In her book Thrashing about with God, Mandy Steward poses a question that is poignant, profound, controversial and quite frankly sad. Her question is this “Can’t I have God and not have His people”. Christians are messy, flawed people in need of grace, that’s what makes us Christians. We are hopeless people who find salvation in the greatest gift of grace ever known to man, our savior’s death on a cross. We extend grace to one another because our salvation is rooted in that undeserved grace. However, if I’m honest, there are times when people do things, claim things, declare things that are so egregious, so un-Christ like that I have an incredibly hard time extending grace and so it leads me to pose the same sad question that Mandy Steward posed.
The recent debate and friction around World Vision’s is one of those times. World Vision released the following statement “Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues…” This was met with a firestorm of controversy, vitriol, anger and active protest throughout the Christian community. World Vision’s Facebook wall turned into a battleground. You could almost feel the anger come off the screen.
“Disgusted by your cowardice. How can you recognize a “marriage” that is not even recognized by God? This is disgraceful, and I am deeply saddened that I will no longer be able to support my child of 8 years because of your misguidance. You lost way more Christians today than you will gain in homosexuals. So so sad”
“Tragic and unwise decision today. I hate that I have to pull my sponsorship but I will as soon as your phones open tomorrow since I can’t do it online. The loss of support for kids and people around the world is the responsibility of those who made this tragic decision, not those who were given no choice but to pull their support.”
Wait….What?!?! Your Christian response to your disagreement and dissent is to STOP caring for a hungry child? Your resolution to your perception of World Vision endorsing sin is to WITHHOLD support that would provide vaccination and clean drinking water to a poor child? This was the answer that God gave you when you went to Him in prayer asking Him how to sort out your Christian morals and values in response to this policy change? Really?!?! This is what you came up with? All that time reading your Bible, studying the life and example of Jesus, listening to sermons, and seeking God in prayer and your answer is to tack on “unless your values and morals don’t line up with the guy serving along side you” to the end of John 13:34-35? It certainly does change the scripture doesn’t it? “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another unless your values and morals don’t line up with the guy serving along side you”. Only one problem with that, you aren’t allowed to tack things on the end of God’s word, and the scripture doesn’t say that. The other problem is that scripture has something to say about arrogance and pride and maybe, just maybe certain people would not want to serve alongside someone with those attributes.
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5
This is where it gets tough for me. I am a Pastor, called to love and care for God’s people. Called to show compassion and understanding to His children but if I’m being honest, I have a really hard time showing compassion, understanding and care for someone who shows such an extreme level arrogance and pride and in that sin claims that another’s sin eliminates them from serving. I have a really hard time understanding how someone who claims to know the Lord, can misrepresent Him in such a blatant way causing people to question the love, compassion and grace of my Savior. I have a really difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that someone who claims to follow the same God that I follow would take food out of a hungry child’s mouth because someone who helped get that food there is gay. Is it possible that God would ask us to prioritize our differences over our similarities. Is it possible that God would have us choose to focus our energy and anger towards what makes us different and not focus our anger and energy towards the injustice that children die because they don’t have enough food in 2014? That’s insane! Not my God!
The Christian community could change the world. Let me say that again. Christians, God’s people have the ability to change the world, I believe that with all my heart but every time something like this happens we sour the world to our ability to do so. We convince the world that our God isn’t who He says He is. We cause the world to believe that we are hypocritical, judgmental, condemning people, and in turn that is what they believe about our loving, compassionate, faithful, gracious Savior and that my friends is tragic and heartbreaking.
There will always be Christians who act well…un-Christian. There will always be those, saved by grace, who see the extension of grace as a choice, as a case by case decision that they get to make depending on whether it fits their whim. So for me, that question will always resonate. Why can’t I have God and just God? The truth is there is only one answer, and even though the question resonates with me, the answer resonates louder. I need God’s people, I love God’s people, but that doesn’t mean I will sit aside idly and allow them to misrepresent to the world who my God is. It doesn’t mean that I will stand by and allow people to be alienated from God’s love and grace by those of us who live in the shadow and embrace of God’s love and grace. It doesn’t mean that I will remain silent when my fellow Christians claim that there isn’t anymore room at the table because your different. Shame on you Christian, who misrepresents our God, shame on you choose dogma over love, judgement over grace, and doctrine over compassion.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8
The truth is simple, God is love. When given the opportunity to choose between judgement and love we should always choose love. We should always choose to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the sorrowful. We should always choose to represent our God as the loving, and gracious God that He is.