggest that perhaps what we think of as the big sins are no bigger than other sins that we think of as smaller, or that we excuse or else fail to see when we are focused on the ones we get to thinking are big. Sin is sin – lack of utter dependence on, faith in, or obedience to God in any way at all, no matter how “big,” or “small,” is sin. None of it should be ignored, or explained away. It’s one thing to say that certain sins are not sin, which I am not doing, but another to say that all sin is sin; not just some. (Which is what I am saying.)

    The two greatest commandments are to 1) Love the Lord your God with all your soul, heart, and mind, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. (Of course one can get into discussion about not loving your neighbor as yourself if in fact you don’t know how to love yourself, but I won’t get into that now ;-) ). The point being that if in any way we do neither, we are committing the biggest sin of all. Kind of puts “big” vs. “small” into perspective.

    Regarding Jonathan Edward’s essay – of course! But he’s talking about God’s wrath, condemnation, etc., not man’s toward his fellows. It’s the latter I’ve been trying to address.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 7:46 PM  

  • Hi Bonnie,
    I thought those two paragraphs of yours were just fine. I read Daivd Wayne's post too - I liked what he said. I respect him very much. It reflected or echoed where I am at with some things.
    I think there is this false dilemma - "if I don't point out some-one's sin I have to endorse it". And of course that's not true at all - there are lots of ways to respond that aren't log in my own eye. I had an interesting comment from some-one recently. She was at a Christian social occasion and a gay couple walked in. And she thought, "what makes them want to hang out with us?" - in other words she thought what is attracting them to a room full of Christians. And I thought that was marvellous really - that attitude. Not "I have to point out their sin right now" but more like "what will they see in me when I communicate?"
    Hope this makes sense - it's coming from the heart (and the head but the head is a little tired).

    By Blogger Catez, at 8:11 PM  

  • Hi Bonnie,

    We admire her acting ability and achievements but don’t support her decision to star in ‘Dawson’s Creek’ and Brokeback Mountain; these shows are not representative of our values.

    The issue I have with that is that the movie Brokeback Mountain will not stand before God; Michelle Williams will. The issue is how the values of Williams, and not those represented in the movies, relate to Santa Fe Christian school. The re-write you propose effectively sanitizes the school of any stance whatsoever, with regards to the actions of a former student, and places them inside a movie. You seem to be preoccupied with congratulating Williams' acting ability whereas I don't see her acting ability as having any relevance to the issue. So she's a good actress? So she's a bad actress? The issue has to do with her choices and whether or not those choices correspond to the worldview that was, hopefully, taught at SF Christian. Stating that they don't could hardly be considered an unloving statement.

    I think that in our passion and zeal we may tend to focus on a few of them and forget about some of the others, esp. the ones lurking in our own hearts.

    I sense that the sentiment here (and in Caetz' comment) is that we can't accuse someone else because of the log in our own eye. Judge not, lest ye be judged. But let me ask you this (rhetorically): If a registered sex offender wanted to babysit your children, would you let him? And none of this dancing around "it depends"... just take it as it is - a situation that you wouldn't want to place your children into. Yes! - his "big" sins and your "little" sins are still sin; but the physical, mental, and psychological implications of his "big" sin carry a different weight than do the "little" sins.

    I'm not looking at the issue from the standpoint of "gee, I'm a sinner too, so I guess I can't make any judgmental claims." Do I congratulate the person who just got divorced for all the wrong reasons, simply because they're so happy about it? NO! And I don't stand there and tell them what a horrible sinner they are either. Neither action is very "Christian" (IMO). Now I never said that I would have to "point out their sin right now" - but congratulations to a gay couple who just got married, imo, is acquiescing to the mindset of our culture. It desensitizes our reaction to sin and legitimizes their actions - all for the sake of not offending them. Maybe there's confusion here between tolerance and acceptance?

    Yes, love your neighbor as yourself. Love them like we see modeled in the entire book of Acts, where not one message was couched in terms of God's love. Instead, the message was that all were sinners, in need of repentance. Similarly, Edwards' sermon also highlights the fact that we are sinners. It's not a message that sits well with a society that is self-centered, and it's not a message that corresponds to a gospel that is intent on telling man he can feel better (through God, of course).

    Sometimes we're so concerned with not offending the non-Christian that we end up watering down the message. I had quite a long debate with a homosexual on my old blog a while back. I wrote, in no uncertain terms, that the Biblical mandate on homosexuality was that it is a sin. I also wrote, in no uncertain terms, that he had worth as an individual because he had been made in the image of God. I see both statements as Biblically warranted, and both as acts of love towards this man.

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 1:42 AM  

  • I also thought that what you said is fine, and I also had read Jollyblogger's post when he first wrote it. It seems that you, I, and Catez are kind of in the same place on several issues. I've found that to be true with IMonk/Michael Spencer, too. It's good to know that I'm not alone in where the Lord is leading me.

    Keep on blogging! I always enjoy your posts, and I'm going to try to be more diligent about commenting. I tend to read things and digest them slowly, without discussing what I am thinking until after I have reached my conclusions. And sometimes that process takes a long time.

    PS I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain or even read much about it, but I'm not sure that I would say it is wrong for a Christ to act in a film that depicts sinful people doing sinful things, including being gay. All depending on how it is portrayed to the audience.

    By Blogger Hannah Im, at 5:53 AM  

  • Hi Bonnie,

    After re-reading my last post it may appear that I'm pretty upset... I'm not - I'm just trying to have a discussion on a serious topic.

    Some additional points:

    I think that we're really close in agreement on the meat of the issues here, but disagree on some of nuances at the outer edges.

    I also think, though, that I may not be picking up on what y'all are talking about. For instance, Hannah says, I'm not sure that I would say it is wrong for a Christ to act in a film that depicts sinful people doing sinful things, including being gay. Well, I agree. God is certainly capable of working His will as He sees fit; but what does that have to do with Williams' choice to appear in Brokeback Mountain?

    Caetz' staid, I think there is this false dilemma - "if I don't point out some-one's sin I have to endorse it". And of course that's not true at all - there are lots of ways to respond that aren't log in my own eye. I think that you're trading one false dilemma for another - that of pointing out someone's sin equating to having a log in your own eye. Of course, if such a statement were true, we'd end up snipping out many sections of the New Testament.

    To state that Williams' choices do not represent the values of SF Christian is not to declare oneself pure. Is that the gist of the issue you have? That if someone points out a sin they are somehow laying claim to perfection? If so, then we do agree afterall - we agree that passages such as "log in your eye" apply to any individual who falls into the trap of "holier than thou" thinking.

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 6:22 PM  

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am glad that you are engaging in this discussion; I think it is a serious one too.

    No, I am not saying that if someone points out a sin, they are somehow laying claim to perfection. If you read my post and previous comments carefully I think you will see what I'm saying. I'll respond to parts of your previous comment, though.

    The issue is how the values of Williams, and not those represented in the movies, relate to Santa Fe Christian school.

    I thought the issue was the values of Williams as represented by the movie she chose to act in, which portrayed certain values that made it morally wrong for her to act in.

    I don't see [Williams'] acting ability as having any relevance to the issue.

    Her acting ability has relevance to the fact that she’s an actress who won an award for the quality of her acting. Why should this not be acknowledged? Should it be ignored just because her choices of roles to act or productions to act in are morally wrong?

    I sense that the sentiment here (and in Caetz' comment) is that we can't accuse someone else because of the log in our own eye. Judge not, lest ye be judged...

    No, I’m talking about blindness to certain sins (especially our own) because of focus on others. I think we have to be careful regarding accusation. Is it always our place to accuse? No; we don’t have the same rights to accusation as God does. Sometimes accusation is warranted, sometimes it is not. Refusing to allow a sex offender to babysit my kids does not necessarily require confronting him/her about why. There is a time and place for confrontation. (But why would a known sex offender even be available to babysit?)

    I'm not looking at the issue from the standpoint of "gee, I'm a sinner too, so I guess I can't make any judgmental claims."

    Neither am I -- look at my blogging; look at the comments I leave.

    Now I never said that I would have to "point out their sin right now" - but congratulations to a gay couple who just got married, imo, is acquiescing to the mindset of our culture...

    A simple, polite congratulations is not the same thing as saying, “I think what you’ve done is fabulous, I hope you have a long, happy life together.” But what chance will you have of influencing a just-married gay person for the gospel by putting him off at the start, if indeed you might have chance for interaction with him further down the road? A conspicuous lack of socio-culturally-accepted politeness conveys to the person some sort of disapproval; it does not indicate upon what that disapproval is based, and it surely doesn’t preach the gospel. What would you yourself say to such a person?

    The book of Acts is about preaching. I don't think that every interaction we have with another person must be a sermon. Of course we are sinners in need of repentance. But if that’s all we need to know, why are there verses like John 3:16 in the Bible?

    Similarly, Edwards' sermon also highlights the fact that we are sinners. It's not a message that sits well with a society that is self-centered, and it's not a message that corresponds to a gospel that is intent on telling man he can feel better (through God, of course).

    I’ve never preached a gospel that says that man can feel better through God. Also, some of those self-centered society people are people who are overwhelmed by feelings/thoughts/what-have-you that they are sinful, and need to hear the message that there is a way out.

    I had quite a long debate with a homosexual on my old blog a while back...

    I remember that; I was part of it. My comments were part of the reason a few of those threads got so long. I also believe that I treated him in the manner you espouse.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:40 PM  

  • Catez and Hannah, thanks for your comments.

    Catez, your comment made perfect sense :-)

    Hannah, thanks for the encouragement; please don't feel pressured to comment. I understand and appreciate what you are saying about needing time to digest things...actually that's a higher compliment to my blogging than your leaving comments; it means there was something there worth chewing on!

    (P.S. I don't think I could quit blogging even if I tried... :-) )

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:47 PM  

  • Rusty,
    I was tired when I left that comment. You seem to taken from it something I was not saying at all. On this:
    I think that you're trading one false dilemma for another - that of pointing out someone's sin equating to having a log in your own eye.
    That's not at all what I'm saying. I was speaking for myself and had a situation in mind. In general terms - I'm saying that I don't have to be a Christian who has pet sins that I point out in others at every opportunity. I'm saying that I can relate to people without endorsing sin too. The log in my own eye part was referring to the holier than thou type attitude that such "stands" for God can be conducted in. I'm saying it is possible to relate to people without being like that. Anyone can go round pointing out sin. Yet you would have to do away with large chunks of the bible about loving people, doing good to them, and forbearing them if that was all there was to it. Hmmm... and laying down one's life for the ungodly. There is a context in which speaking to people occurs. I think there can be an over-emphasis on pointing out sin at the expense of loving people with the love of Christ, letting them see Christ in our lives, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work. Let men see our good works said Jesus. The Thessalonians were instructed to lead quiet lives and mind their own business - their lives spoke for themselves. It's not either/or - and that's the false dilemma,"if I don't make a point of saying what their sin is I'm endorsing it". No - I'm doing other things. And those things attract people because the Holy Spirit is the one who draws and convicts.
    I agree with Bonnie's post absolutely on this:
    We must not require the proper behavior of others such that, without it, our sense of well-being is threatened; we should not require it in order to feel a sense of our own worth, or power, or authority.
    I had a discussion/debate with a gay woman on a blog recently. She made a challenge and I and some others responded with some scripture interpretations and the gospel. (She was bringing in scripture to start with). It was ok, but not like a law that any time I encounter a gay person I must debate with them about homosexuality. Actually, I really focused on the fact that the gospel liberates.
    I do get a bit tired of this "you are into 'tolerance'" thing that seems to prevail in some circles. I'm into love. And yes, sometimes within a relationship with some-one we may discuss sin. But I like what Bonnie said - about not immediately conveying disapproval.

    Hannah - yes I think we are on similar wavelengths. I have been for years although I don't always express it on my blog as much as I'd like to.

    By Blogger Catez, at 1:49 AM  

  • Hi Bonnie,

    I thought the issue was the values of Williams as represented by the movie she chose to act in, which portrayed certain values that made it morally wrong for her to act in.

    Yes... and how it all related to the interview with the principal at SF Christian.

    Should it [her acting] be ignored just because her choices of roles to act or productions to act in are morally wrong?

    My stance is that her acting is irrelevant. Whether or not one ignores it doesn't enter into the equation. Perhaps, not being a performance artist myself, I'm not appreciating the significance of this as you, a performance artist, would. In the art world, "one man's ceiling is another man's floor," and simply winning an award for a performance does not mandate, in my mind, that the performance was indeed quality material.

    Is it always our place to accuse? No; we don’t have the same rights to accusation as God does. Sometimes accusation is warranted, sometimes it is not.

    I agree with that.

    But why would a known sex offender even be available to babysit?

    Well of course I was setting up an extreme scenario, but consider that some people argue that sex offenders need not register after they've served their time since "they've paid their debt to society." Also, my cousin's divorced mother recently re-married and her new husband is on the registered list of sex offenders out here. Her mother knew this going into the marriage and believes that the man has changed his ways. So there is a real situation in which a registered sex offender could be available to babysit his wife's children (although my cousin has told her mother that her children will not be in the same setting, with her mother's new husband, at any time or any place).

    A simple, polite congratulations is not the same thing as saying, “I think what you’ve done is fabulous, I hope you have a long, happy life together.” But what chance will you have of influencing a just-married gay person for the gospel by putting him off at the start, if indeed you might have chance for interaction with him further down the road? A conspicuous lack of socio-culturally-accepted politeness conveys to the person some sort of disapproval; it does not indicate upon what that disapproval is based, and it surely doesn’t preach the gospel. What would you yourself say to such a person?

    Your original post had the scenario as such: ...running into an old friend who happens to be gay and has just gotten “married.” (my emphasis). The scenario seems to have mutated a bit in your latest phrasing, so I'll attempt to address both. If the person truly is an old friend, then I think that they would already know what you think of their homosexual lifestyle. Condemnation would be inappropriate (and again, I've not argued for condemnation as the alternative to congratulations). Congratulations? A pat on the back or a bear-hug? I suppose I would do neither. Would it be considered rude? Probably. Do I think that matters? No, not in this situation. Consider if the old friend had just arrived with his new 3rd wife and the first two in tow (in other words, a polygamist)? Or what if a hetero couple, both of them your old friends - of course, had just arrived announcing that they were now going to live together?

    But back to the ssm couple. So what have I done?... acted impolite (based on socio-cultural mores) with regards to their situation (e.g., same-sex marriage) which is fast becoming an acceptable socio-cultural more. I do believe that a congratulatory tone indicates approval in the same manner in which you state that a lack of politeness conveys disapproval. In one sense it appears, from your argument, that you are left with a dilemma of congratulating the person so as not to convey disapproval (without the means of presenting the Gospel). Yet I believe that such an argument, if that is the one you're making, assumes too much responsibility for our actions. In other words, I can't know exactly how my congratulatory response will impact this person any more than my lack of a congratulatory response will. While both you and I believe that a Christian is duty bound to be winsome, I think we differ a bit on exactly how such cordiality is delivered. My resistance to congratulating the old friend stems not from a desire to condemn them, nor from any silly notion that I am better than them, but from a desire for them to know the truth. Acquiesing to the socio-cultural mores of our age is not the method I would choose (of course, you probably don't consider your method to be "acquiesing").

    This discussion reminded me of an incident which is similar, but certainly not exactly analogous. A friend of ours related to us recently about a trip they made to stay with her in-laws. Her husband's brother and girl-friend were also there (it was some family event, I believe). They arrived late and, as they were settling into their respective rooms for the night, they saw their husband's brother enter the same room in which his girl-friend was sleeping. Our friends' children asked them the next morning if Uncle So-and-so was married? So here is this family put in a situation of discussing, with their five children, the living arrangement their uncle has evidently entered into. Our friends took the husband's parents aside and informed them that they would not stay overnight in the same house while the brother and girl-friend were living together. The parents got upset for very similar reasons that you seem to be positing... that of not offending due to risking alienation to potential exposure to the Gospel. The brother got upset as well, but the couple stood their ground.

    Of course we are sinners in need of repentance. But if that’s all we need to know, why are there verses like John 3:16 in the Bible?

    Well I didn't say that it was all we needed to know. I just don't understand why Christians shy away from it so much.

    I also believe that I treated him in the manner you espouse.

    Yes you did (I didn't want to presume that you remembered the debate). Since you do remember it you probably also remember that he continually accused me of being homophobic and hating homosexuals - even after I pointed out to him that he had been created in the image of God. So even though I made every effort to not offend him, he was still offended. Why? I don't know. Maybe he's had very bad interactions with other Christians. I can't help that, but what I can do is present the truth to him in love, and leave the rest to God.


    Caetz,
    There is a context in which speaking to people occurs. I think there can be an over-emphasis on pointing out sin at the expense of loving people with the love of Christ, letting them see Christ in our lives, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work.

    I agree. I just don't think that, in the example Bonnie proposed, congratulations are in order (and again, I don't think condemnation is in order either).

    I had a discussion/debate with a gay woman on a blog recently...

    I have no problem with the event you discuss. Context certainly matters. If memory serves me correctly, didn't Norma McCorvey (name? sp?) - the Roe in Roe v. Wade - convert to Christianity first and then those close to her dealt with her lesbianism?

    I do get a bit tired of this "you are into 'tolerance'" thing that seems to prevail in some circles.

    I call 'em as I see 'em.

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 7:18 PM  

  • Rusty,
    I haven't actually commented on Bonnie's example, so I'd prefer you didn't make my comment about something that it isn't about.
    If you are calling it as you see it in regard to me then you have misrepresented me. I don't need to self-justify to you though. I read through Bonnie's post again and I like it very much. I agree things are a case by case basis.

    And now that I have a clearer head, I will say this again:
    I think there is this false dilemma - "if I don't point out some-one's sin I have to endorse it". And of course that's not true at all - there are lots of ways to respond that aren't log in my own eye.
    Rather than having that spun into something it isn't, let's take it as I meant it. i.e. I was referring to a situation where pointing out sin was really out of place in that context, and yet the false dilemma was if I don't I'm endorsing it. So I was saying, no, I can still respond without being either log in my own eye or humanistically tolerant.

    As for my conversation with a gay person on a blog, no offence to you, it just doesn't matter to me whether you have a problem with it or not. I simply related it as an example of one situation that is not the blueprint for every situation I find myself in. I'm fine with it, my conscience is fine with it. I am not familiar with the person you named although it is an interesting example. It's an example that is a bit theoretical for me as I personally know some people who converted from that lifestyle anyway. And I see those still in it, and others who I guess you could say were in the "major" sins when I do street ministry, and some who I know elsewhere.

    I could give you a lot of examples and we could pick them over I suppose. But I think that misses the point of Bonnie's post really. I'm more interested in the spirit in which things are done - and that's something I want to learn more of as I think there is always room to learn. I do find it a bit amusing in a way - having lived a hellish life before I was a Christian, and having spent years in evangelism of different kinds since - that just saying I want to love people with Jesus love and without a log in my own eye can be so debatable. LOL - after years of living with a whole forest in my eye and despising Christians (as many people do). (If you had known me you'd know why that is so funny to me). And considering that I did my own thing when I was without his grace, I'd say conviction of sin is not unimportant to me at all.

    (I have a huge grin now).

    By Blogger Catez, at 8:50 PM  

  • Still grinning... I don't feel like I need to be sorted out in this comment thread. I just took it as a great post (it is!) and an opportunity to say so and convey a few thoughts.

    By Blogger Catez, at 8:55 PM  

  • Sorry, I see why you thought I was commenting on her specific example now. I wasn't though - I just liked the general idea of not conveying dissaproval outright. I wasn't thinking about the case you two have been discussing. So please don't make my comment about that. Well, enough for me - the pint of the post is pretty obvious and I think well said.

    By Blogger Catez, at 9:03 PM  

  • Rusty,

    You’ve lost me on the issue with the SF Christian headmaster’s interview, but never mind; it’s probably not worth pursuing.

    I still don’t understand what you are saying about the irrelevance of acknowledging the good of someone’s ability, especially when that ability is God-given. It may be picking nits at this point, butI’ll keep picking for the moment. Its relevance to Hopson’s stance is that the whole reason he was approached concerning Williams was because she had been nominated for an award for excellence in her field.

    If it comes down to a view that excellence is entirely subjective in the performing arts, I will tell you that such a view is mostly incorrect. In music performance, for example, there are certain basics of technique that must be there in order to distinguish excellence and which are largely non-negotiable; the same is true of sports such as those performed at the Olympics. You have to be able to “cut the mustard” in certain fundamentals to a high level. After that, subjective issues such as style and interpretation come into play (unless you are just trying to be the fastest, in which case style and interpretation may or may not enhance your speed). Pure talent alone doesn’t accomplish excellence; an incredible amount of work and dedication as well as physical, mental, and emotional mastery characterize true excellence in these fields. These things are good and are accomplishments worth acknowledging. I’m sure that you do the job you do at the corporation you work for because of your ability and accomplishment in a certain type of work. I’m sure such accomplishment is not entirely subjective; you have to have certain abilities and skills that are quantitatively and objectively measured by a certain widely-recognized standard.

    Being a great actress and playing a morally reprehensible role are two different things. So are playing a great role well as opposed to poorly.

    In my married-gay-friend scenario, what I meant by “old friend” was someone you’d been out of touch with for awhile. I don’t think that a lack of simple, polite congratulations in this case would be the best way to re-establish contact.

    (I will say, too – and I am confronting you now – that twice in these comments you have indicated that you think that I have done, or am possibly doing, something that I am not, rather than suggesting I consider that I might be doing it, or expressing the fact that you may just not be understanding what I am trying to explain or that I didn’t quite explain it well enough in the first place. The first time was saying that I was, or might, “dance around” an issue; the second was that my original scenario (the gay old friend) has mutated. You did, in one of your comments, say that maybe you weren’t understanding what I was trying to say, and I appreciated that very much. You were also expressing an openness to trying to understand what I was trying to say, which I appreciated as well.)

    One thing I was going to say before and didn’t, but will now since the issue still seems to be relevant, is the difficulty of discussing hypothetical scenarios. They rarely mimic real life exactly; therefore, I find it much more fruitful to discuss actual situations than hypothetical ones. When I first brought up the gay friend scenario in my post I did so not without qualms, but I needed something to illustrate my point and that hypothetical was the best thing I could come up with. So I think it also may be counter-productive to get bogged down trying to discuss particulars of hypothetical situations, as I think is happening in this case. As Catez alluded to, there’s a danger of getting stuck discussing details such that my main point will be missed, and I don’t want that to happen.

    Regarding socia-cultural “mores” – I was not referring to “mores,” but rather to the accepted customs for communication that we as a society have. For example, the handshake. It’s a universally-accepted (in our culture, at least) sign of greeting and of good will. In other cultures, people bow, or do other things. I am saying that there is a generally accepted language of social gestures, both spoken and acted, that exist simply so that we can communicate, much like we speak a language so that we can communicate. If we all had different ideas of what words meant, we’d have a very hard time communicating (and often do!) I don’t believe that a congratulatory word necessarily indicates approval as much as it indicates an acknowledgment and conveys an attitude of good will. But here we are talking about some of those subtle differences I mentioned above. Different things may communicate different things or nuances of things to different people. Why not err on the careful side, i.e., the side of good will, is all I am saying. I don’t think it’s something we need to argue about, though; God stands in judgment of both of us and both of us answer to Him. I am happy to allow you difference in approach. It is attitude that I was talking about in this post and that still is my main point.

    In the incident you relayed, I don’t understand who the parents are not wanting to offend for the sake of the gospel – the cohabitating couple? If so, that’s a different issue than whether or not someone ought to refuse to be a guest in someone else’s house in which someone is cohabitating. When we rented out a room in our house, one requirement was that our tenant not have overnight guests of the opposite sex. A couple potential tenants thought that was really weird. Oh well. In a different example, I was a guest in a house in which our host’s girlfriend slept in with him a couple nights that she visited. My husband and I were playing in an orchestra at a music festival, that's why we were staying with a host family. I wasn’t about to insist that we get another host family, though, for reasons that I can in good conscience defend.

    I just don't understand why Christians shy away from it so much.

    Like who – me?

    So even though I made every effort to not offend him, he was still offended. Why? I don't know.

    Well, I’d venture to guess that it was an attempt to write you (and me) off so as not to have to contend with the fact that what you (and I) were saying about homosexuality might be true. Also, we were challenging something he holds dear. In this case, we were not culpable for his offense; I think we did the right thing in that situation.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:13 AM  

  • So many comments and so little time.

    Caetz,

    I don't think I said that you were into tolerance (it was actually a question). My comment had to do with how our culture confuses tolerance with acceptance. To be tolerant of a certain behavior, in our culture, seems to mean one must accept said behavior. Of course this is nonsense. I am tolerant of the gay couple walking by, but I do not accept their behavior.

    I think there is this false dilemma - "if I don't point out some-one's sin I have to endorse it"

    I agree that those two choices portray a false dilemma. In the context of the two examples in Bonnie's post, I think that the principal at SF Christian did neither (and that not congratulating the ssm couple does neither as well). As such I think that there are more options.

    ...it just doesn't matter to me whether you have a problem with it or not.

    That's fine. You brought it to the table and I commented on it. Whether or not it matters to you is your business.

    ...just saying I want to love people with Jesus love and without a log in my own eye...

    It sounds like you're doing a very good job of it.


    Bonnie,

    The "arts" thing could become an entire other discussion. Certainly craftsmanship matters whenever one is learning a trade or an art. My major at university was within the school of architecture... I studied with the artsy types, the engineer types, and the construction worker types. Yes, Williams' nomination prompted the interview/article, but I still don't see why congratulating her accomplishment is such a big deal. One could argue, very persuasively I imagine, that Brokeback Mountain received such recognition precisely because of the elitist establishment in Hollywood. So some so-called arts minded liberals nominate her for an award within a field of unknown movies? Well... now I'm ranting.

    dance around

    Ha! Good catch. The reference to dancing had to do with the frustration I experience when I lay out a scenario only to have someone nitpick it with alternative connotations. I wanted a carte blanche response to my scenario (although I must confess that I'm guilty of dancing around scenarios thrown out at me as well).

    mutated

    Nothing too vague here... initially you said "an old friend" and the mutated version seemed to imply that the person wasn't an acquaintance. Also, initially you simply mentioned congratulating the couple whereas the "mutated" version gave a couple of options.

    ...the difficulty of discussing hypothetical scenarios.

    I agree.

    ...I was not referring to “mores,” but rather to the accepted customs for communication that we as a society have.

    Perhaps I'm using the word mores incorrectly, because I'm referring to various customs (including communication) as well.

    I don’t believe that a congratulatory word necessarily indicates approval as much as it indicates an acknowledgment and conveys an attitude of good will.

    Yes, I agree. But in the ssm case we're talking about an abnormal (I would also say "deviant") custom. So a congratulatory response, in my eyes, indicates tacit approval at minimum.

    The parents in the story I related did not want to offend their son, the man who is living with his girlfriend. Their reasoning was that if they offended him then they would effectively drive him further away from God. This is the concern I see when reading this post (as well as the EOTS posts)... that of not wanting to offend the non-Christian, lest they be lost forever.

    Like who – me?

    I don't know... that's why I've been commenting here - to try and find out.

    Maybe I'm not picking up on the "love" aspect that is so prevalent here. Love? In what way? Paul had the Corinthians kick out the guy who was living with his stepmother, and he did it out of love! Does loving someone mean being nice to them? Does loving someone mean not offending them? Does loving someone mean telling them the truth?

    They shall know us by our love... in all its forms.

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 1:57 AM  

  • This is the concern I see when reading this post (as well as the EOTS posts)... that of not wanting to offend the non-Christian, lest they be lost forever.

    A nice straw man. Meanwhile there's what the post does say...

    Bonnie,
    I understand what you are saying. I think the word "congrats" is proving problematic. I'd say you can express an interest - happened to me actually. Gay guy told me he and his friend celebrated 10 years together and had a special party with speeches. I asked him how it went, he told me...

    I agree, debating hypotheticals is turning into a smokescreen from the point of the post.

    By Blogger Catez, at 10:56 AM  

  • Hi Bonnie,

    I consider you a dear friend. My wife, kids, and I had the wonderful opportunity to have you as a guest in our house last year. We're still looking forward to the day when our two families can meet. In the few days you were with us we were able to have quite long conversations. It's because of the closeness of our friendship that I felt comfortable coming on a little strong (or, maybe, very strong) on this and the EOTS posts. There are issues that extend beyond the limits of the posts themselves - that is what I was trying to address. I think you know what I'm talking about. That other people get bent out of shape about it isn't really my problem.

    In my boldness, though, I probably implied things that shouldn't have been implied. Just to be clear, despite the areas where we disagree, I do not consider your approach or methodologies to be un-Christian. I am CERTAINLY NOT questioning your Christianity nor your view of the Gospel. I consider you to be a strong, knowledgeable, loving Christian woman. You have a desire to live life with God in mind and to do His bidding at every turn. The love you express for your husband, your children, your family, and your friends is evident througout your writing (and even more so in person). The Christian love you have expressed to non-Christians via either this blog or mine (initially, before you decided to give away most of your life to this thing called blogging) is immeasurable.

    In other words... keep on writing posts just as you would have them written... because that's who you are and such writing adds to the community of believers.

    Blessings.

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 4:00 PM  

  • Not quite sure what you meant Rusty, but I'm not bent out of shape (just in case you thought so). I would have liked to have discussed things a bit more with Bonnie and maybe Hannah and that was made difficult I think.

    Anyway, getting a bit heavy - sex offending babysitters and kicking people out of the house.

    Time for to lighten up.

    By Blogger Catez, at 9:32 PM  

  • Wow... Thank you, Rusty. Thank you for your words, and for the encouragement.

    Know that the appreciation is mutual, and that part of the reason I stayed in this discussion was to "dig deeper" as well.

    You have somewhat addressed a question I was going to ask -- I was wondering if, in all you had observed of me, you had found me to be hesitant to call sin "sin," or to downplay the need for repentance.

    As I see myself -- am I sometimes shy to confront? Sure. Am I always shy to confront? No. Am I sometimes wrong to confront or do I confront in an unloving manner? Yes. All of these things are true.

    I have an awareness of lots and lots of elements of things all the time; it gets hard for me to sort them out and decide where everything “belongs.” This perceptiveness is God-given, I believe, but it is both a blessing and a curse. I also have strong powers of concentration (not necessarily natural but developed in order to become a good musician; they have also helped me become a better writer) that sometimes cause me to miss important things because I am concentrating so hard on others. I look to others (as well as to God) to help me with both of these things. I also hope that my abilities may be useful to others -- the "hand and foot" idea in the body of Christ; the body needs both.

    Catez -- I think you are right about the word "congratulations." It's the interest, as you say, that I am really concerned about expressing. Thanks for helping me clarify that!

    And LOL I agree that it's time to lighten up :-) Thanks for your contribution to this discussion.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:27 AM  

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