November 26, 2020

The Nosey Evangelical Neighborhood

nosey.gifHow much of our neighbor’s business do we have to make an issue to be a witness?

Another post on this homosexuality discussion. I know I’m repeating myself, but I have another application I want to mention.

If you are an IM reader, you will have noted a couple of posts this week dealing with homosexuality. These posts always garner some similar mail and comments. I’ve been thinking again- dangerous- about this issue and I want to suggest a couple of things.

The subject of homosexuality, or any sexual topic, tends to polarize the discussion very quickly. The camps are generally conservative Christians- often evangelicals- concerned about the cultural and religious crusade of gay activism, and with saying clearly that homosexuality is wrong. On the other side are gay advocates pretty much affirming that all those evangelical fears are real.

Then we have voices like Sharon at the BHT, a UMC pastor authentically struggling with how the Gospel applies to people she knows who are both gay and professing Christians. She sees more of the Gospel in a kind of acceptance of gayness and in promoting marriage and family than in continuing to oppose all of it. Many of us identify with her struggle to be faithful to the good news of Jesus’ kingdom, and yet we still disagree with her conclusions that there is an inevitable acceptance of gay marriage and ordination that we should come to terms with now.

I don’t like the way this subject pulls itself apart, and I definitely don’t like the way Christians rush to predictable camps. I am like a lot of evangelicals in saying that I have very few questions about what the Bible teaches on the subject of sexuality. But I also have very few questions on the subject of how the Bible counsels me to view the sin of another person. In fact, I believe the Bible gives us a much unheeded admonition in this matter:

Don’t be a busy-body. Mind your own business. Tend to your own concerns. Don’t be shocked at the world. Don’t so condemn the world that it doesn’t look like you aren’t a human being yourself. Follow Christ yourself first, and be less concerned about how someone else is not following him.

In Jesus’ encounters with sexual sinners (as opposed to religious and self-righteous ones) you have to be impressed with Jesus’ lack of interest in the sexual aspect of the situation. John 4 and John 8 would be the key texts, and Jesus is so matter of fact about the sexual sin involved that you can hardly imagine his words being different if the sin involved was shoplifting. (“You have five pair of Adidas, and the pair you’re wearing now were lifted….Go, and pilfer no more.”)

In other words, you can believe everything the Bible says on this subject, but the real question is how do you live next to, work with, serve and relate to the gay persons in your life?

So now I’m going to make someone really mad, but I don’t care: While you are allowed to have your convictions on the morality of human conduct, you are to keep your nose out of your neighbor’s business. What you neighbor is doing may be immoral, but it’s not your problem and it’s not your responsibility. “Love your neighbor as yourself” does not have fine print giving you permission to be a moral policeman in the bedrooms of people whose choices about sex differ from yours and mine.

When I hear people say we have to “warn” sinners of what they are doing, I wonder if the person advocating that course would be OK with the BHT organizing a 24 hour a day posse to follow a subject around and hold up signs proclaiming “warnings” about their sin?

“Bob- Turn off the Porn.” “Jesus Hates That Second Helping.” “God Damns TV Addicts.” “Cruel to your wife? God should take your wife.” “Wasting God’s Money is stealing from God.” “Bob: Gossip is Murder.” “Watching your neighbor tanning again, Bob? What if God strikes you blind?” “There’s no cleavage in hell, Bob.”

Just a few ideas.

I’m simply suggesting that if Gene Robinson is your neighbor, you have to find a way to 1) Love him, 2) loan him the weed eater, 3) have him over for coffee, 4) and his friend, 5) be a good neighbor, 6) still oppose homosexual sin, gay marriage and gay bishops, 7) but don’t make it an issue in your friendship.

Wow. What a concept. Spencer believes that God doesn’t require us to treat Robinson like a big deal? But what about…

As I read the Bible, in being a “gay” bishop in his church, he’s totally wrong. And I’d say that while serving pizza, just like I’d tell Joel Osteen that I’d love to play poker, but he won’t be seeing me at his church. I’d happily tell them both why, and I’d preface and follow up by saying, “I care about you and I want us to have a friendship despite this difference.”

If Robinson says he won’t accept friendship from someone who disagrees with him over homosexuality and gay ministry, that’s his choice. It’s not mine.

I don’t have to accept or endorse anything to be his friend, neighbor or fellow human being. I don’t have to oppose everything a homosexual does in life to say I believe the Bible is clear on this subject. But what he does, in his life, and how he lives before God is not my business. I respect his right to live before God and his own conscience. I am not (normally) called to violate the sanctity of another person’s moral competency, especially if their behavior is outside of my immediate family and children, and isn’t illegal.

If you have a co-worker who is gay, what are you supposed to do? You have options, but acting as if his life is your business isn’t one of them. This is one reason Christians are hated: we are busy-bodies. We do act as if other persons’ moral convictions or lifestyle choices are our business. We get caught saying “I don’t want a gay in this neighborhood” or “in this workplace” or “around my kids” as if there are no heterosexuals we ought to be wary of.

Maybe I’m an idealist, and there is no possible friendship between gays and Christians who affirm traditional morality, but it seems to me that Jesus did it, and I need to pray that I can do the same.

(This is a subject close to me, because I must MODEL, in my ministry, correct Biblical proclamation to hundreds of lost, unbelieving kids AND I must have a personal, friendly, servant relationship with them as a teacher, counselor and friend. I have to live it out. I don’t just get to blog about it.)


  1. brother joe says

    Michael, I truly hear what you’re saying. I have struggled with homosexuality my entire life. After having resigned from music ministry a few years ago when given an AIDS diagnosis, I don’t really have the energy to try changing anymore. The wind has been seriously knocked out of me. I have read so many books that I could write my own by now, but if God only delivers one out of thousands, I don’t think I’ll be one of them. I’m 38 now. I would, however, love to have a friend like you. Your article “Our Problem With Grace” has been one of the most freeing things I’ve ever read. I’ve been put in another ministry position, but this time most of the people in the church know what I’m struggling with and have shown nothing but grace. AND, it’s an evangelical church!

    brother joe

  2. Makes sense to me. I have a sister who actively lives the homosexual lifestyle… having a conversation one time with her I said to her it’s really NOT about the sin-whatever that might be- but what do you do with Jesus?? If Jesus is Lord you will do what he did and only do what he sees the Father doing. Living a gay lifestyle, or viewing porn, or overeating , or stealing from your employer, or whatever it might be is not the issue. ARE you living a consecrated life doing what Jesus saw the Father doing? Sin is NOT the issue, obedience is. WE all struggle with sin…we are not all obedient to the Father. I however will not be the one to keep track of that in others’ lives -I have enough of a time dealing with my own.

  3. I’ve always found this interesting, the discussion of homosexuality. After I became a Christian I could no longer look upon that particular sin the way I use to, because I was too shocked at my own sin condition. How could I, after all I was a filthy former atheist with tons of my own sins. Though I may have been much “prettier” in the eyes of men, who are blind, in the eyes of God I am filth, dung and horrid.

    It would help Christians to once again see sin for what it REALLY is – a condition and not particular acts of sin. As they say, turned in upon our selves, this is the heart of sin. And as Augustine rightly observed if you understand sin as a condition, this inward curving, then you can realize, some for the first time that sin can take on quite a nice gloss. It can take on the nice gloss of the blue haired elderly lady of the church who is very pious outwardly but really doesn’t see herself as “one of those sinners like THAT one over there”. It can take on the nice gloss of divorce, homosexuality and abortion are great evils, but the evil of birth control is glossed over very sweetly among the church goers. It can take on the nice gloss of that denomination over there struggles with homosexuals and at least we don’t, being so conservative, but never mind that we wickedly bury the Gospel and Christ from the eyes of men with our weekly piety preaching. It can take on a nice gloss that condemns a struggling wet drunk that is unacceptable in the eyes of religious society and accept the rabid dry drunk who boasts in his abstinence (nothing is worse than a former addict who thinks he’s beat his sin by his will, this is how Pharisees are raised up). It can take on the nice gloss that says thieves, murders and adulterers are loveless selfish people out for themselves and then accept as a wonderful neighbor the great guy that helps every one out and tithes every week to either justify himself or selfishly improve his sanctification guised as “growing in Christ-likeness”.

    Yes if Christians once again saw sin for what it really was we’d flee back to the Gospel again and stop all of this “morality” none sense and quit sending a message to the viewing unbelievers that Christianity has little less in difference from Mormonism or Islam, after all don’t we all want moral societies?

    But true godly love is to be curved outward onto neighbor for the neighbor’s sake with no “hidden” agenda such as “I’m trying to get more sanctification, holiness or piety” (all false views of these). True love rises out of a true faith that is utterly fixed upon the Cross of Christ. Is it not obvious that this is false piety: “I saved your life Bob (but what I won’t tell you is that I did it to improve my sanctification”). Is it not obvious that such is really worse sin than a homosexual, thief or adulterer because it guises itself as sanctimonious but is worse selflessness, all the while the agenda is, “Look God, how sanctified I’m being”. Is it not PAINFULLY obvious that while the thief may rob your goods on earth for his gain, that a pious “Christian” who feeds you and saves your life with his eye secretly on his “growing in Christ likeness, “holiness”, “sanctification”, “piety” is worse than the earthly thief. For his selfish gain that he seeks (so he thinks) is far greater than the earthly thief’s stealing your money, for he seeks greater favor and holiness in God’s eyes, and instead of just forthrightly stealing from you he pretends to care for you. If we were to rob him of his miserable “sanctification” seeking by showing him that “his righteous deeds are indeed filthy rags before God”, would he then be so loving to his neighbor. Do you suppose he would still feed and help his neighbor if we said, “For your reward you will go to hell.” Then, his religious false Christian piety would reveal itself for what it was and then he would rage at God for not accepting his false sanctification.


  4. I don’t know what the prevailing Christian views are about sex acts between married heteosexuals– is everything consensual permitted, or does the Bible (or some other authority) have a list of disapproved activities? This very interesting topic seems to have attracted little public commentary. Certainly a big public furor over what married straight people do in private would be extremely amusing! I won’t offend by being explicit here, but you can write the script yourself. “God Hates ____ _____, Rev. Dobkins Says.”

    Certainly what goes on in the bedroom across the street is of no interest to me. Nor should it be.
    On a separate topic (I think), Larry wrote: “Though I may have been much ‘prettier’ in the eyes of men, who are blind, in the eyes of God I am filth, dung and horrid.”

    What a peculiar and unhealthy self-conception this is. I’m the first to admit that we are, none of us, examples of perfection, but surely conceiving of one’s self as filthy and as dung is wallowing in rhetorical excess. Perhaps moderation is too pagan a virtue to appeal to the religious enthusiast, but I suggest that extremes of language, like extremes of behavior, do not conduce to the good life.

  5. I like the call to examine how we are to live with homosexuals (who profess Christ) as professionals and Christians. I have to navigate that one on a weekly basis where I work.

    I was thinking what the NT had to say about sexual sin, and whether Jesus unloaded both barrels against someone seems to me to have had less to do with whether the sin was sexual, and much more to do with how much they were hiding from themselves and others. Proud, duplicitous Pharisees get both barrels. The slutty half-breed Samaritan woman from John 4 was shown mercy. Zaccheus was also despised & conniving and also got Christ’s mercy & fellowship. True, maybe some unrecorded adulterous relationship earned him special treatment from Christ. We can’t know. ; )

    Add in some negative examples, like John’s rebuke to Herod’s adultery and Paul’s harsh words for the Corinthian dallies, and the premise that sexual sin isn’t in itself a DO NOT INTERFERE! sign seems stronger.

    I have–you have–had to stick your nose in a neighbor’s business. But I think we both agree that

    “I am not (normally) called to violate the sanctity of another person’s moral competency.”

    Thanks and Amen for that.

  6. SkipChurch,

    I think you missed my point. In the eyes of God all sin is filth, dung and dirt. When one first sees and continues to see the Cross of Christ one can only assess themselves as such and not be judgmental upon another. This is the very assessment the Apostle Paul gives of himself, nay, in reality the Holy Spirit gives of Paul through Paul when he says, “I am the least of the Apostles, a wretched man, the chief of sinners”. It is true there could be false wallowing disguising itself as piety, but that was not the intent of what I was saying. What I was saying was that in the eyes of God, though I’ve PERSONALLY never struggled with the sin of homosexuality, my OWN sin nature is utterly no better.

    Or in like comparison when certain leaders of Christianity, which could be debated, vomited out their judgment upon New Orleans saying that Katrina was God’s judgment upon that city – if God judged New Orleans for her sin, then why not a nice country town of white picket fences, my, your or any other man’s dinner table? What holds His stroke back this very minute upon any of us! Nothing but the Cross of Christ!

    Here’s one for you (these are thought experiments not personal judgments, I pick icons merely for the universal effect they will produce):

    If I told you Bin Ladin deserves hell, think for a moment and ponder that thought and note your response. Then ponder this Billy Graham deserves hell. Now ponder your thoughts. Note the difference. THAT differential is called self-righteousness, justification by works and sanctification by works and a denial of Christ Alone. It is the heart beat of original sin.

    Is it really wallowing in rhetorical excess when my salvation or any man’s cost the Lord of Glory everything? Was Paul, again the Holy Spirit, wallowing in rhetorical excess when he called all the confidence he had in his former goodness, crap! Note well that Paul sets forth his BEST works as being nothing but dung and crap and not his “imperfections”. Was the Holy Spirit setting forth rhetorical excess when He said “Your righteous deeds (not your unrighteous deeds or imperfections) are nothing but filthy menstrual rags to Me.” When Isaiah beheld the Lord of Glory and said, “I am UNDONE for I have seen the Lord of Glory…am a man of unclean lips (that is filthy) and live among a people of unclean lips…”? Was Peter wallowing in rhetorical excess when He told Jesus to depart from him because he, Peter, was a sinner?

    Is it rhetorical excess as you behold Christ beaten, bleeding, spat upon, forsaken of all people and of God upon the Cross for YOUR and MY sin? Are we then to say we have only “imperfections”. Did Christ have to die for mere imperfections and peccadillos? Is it rhetorical excess that Christ suffered the undiluted cup of God’s wrath, His OWN Father, and that His own Father poured out that very wrath on His own Son for me and you? Was it rhetorical excess that God the Father set forth His Son to be crucified and God the Son did so willingly?

    Not at all! It is infinite rhetorical excess to call our sins imperfections in light of the Cross of Christ.


  7. Quite a rant, Larry.

    Didn’t know I’d set you off on more “filth, dung and dirt” and “filthy menstrual rags” and “crap and dung” and “vomit” etc.

    As far as I’m concerned that’s wallowing in rhetorical excess.

    Maybe two thousand years ago that sort of speech was the height of oratorical sophistication, but I’ll tell you for free that it makes a you sound like a wacko.

    That’s the last comment you’ll get from my unclean lips on the topic.

  8. SkipChurch,

    Your quite mistaken. I’m quite cool about it all, not the least upset and was both times I wrote it. Just quoting the Scriptures. The “wacko” comment doesn’t bother me in the least.



  9. Skipchurch,

    Not all Christians believe like Larry. Some of us see humans as being very imperfect, very twisted from what we might have been, BUT still, nevertheless, loved by God. Loved so much, that he came and sent His only Son, down to become our Saviour.