Now, I've made this observation before, but it came to me again this last week: another lesson from the Lord in how His Bible works to illuminate who really has their heart on Him and who does not. Who really "gets" it, and who does not.
See, my grandparents were and are very conservative in their theology. They are truly holiness-based fundamentalists, and they've attended a holiness-based fundamentalist church for the last 70 years or so of their lives.
The two Christians who emailed me this last week are also very conservative in their theology.
Yet my grandparents have been biblically safe to spend time with, and these other two Christians are not only a waste of time but also biblically unsafe to give any time to.
It has to do with application. With what's apparent in one's heart by one's outward actions. And here's what's apparent:
My grandparents have never believed that homosexuality is ok with God. They've always believed that women should be subordinate to men. They've believed that anything not lived in strict, legalistic holiness is of the devil. In fact, the way they have seen themselves and the world has been exactly what everyone hates about fundamentalists in general, around the world.
Yet while my grandparents have always believed these things, they've lived in total, gentle, humble love, from their Jesus-filled hearts outward.
- They've not preached at other people.
- They've not participated in attacking and slandering other people they don't agree with.
- They've simply, quietly, lived out their own belief system to the best of their ability within their own lives – preaching with the example of their hearts, attacking sin with their faith in God's goodness and rightness – and left the rest of God.
And the result of their Christian lives? People do not confuse their human belief system with God's truth, so people are not turned away from Jesus Christ because of their lives. Instead, people see and are attracted to the love of Jesus Christ through the all-welcoming and very real love for all people that my grandparents feel.
In other words, God is glorified, and not vilified, by their witness.
Now, what about these other two people who emailed me? I can't speak to their lives, but I can speak to the witness of their theology.
They obviously also believe homosexuality isn't right with God. I'm guessing they would share a number of other conservative theological beliefs with my grandparents. And from their emails, they also believe themselves to be great witnesses for Jesus Christ.
But in that they are deceived, because it isn't for Jesus Christ that they are witnessing.
See, none of us is perfect. That characteristic belongs to God alone. God understands that, and He gives us allowance to live out the best we understand of His ways. He also to a large extent judges us based on our compliance with how we understand His ways. He gives us a break, in other words, as long as we aren't by the same belief or act breaking one of His indisputable requirements (like, turn the other cheek, don't sleep around, take care of and stand for those who are oppressed, and so on) [See Romans 14:3, for example].
That's why it is vitally important for us to not only live our own lives according to how we understand God's ways, but to also avoid the sin of self-righteous arrogance wherein we try to force or browbeat our own human understanding into the lives of others.
When we commit this sin – when we try to make people live according to our own ideas as if they were God's – then no matter how much we believe we are about God, we are actually trying to take the place of God. And that alone should scare us beyond imaging!
Now, that doesn't mean we can't share our ideas and understandings. In fact, that's what people did in the early church: they gathered together and all shared their lives and understandings with each other, learning and growing as God was leading them.
It also doesn't mean we should go along with what anyone and everyone says or does. If someone is living sinfully – especially if they are living in religious sin – it's best that we don't keep ourselves in something that removes us from the Lord or tempts us to also live in the same sin. We'll always have more than enough of our own sin in our lives. We don't need to be borrowing sin from others!
I don't attend my grandparents' fundamentalist-holiness church, for example, because – despite the example of my grandparents – it's full of religious sin that trumpets God while tarnishing God's Name and distorting His message. And my understanding of God and God's Bible says that I'm responsible for keeping His REAL truth, even if it costs me. Even if it means I have to give up fellowship with a church fellowship. Jesus is quite clear on that [See Luke 9:62, for example]!
So, I work to counter some of the damage their false gospel causes amongst Gay and straight people alike – but I don't run campaigns to raise money and votes to attack or oppress them for what I understand of their sin.
I speak the truth when the Lord opens up a time for me to do that, but I don't carry signs in front of their meetings, telling them they are going to hell for their self-righteous but still lawless lifestyles.
I love them (with Jesus' help) even when they insist on being my enemy, but I don't condemn them to hell in personal emails.
See, if I did any of those things – if I acted like they do – then I would be trying to do God's work by using the Devil's tactics.
I'd be saying with my life:
- Jesus turned the other cheek – but I know better.
- Jesus never harmed anyone – but I know better.
- Jesus did things backwards, according to the world's ways of doing things – but I know better.
It's doubtful that my grandparents and I will ever come to any agreement about a number of issues, including homosexuality, women, and so on (not in this world, in any event!). But:
- We can keep our own lives in line with what we each personally believe, and still manage to act as much as we can like Jesus.
- We can do and say what needs to be said, and still manage to glorify, rather than vilify, God.
- We can truly learn from each other, adding the strengths we each have to the weaknesses we each also have, and support each others' faith.
- We can be truly disciples of Jesus Christ, in other words. The ones He will count as His own, when He comes again, because we look like Him, and not like the world.
They've taught me that they have Jesus on their lips but the devil in their hearts – which is exactly what Jesus said would happen, if we do religious things the world's way and not His way [See, for example, Matthew 12:43-45, for example].
They've taught me that they aren't thinking and learning – aren't using the heart and brain God gave them. They're just memorizing and regurgitating complex human theories and assertions as if they are God's Word are the same.
And that is just a waste of my time – and God's.
I do encourage us all to pray for them, though. For whether or not they ever understand that God does not condemn Gay people, they have already condemned themselves by their righteous lawlessness.
- Unlike my grandparents, they've only learned to speak what they understand as God's truth with their mouths, but not with their hearts.
- Unlike my grandparents, they haven't yet figured out that a holy life is garbage if it doesn't have the real Jesus Christ in the center.
- Unlike my grandparents, they haven't figured out that, being without real love, they are nothing more than ugly and ridiculous noise noise noise.
And there's nothing that should break our hearts more.