Note: Throughout this post I refer to the “Confederate Flag”, it is in fact the Confederate BATTLE flag. I assumed everyone would picture that one, but stating it just to be safe.
I have lived in my current house just over two year. About 4 months after moving in, the location of my work office changed, thus changing my route to work. It is common to see Confederate Flag fly in the area I live in, but one house I started to pass was different; it was a beautiful house, with a super-well kept lawn, a nice large RV parked in a sizable driveway, and curb appeal that didn’t fit the stereotypical characteristics of “southern pride”. You know what I mean, I am sure….
The tall flag pole, since the first day I drove by, has always had its Confederate flag hung up, and as I usually do, I shook my head in dismay. “Why would ANYONE display that flag?” I mean, to me it was waving a cloth of betrayal – of treason – not to mention the racial overtones that come to mind to many people in this country. Each morning and evening I’d pass the beautiful yard and grimace as I’d see that damn flag hoisted as high as it could go, and I imagined the people that lived in the house. “Racist” was often at the list, followed often by “buddy, you lost the war!”
Week after week, the process repeated, until one day I wondered about the family a bit differently; I will admit I kept going back to the pristine appearance of the house and yard, and wondered how a person could make such beauty could also be so proud of what I perceived as a racist, hateful object. That train of thought lead me to wondering if their view of the flag was something all together different than mine. Could it be?
Then, about 4 months ago, I saw Robert for the first time as I drove by. I wasn’t surprised to see a white man appear in the yard, nor did his age – which I guessed was over 60 – make me immediately think nice thoughts about him. I assumed he disliked blacks, was an avid Trump supporter, and probably had more guns in his house than I had toilet paper. But still I wondered if I was viewing him through just as narrowly as I accused him of viewing the world through the white man’s world.
About 6 weeks ago, he was outside again, and something came over me. I admitted to myself that I was being somewhat racist in my opinions of him, based solely on his Confederate Flag. And, before I could talk myself out of it, I pulled into his driveway, exited my car, and introduced myself. I complimented him on his beautiful yard, and admitted that I was “a Yankee from Southern California” and would sincerely love to find out about his history, that of his family, and how it related to his beautiful home and the flag he flew.
Yeah, that went as awkward as it read!
But, it started a conversation that I will be sharing with you in this series, about all I learned from Robert, call him Bobby. Bobby is a retired engineer, he’s in his late 60’s, has been married a long time, has always lived in this area, and has dashing blue eyes below his bright white hair. He is fit, enjoys the outdoors, is very articulate, and didn’t think I was completely crazy, just maybe a little. Over the last few weeks, we had some interesting discussions, and I can’t wait to share them with you!
Today, it is calm, though rainy, where I live. I have been enjoying the day move from sunny and warm to overcast….and still warm. The rain started and somehow its building rhythm distracted me from the book I am readying to thoughts of my Mother.
Most of my life, I felt a disconnection from my mom. She defined what I didn’t want to be, while I found comfort and security in my dad. She was loud, had huge mood swings, while he was always even keeled and calm. She pushed me to want to scream, and he soothed me. I always considered myself more like my dad, and I would emphasize that in numerous ways, year after year. I wasn’t ashamed of my mom, really, but the things I recognized in her I wanted to minimize, and the things I saw in my dad I emphasized.
Having the benefit of age, of days like this that allow me to gaze back on the years that brought me here, I realize so many years were wasted with my myopic view of my parents. I don’t mean to suggest the hugely important and real impact my dad has had on my life; but like many things we humans do with people, I created a fantasy of my own truth that I suppose I needed, but nonetheless fractures upon inspection. I cannot separate from the goodness and love my dad provided for me, but my mom was not the woman I believed her to be, at least not the extent I manufactured in my mind for too many years.
My mom, born in a generation where many words used were not considered racist, was the first person I really knew who accepted all walks of life without hesitation. She raised eyebrows by having friends that were black, Chinese, Jewish…..the list goes on. I don’t recall her ever saying a certain race was bad or anything negative. She never said I couldn’t have a friend due to their race. She divorced an abusive man when the stigma for being a single mom was worse than being a prostitute. She bore on her shoulders the thought that her own mother did not love her and was often a shadow in her own family history (distant relatives I’ve come across through Ancestry knew of her brothers/my uncles or even met them, but never knew they had a sister). She always seemed to want to be loved, but somehow built scenarios in which even the strongest love didn’t work. She definitely had her demons to content with, many of which I witnessed throughout my years and often ran from in dismay, but somehow always offered unconditional love and acceptance no matter how heated the last exchange might have been.
I see now that the woman I defined mostly as negative for most of my life was not this angry, irrational being. No. Instead, she was supportive. She was fearful. She was hungry for love. She was confident. She was intelligent. She was resilient. She didn’t step on those beside her, fighting to survive as she was. Instead, she shared what meager tools she had to assist them, too. Most often, she’d make a friend while doing so. I thought hard today, trying to remember when she spoke badly about someone or uttered words of judgment; I couldn’t. Even during the prolonged years of my own parent’s tumultuous divorce, she’d focus on the issues she was fighting for and never once spoke badly about my dad. Even as our own strained relationship ebbed and flowed as I grew into adulthood, trying so desperately to be anything but like her, she never told me I was not her daughter. She never made me feel like I’d failed her. She always spread her arms wide and welcomed me. Even when I exposed how broken I was, or how hurtful I could be, she loved me and shone with pride.
So I sit here, regretting the time I lost with her. How I failed to come to this realization completely when she was alive. How I failed to ask simple questions like how it felt as a little girl during World War II, or what her favorite meal was as a child, or how she reacted to her first period, or what country she always wanted to visit. How she survived such a hard life (and it was very hard) and yet come out loud, emotional, but always loving. How, in the years when she was home bound and fighting COPD, she avoided becoming a bitter, mean old woman. How, even as I overtly fought being like her, she never once said she was disappointed in me or suggested I lacked in anything. How, in fact, she built me up even if I was too ignorant to notice.
So today, I looked up at the cloudy, rain soaked sky, and spoke to her. I apologized for not asking those questions. I apologized for sitting days after her death, listening to horrible things be said about her, and doing nothing to defend her memory. I said I was proud to look so much like her, and yes, even act a lot like her, and admit I am glad that I do. I thanked her for all the unrealized gifts she provided throughout my life, feeling their weight like a gift and not regret. I thanked her for creating a model that I am just now embracing wholly, instead of as an example of what I should avoid.
I am forever thankful that she knew my love, that she heard from my mouth that she was a great mom to me before she died. I am thankful that I could feel her love once more before she left. And I am thankful that I am so much like her, even if just realizing it.
I refer to homosexuality in my video and in this blog as sin, not because I believe this, but because it is mirroring the context of those who believe it is a sin. The goal of this post is not to argue this view’s merits, but to focus on how the Bible describes how we should respond to sin….specifically in reference to the noted meme.
While I say in my video that I am a Christian, I actually refer to myself as being a Follower of Christ. Unfortunately, the label “Christian” has been hijacked by a loud and hurtful segment of the American religious community that is often hard for me to recognize. You may see it differently, but I hold more firmly to Jesus than the dogma that is portrayed often in my culture.
This is the final installment for this meme I came across that was posted by a family member. It is my most direct response to it. Again, this involves my interpretation of scripture that is also backed up by many studied theologians. I will ask, if your only response to this is to insist I am not a Christian or other choice words, that is not a productive conversation and therefore I would ask that you refrain (just as I will refrain from finding reasons why YOU are not a Christian). However, if you’d like to share your interpretations of the specific scriptures involved in this, I’m all ears.
Before I get into the theological aspects of this post, I
want to emphasize that memes such as this create very dangerous scenarios for
LGBTQ+ people. In today’s aggressive and
even hateful rhetoric, people are actually empowered to physically harm LGBT
people because of messages like this.
Also, young people struggling with the realization of their sexuality
can very easily lose all hope and go as far as take their own lives. Words have power, which is a Biblical truth,
and I encourage everyone (but especially Christians) to let their words/memes
be “always full of grace”. (Taken from
First of all, many of my previous highlights regarding how many Christians today view things through a different filter today is related to Lordship Salvation. This branch of religion adds our requirements to salvation, sanctification, and emphasizes works over everything. Proponents of Lordship Salvation define it this way, “The doctrine of lordship salvation teaches that submitting to Christ as Lord goes hand-in-hand with trusting in Christ as Savior. Lordship salvation is the opposite of what is sometimes called easy-believism or the teaching that salvation comes through an acknowledgement of a certain set of facts.”Quote link. Opponents say this, “As defined by its own advocates, Lordship Salvation could more properly be called “Commitment Salvation,” “Surrender Salvation,” or “Submission Salvation” since in actuality the debate is not over the Lordship of Christ, but the response of a person to the gospel and the conditions which must be met for salvation.” Quote link.
To me, and to summarize – Lordship Salvation is the unsupportable and unbiblical belief that the PERFORMANCE of good works, the PROMISE of good works, or the EVIDENCE of good works MUST accompany faith in Christ in order to establish, or provide evidence, that such faith has resulted in eternal life. While the Bible definitely outlines parameters to assist us in being disciples of Christ, it does not say that any of these man-made conditions are necessary for salvation. However, many Protestant Evangelical churches, ministries, and pastors (especially in America) teach that concept as foundational today. Which is super ironic to me, because many of these same believers of these “truths” claim Catholics are not Christians because they are too focused on man-made efforts. In any case, I believe this approach and belief system was behind the creation of this meme. Further, I’d like to acknowledge that if you Google “Lordship Salvation believer’s favorite scriptures to condemn”, 100% of the noted scriptures will be listed (and not just for gays, but for ANYONE they determine have not met the additional criteria of works to be truly saved).
So, enough of my thoughts on this (though I think it is
important to understand), let’s see what the scriptures indicate. Remember, they were referenced specifically
to prove that I cannot be a Christian because I am gay.
1 Cor 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit
the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor
idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor
the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom
of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified,
you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of
First of all, I am MUCH MORE condemned for being an adulterer if I took this at face value, for Jesus Himself said, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9. I would argue that, because of these red letter words, at least 50% of the Evangelical Church would be in hell with me! But again, the context of this meme is about BEING GAY, so I suppose they wanted me to ignore the adultery part and focus on the “who practice homosexuality” part. I won’t get into the etymology of the word “homosexuality” in the script for today, but note this is a more recent translation and heavily disputed.
I surmise that the person who created the meme as well as
the one who shared it believe that people who commit serious sins (especially
those filthy homos!), or whose lives have a pattern of serious sin, won’t go to
heaven. They probably also believe that “true believers” won’t commit these
sins, or at least that they won’t have a pattern of any of these sins in their
lives – hence the “can’t be a Christian” tag for us gays.
However, this is NOT what this scripture is saying! This passage means that people who are not in
Christ (that is, who have never trusted in Christ as Savior, aka “the
unrighteous”) will not get into heaven. They are condemned because they have
never believed in Jesus, not because they have committed these sins. Christ
paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future, including the ones listed
in this passage. Remember when we
accepted Christ He put HIS righteousness over us? We are no longer unrighteous because of the
free gift Jesus gave to us.
2 Cor 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Many Christians (but especially those who follow – even unknowingly – Lordship Salvation) believe this means that whoever has believed in Christ as Savior will have an instantaneous change, that their mind will instantly be focused only on holy topics, their will will be subdued and directly to God’s, and their affections will be completely changed from love of sin and self to that of love of holiness and God. Because of that, sin cannot truly continue – or especially pervasive and ongoing sin – because if it does, they can’t really have accepted Christ or have been saved.
But we all just have to be honest and look in our mirrors to
understand that was not the case in any of our lives or our walk with
Christ. The affections of a saved person
are not automatically changed from a love of sin and self to a love of holiness
and God. Changing our way of thinking to line up with God’s way of thinking
takes our cooperation, as Romans 12:2 makes so clear:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by
the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of
God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Corinthians 5:17 means that whoever has received eternal
life through faith in Christ has been regenerated, resulting in the creation of
a new human who is a sinless, incorruptible child of God. This new human is a result of the second
birth, a spiritual birth, which all who possess eternal life have undergone.
The flesh nature, which is neither good, nor righteous, does not go away when
we are born again. That results in a conflict between the flesh and the spirit,
which will continue until we die, or are raptured. We are instructed to walk in the newness of
life (Romans 6:4), to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24), and to walk in the
spirit (Galatians 5:16 and 25) so that we can manifest the fruits of the spirit
(which are good things) and not the works of the flesh (which are evil). This scripture has nothing to do with
salvation, but a promise that we will not be forsaken and we hold a new
position as a child of God that was given to us despite our position in sin.
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the
flesh with its passions and desires.
To really get the context of this scripture, I am expanding
it to include Gal 5:19-23
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual
immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy,
fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies,
and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do
such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control; against such things there is no law.
Again, this scripture was used to prove that I am not a
Christian because I am gay. Does this
show that people who commit these sins will not get into heaven?
No. This passage teaches that these works of the flesh will
be manifested in the lives of Christians if they choose to not walk in the
Spirit. Not walking in the spirit is one
thing, but it doesn’t mean one has not accepted Christ nor does it cancel
salvation, which was a gift to begin with.
The people referred to as “they” in this passage are unbelievers. They
will not inherit the kingdom of God (go to heaven), because they have not
believed in Jesus as Savior. People who
are not Christians cannot walk in the Spirit, because they have never received
Further, also in Galatians, Paul rebukes the Jewish Christians for demanding that Gentile Christian men be circumcised to truly be a follower of Christ.
Claiming the Promise puts it this way:
Paul refuted the troublemakers by referring the gentile
converts to Christianity to God’s early promise in Genesis. God promised
Abraham and Sarah that they would have heirs and be the ancestors of a
multitude of nations (Genesis 15:4-5; 17:4, 15-16). Those descendants were
Gentiles as well as Jews. Paul referred to that early promise in order to prove
from scripture that it is not God’s law but God’s promise that defines God’s
relationship (covenant) with humankind. The law didn’t come until long after
Abraham and Sarah had received the promise and believed (Galatians 3:17-18).
Though Gentiles were never under the Jewish law, they clearly were part of God’s
covenant. They did not need to be circumcised or to follow other Jewish
“Those of us who are lesbian and gay Christians,” some of us observe, “are the Gentiles of modern Christianity who are being asked wrongly to renounce their/our sexual identity and live under the law of heterosexuality in order to be included in God’s covenant. That demand is a gospel that is not really a gospel at all.” Link to Quote, Pg. 11
1 John 3:7-10
Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever
practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the
devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of
God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a
practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on
sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the
children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not
practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his
So again, the premise of the meme being that I can’t be a
Christian because I am gay, I surmise these scriptures were used to point out
that because I continue to sin (live as a lesbian each day), I am not
practicing righteousness and am instead sinning. Therefore, I am not of God. Is that what this scripture is saying?
No. When we love God, we will love those born of God. Loving
God and loving others is not automatic in the life of a believer. If it were,
we would not be exhorted to love God with our whole heart and to love one
another. But more importantly, we need
to take the entire context of 1 John into account. Go backwards and look at 1 John 2:1. There
John is writing that children of God can and do still sin. Paul in the book of
Romans 7:14-25, tells us that indwelling sin remains within us. Our sin nature
is dead, but indwelling sin is still active.
The key to it all is understanding our identity in Christ; we have been
declared righteous, however we will still sin after we have been saved. As we
grow in Christ, we will learn to hate sin more and more, just as God hates sin.
Many still believe that we can lose our salvation or that because we still sin, we must not be a child of God. Remember who is declaring us justified – God Himself. And the Bible is clear that we are not justified by works. As such, our failure at works also do not disqualify us. So, the Bible is clear we sin as children of God, and we’d be more clear ourselves if we were more honest. Jesus has covered ALL of our sins; our will and self-effort cannot save us or keep us saved. Finding my identity in Christ has provided me freedom from bondage, and it was given to me as a gift from Christ Himself.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that
grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do
you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were
baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into
death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of
the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a
death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like
his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of
sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
For one who has died has been set free from sin.
This is a complex area, especially since many Bible translations (including the older versions of the NIV) create the “sin nature” argument instead of sticking to “flesh”. These verses are often used to condemn groups of people that are viewed as sinful, thus labeling them “Not Christian”. See Andrew Farley’s article here for expanded details.
Look also at Romans 7:21 that puts the above verses into full context; our flesh so wants to contribute to our holiness. That is the flesh of self-effort or trying to will ourselves into a state of righteousness. That cheapens what Christ did on the cross! Saying that only some of our sins were forgiven (the ones leading up to our asking God to forgive our sins), would mean Christ only died for some of our sins. If He died for only some of our sins, then the cross isn’t finished, and He would need to go back on it each day to die for more sins and future sins. This is not to call out those of us who sin (which, hello, is all of us Christians) to expose us as fake, or any other focus – but to remind us that we are crucified with Christ and we need to stop acting like we used to when we tried to offset this with our own actions. Or even worse, deny we are sinning while condemning others who sin.
1 Tim 1:8-10
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it
lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but
for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy
and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the
sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers,
and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine
Again, based on the meme, I am to understand that – because
I am sexually immoral – I can’t be a Christian.
But what is Paul really saying to Timothy with these verses? Paul White says this:
Now Paul wants to make sure that no one thinks that he is
against the law, so he says that it is good, “if a man use it lawfully” (verse
8). Wait a minute! If there is a lawful way to use the law, then there must be
an unlawful way to use the law. Paul says, “Knowing this, that the law is not
made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly
and for sinners, for unholy and profane…” (verse 9). In light of this
instruction, why is the law so frequently used against Christians? When a saint
fails, we often hear the same condemnatory remarks used, citing the Law of God,
as we do against the sinner. Instead, we should edify the believer, reminding
them of who they are in Christ. Only the grace of God is going to teach them
how to live righteous in this present world (Titus 2:11, 12).
In other words, the Apostle Paul was saying the law is for the list of sinners. We are not under the law, we are under grace. Paul White goes on to say, “Saint, receive no condemnation today. Let the love of God and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son silence the voice of condemnation in your spirit. God’s Law is just, holy and good and it shows people their sins. You are clean in Jesus, so see His grace and favor, and walk therein.” Link to article.
The Bible does not give us a litmus test to check if someone
else is or is not a Christian. As I’ve
shared in previous posts, the fruits of the spirit can and are manifested in
non-Christians as well – even Satan displayed them per the Bible! Jesus said others would know we follow Him by
the love we show. I think the Apostle Paul’s
answer would be fairly straightforward: a Christian is someone who is indwelt
by the Holy Spirit. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does
not belong to Christ”, he writes in Romans 8:9. Then, two verses later: “if
the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised
Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through
his Spirit who dwells in you.” So if someone has the Spirit, they will be
raised, and if someone does not have the Spirit, then they don’t belong to
Christ. That sounds about as close to a definition of what makes a Christian as
we’re likely to find. And for what it’s worth, I think the story of Cornelius
indicates that Peter and the other Jerusalem apostles would agree (Acts 10:47;
The problem is, then, how can we tell who has the Holy Spirit? Admittedly, this doesn’t give us a cut-and-dried test we can apply to others. It is, after all, not always easy to be sure who has the Spirit and who doesn’t, but that may not be such a bad thing. If God had wanted us to know for certain whether a particular church leader, or presidential candidate, or an LGBT person was a Christian, he’d have given us a secret password which only true believers could say. But he didn’t. So maybe we’re supposed to have assurance of our own salvation, but leave the final answers about the salvation of others with God. And, I contend, that it is MORE IMPORTANT to love……Christians, non-Christians, sinners, even our enemies.
Reverend Dr. Kari Tolppanen put it this way:
With respect to the debate about gay marriage, people in opposite camps have shown very little real love for each other. It is sad to see how few Christians have shown any desire to see the issue from the perspective of homosexuals. They do not want to explore the subject or to know any gay people (GMR or show love and compassion to family members they do know). The only thing that homosexuals hear from the mouths of these people is condemnation and disapproval. These Christians are today’s Pharisees who cling to their view of the Bible’s teaching, but forget what is most important in the law: mercy, justice and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23). They tie up heavy loads and put them on homosexuals’ shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them (Matt. 23:4). They believe they know what is best for homosexuals even though they may not know any homosexual people personally. I constantly hear stories about how cruel some Christians are towards homosexuals. Some parents abandon their gay children and many churches kick out gay people. No wonder many homosexuals have a very hostile attitude towards Christians and regard them as the worst kind of Pharisees. Link to article.
If you believe LGBT cannot be Christians, that is your right. Even if you’ve read this blog, seen my other blogs, and stick to that view, that is your right. But memes such as these are not loving. They do not share “good news” as the gospel does, but it closes the door to relationships. Where there is judgment, there is no love. And, I encourage you to ask yourself, is it more important to condemn others than to love them and have a relationship with them? Is your way better than the steps Jesus took with the sinners around Him? Do you honestly believe that, unless someone is perfect in your moral measurement, they can’t be Christian?
I contend we are called to love. Love our neighbors, love our enemies, and
love is to have a relationship with them where they are. And I will NEVER say someone is not a Christian
because I cannot tell with any surety that they have the Holy Spirit in them.
But to those who DO know me, I would hope that you see the love I share. I cling very heavily to the Holy Spirit to assist me in this, because I am the one being told my sincere faith is not true and I am not changed. I rest in Christ and I know without fear that I am His, no matter that others would rather spend their time insisting I am going to hell.
Recently, I saw a meme on Facebook and, as part of the LGBT community, it hurt me. I posted two installments explaining my view of the Gospel, and now I want to address another Christian concept that blurs the truth of how many of us view each other in Christ. I feel this is another area that is important to understand before I specifically address the meme.
Too often, we Christians go through motions to help us
decide if another person is a Christian or not.
We look for “proof” that they are saved, and if we don’t see it, we
decide they really CAN’T be a Christian.
This concept gets a little murky when “life” gets in the way. For example, one might say “no one who breaks
the law can be a Christian”, but when you point out that speeding is breaking
the law, the explanation is often further refined to mean “when you break
IMPORTANT laws”. We also often hear the
phrase, “to be a REAL Christian, your life needs to produce fruit”, or “the
fruits of your life will show if you’re a Christian.” Today, we will talk about fruit and its place
in our salvation.
The Fruit of the Spirit is detailed in Galatians 5:22-23
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against
such things there is no law.”
Many religious people look for these as proof that a person
is a Christian. If they believe the
fruit is not present, they often decide the person is not REALLY a Christian! They might also go to Matthew 7:15-20 and
John 15:6 and take it a step further – not only are you not a Christian, but
YOU ARE GOING TO HELL! (I suppose that’s
one and the same, but you get my drift.)
If they aren’t producing these fruits, then they must be going to
hell. I am here today to share, I believe these
views are wrong.
Preston Greene in his book asks some questions before breaking
down the scripture in Matthew and John.
These views are based on the Christian belief of salvation through Jesus
as being saved.
1. Can an
unsaved person show love?
2. Can an
unsaved person show joy?
3. Can an
unsaved person show longsuffering towards humanity (through charity)?
unsaved people promote peace (Gandhi)?
are honest, the obvious answer is yes to all the questions. Let’s take this a
step further, shall we?
Jehovah’s Witnesses show these fruits? (If you didn’t know, they don’t believe
that Jesus was God in the flesh and think you have to earn salvation).
about Mormons? Do they show fruits of the Spirit?
peace loving Muslims show any of these fruits?
The truth of this is ALL of the above show the fruit of the
spirit as listed in Galatians. It’s hard
to deny it even if you’re trying to insist that showing fruit is the true
measurement of proving salvation in Christ.
If this were not true, why would Matthew 7:15 warn against “wolves in
sheep’s clothing”? 1 Cor 11:13-14 tells
us that anyone can act like they’re a Christian by displaying this fruit, heck,
even Satan appeared to be an angel of light!
The fact remains that these attributes can be manifested by people who
are not Christians.
But what about Christians? Is there something in the Bible that shows that Christians always show these fruits once they receive Christ? In truth, they show the exact opposite. Preston Greene said it this way (emphasis mine),
“The church at Corinth was carnal, but were babes in
Christ (1 Cor 3:1-3). They were a saved church; sanctified (1:2). However, they
were sinning all over the place. Some of their sins were envying, strife, and
divisions (3:3). A believer has relations with his stepmother (1 Cor 5:5),
there were lawsuits among the believers (1 Cor 6:7) there was fornication (1
Cor 7:2), there was drunkenness at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:21). How many
fruits of the Spirit were they showing? Not many, but they were saved.
With reason and scripture we can conclude that fruits of the Spirit are not evidence of salvation. If the unsaved can do them without the Holy Spirit and saved people can all but ignore them, why do the religious insist it is mandatory that they should be exhibited? Because that’s what the “religious” do. Their mantra of “do” for salvation exceeds Jesus’s “done”.”
But what about Matthew 7:15-20 and John 15:6? Let’s break it down.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing
but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are
grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy
tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree
cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that
does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will
recognize them by their fruits.”
Preston Greene responds with this:
From a first look at this passage, it appears that if one
does not produce fruit, he or she is going to hell. First, this passage is
about false prophets (verse 15), not the born-again believer. Verse 16 reads,
“You will know them (false prophets) by their fruits.” Well, this is not
referring to fruits of the Spirit, as Satan presents himself as an angel of
light. Notice verse 18: “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit”. Do you
sin? Then guess what, you are not a good tree. The only good tree is Jesus. Jesus
said, “Why callest me thou good? There is none good but God” (Luke 18:19). Then
we get to verse 20, which reads, “Wherefore by their fruits you will know
them.” Well, if false apostles transform themselves into apostles of Christ and
Satan presents himself as an angel of light, what does “fruit” mean? The answer
is in Luke, which talks about the SAME thing.
For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither
doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own
fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they
grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that
which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth
forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart HIS MOUTH SPEAKETH.
This is what fruit means in this passage. It is doctrine
and what that doctrine produces (fruit). There are only two ways to see false
prophets. One, if they prophesy something and it does not come to pass then
they are not from God (Duet 18:22). The second area is “what is coming out of
their mouths”. If you study your Bible and learn, you can tell someone is false
by the words they speak. Bad doctrine, or false doctrine, will not produce for the
kingdom. For example, what type of fruit were the Pharisees producing? What
does Scripture teach us?
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye
compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him
twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt 23:15).
Their fruit was to proclaim salvation by the works of the
law to their disciples, to root their disciples in that doctrine that they
became more a child of hell then their teachers! This was the “fruit” of the Pharisees
(ClearGospel.org). As a result, we need to abide in Jesus (correct doctrine) to
produce fruit (converts) for the kingdom.
“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a
branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and
Preston Greene responds:
Jesus said to believe (trust) in Him for salvation. IF
you have done this, you have abided in Jesus to do what was needed to have
everlasting life. Remember, Jesus promised not to cast you out; He will never
lose you and nothing will pluck you out of His hand (John 6:39 and John 10:28).
Jesus CANNOT contradict Himself. Second, Jesus is talking to believers
(disciples). Look what he says starting in verse 3.
“Already you are clean because of the word that I have
spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by
itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it
is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
You can read Preston’s book explaining the reference to
fire, but note the MEANING of the fruit as noted in his book (emphasis mine):
Jesus uses this as an “idiom” or metaphor. IF one does
not abide in him, he or she is “useless”. Useless branches are tossed away.
This does not mean saved people can go to hell. That would contradict so many
passages of scripture. Jesus is just saying that if you don’t abide in him (to
bear fruit), then you are as useless as a branch bearing no fruit and will be
set aside. In other words “God won’t use you”. Can a believer produce no
fruit and go to heaven? YES. The Bible is clear. Salvation is by grace through
faith in the gospel of Jesus. In 1 Cor 3:11-15 we read how we, as born
again believers, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where our works
will be tested for reward. Some will have all their works burnt up, but they
themselves will be saved. If they had “borne fruit”, that fruit would not have
been burnt up, but rewarded. We conclude with verse 8, which tells us the
context of the passage. Salvation is NOT in view here. Discipleship is in view
here: “so shall ye be my disciples”. Salvation and discipleship— always keep
For salvation, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30). For discipleship (service) Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me”. Discipleship is NOT easy with a light burden. They are talking about two different things. The religious confuse salvation and discipleship; please don’t make the same mistake. Salvation is FREE. Discipleship is costly, BUT will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you abide in Him, you can bear much fruit! Are you in the doctrine of Jesus or the doctrine of the Pharisees (religion)?
In summary, we cannot know man’s heart and it is very dangerous to declare that someone is not a Christian based on your view of their works, or fruits. Their salvation has nothing to do with their works, as their salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Please don’t confuse salvation with discipleship.
This is the second part of my “review” of the Gospel. Since the Gospel is so important, there will be more info provided before I get into the “meat” of this topic related to the meme.
Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, who were dead in your
trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with
him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt
that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to
So, Jesus took care of all the work to remove our sin and
provide us a means to enter heaven. The
only thing we need to do is accept His actions (sacrifice) and acknowledge His
death and resurrection that conquered death (or sin).
It seems very clear to me that the only reason we are
righteous, holy, or can enter into heaven is because we believe and trust that
the death and resurrection of Jesus saves us.
Nothing we have done or will do can accomplish this amazing feat.
Galatians 2:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not
justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also
have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and
not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
John 3:16 says, “for God so loved the world, that he gave
his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal
You’ll notice that these scriptures do not add anything to
the list to require justification. In
fact, it clearly says that works, or actions we attempt to offer to God, do not
justify us. So we cannot act holy, we
cannot be a better Christian or even a better person by doing ANYTHING as it
relates to our righteousness and holiness.
That also means that things that we do on earth do not negate the blood
of Christ, because we have nothing to do with the process in the first place.
Grace is a FREE GIFT that Jesus gave us even though we
didn’t deserve it. If I gave you a gift
for your birthday and then handed you a list of things you must do to DESERVE
that gift, you’d think I was crazy.
Jesus did not give us a list of things we must do to be saved, and it is
crazy when we add conditions to people to “prove” they are saved when their
salvation is 100% a gift provided for each of us. It can be argued that when we humans insist
that we must take part in our salvation and add criteria (works or actions) to
REALLY be saved, we haven’t really and truly accepted the Grace (free gift) of
Jesus, but instead rely on our own efforts for salvation.
Romans 11:6 says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer
on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved
through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a
result of works, so that no one may boast.”
To be saved, we must trust in Jesus and repent. Here I’ve taken the wording directly from the
article linked below:
WHAT SAVING REPENTANCE IS NOT:
repentance is not being sorry for your sins.
repentance is not turning from your sins or reforming your life.
repentance is not the willingness to turn your life over to God so that He can
direct your path.
Saving repentance has absolutely nothing to do with
regretting your sins or resolving to turn from them. God is willing to save you
just the way you are. The Bible says:
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
WHAT SAVING REPENTANCE IS:
repentance is to stop trusting in gaining eternal life through religion,
religious rituals, or obedience to God’s laws.
The word “repent” comes from the Greek word which means “to change one’s
mind.” Those who believe that eternal life can be earned through good works are
commanded in Scripture to change their mind or “repent.” They are told to stop trusting
in their works, and come to God on the basis of grace through faith alone.
When we’ve trusted in Jesus and repented from our own
effort, we receive real assurance that we are saved – we are Christians! We know when we die, we will go to heaven.
John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever
hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come
into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Again, this scripture does not go on to say “and go to
church, and refrain from using foul language, separate from sinners, etc.” Because, that would mean our efforts really
control our salvation and that is absolutely not the Gospel.
Additionally, if any of us sin after receiving the free gift
from Jesus (and if we are honest, we realize we all continue to sin), we are
still secure in Christ. The blood of
Christ finished ALL sin; past, present, and future.
Hebrews 10:10-12, 14 says, “And by that will we have been
sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service,
offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But
when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down
at the right hand of God. For by a
single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
Before I end this, I want to emphasize that I am NOT saying,
nor do I believe, this means we can continue to sin and run around doing anything
we want. There are real and painful
consequences to our sin on the earth.
Relationship can be broken, lives can be lost, we can absolutely fill
our lives with pain, and we will not be very good ambassadors for our
Lord. God wants more from us, and His
Holy Spirit that is in us will help us to grow in Him to become more like
Him. But even as we sin, because of the
free gift of Grace, nothing can separate us from God. That is the Truth.
I welcome any comments on this and will base subsequent
posts/vlogs based on this foundation.
The article I used to help explain the Biblical
Truth of Grace can be accessed here.
This is the first part of my “review” of the Gospel; the
vlog was a bit long so cut it down some.
Even still, this vlog is longer than I’d like – I promise I will work on
that! Since the Gospel is so important,
there will be more info provided before I get into the “meat” of this topic.
Recently, I saw this meme on Facebook and, as part of the
LGBT community, it hurt me. But more
than that, knowing it was from a family member who has known me most of my life
and (I thought) had seen the fruits of my relationship with Jesus, being “told”
I was not a Christian broke my heart. I
wish I could say that I didn’t turn that hurt into anger, but I rode that
rollercoaster as well. But in the days
following seeing that meme, other aspects of the message it portrayed bothered
me as well. And today I want to share
with you some thoughts, not to defend my position in Christ so much as to
defend the Gospel…..and to encourage you as you traverse your faith with the
present climate too often presented to LGBTQAI+ today.
Before I get started, I also want to emphasize that these
are my beliefs based on my years of reading the Word and having a relationship
with Christ. As such, I will not demand
or insist that MY views are right, though I hold that very strongly. In that vein, I pray that others who hold
different views act accordingly and do not insist on their own way, which
should be avoided as per 1 Cor 13. My
beliefs, which are constantly being refined by the Holy Spirit, are to guide my
life……not yours. Your beliefs are to
guide your life, not mine – though I don’t mind sharing thoughts and speaking
with others who have different views.
Also, at the end of this post is a link to a document that I referenced
for this post and I encourage you to check it out.
This segment is to first establish what THE GOSPEL means to
me, and to share my understanding of its definition based on the Bible. It is foundational for establishing our
position in Christ and no discussion can really move on until you, my readers,
know the foundation I am coming from.
The Gospel means “good news”; it allows us to have a loving,
meaningful relationship with God. It
also assures us that ALL who believe in the saving work of Jesus will spend
eternity with Him in heaven. The Bible
is clear that we all have sinned and therefore are not qualified to enter into
Romans 3:23 says “ for all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God”
Ephesians 2:5 says, “…..we were dead in our trespasses….”
Because of our sin, we were separated from God because He
cannot abide sin – sin created an unbreakable barrier for each of us. I don’t dispute this at all – our sin
definitely put us in a place where we could not enter into a meaningful
relationship with God and certainly caused us to not be able to go to
heaven. For thousands of years, people
tried to address the sin in their lives by trying to be better; they tried to
follow the Ten Commandments, went to church (or temple), tried to love their
neighbors, prayed, got baptized……even today our lists are long in our own
attempts to become holy. But the fact
is, 100% of our own efforts do not get the job done.
Isaiah 64:6 says, “….all our righteous deeds are like a
Our efforts don’t do much – it is like mopping the floor
with a muddy rag. Our efforts may be
absolutely sincere, but they have never worked and never will. Our efforts will never erase the sin in our
lives or break the barrier that keeps us from God.
That’s where Jesus came in, as described in the good news of
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 says, “Now I would remind you,
brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you
stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I
preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that
he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
It is only because of the death and resurrection of Jesus
that the barrier created by our sin has been broken. He alone provided a means for us to have a
relationship with God and the ability to enter heaven (or be saved). This is a hugely important concept, because
it gives credit where credit is due. And
because of this action, all sin (past, present, and future) was placed onto
Christ. All the guilt and punishment caused
by our sins were imputed on Christ and he bore all of it in our place.
Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we
have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity
of us all.”
1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body
on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds
you have been healed.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be
sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus literally was punished for our sin (past, present, and
future); the wrath of God was poured out on Christ as He hung on the cross and
Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our
transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the
chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried
out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God,
my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus’ death paid for our sin COMPLETELY. God’s justice was completely satisfied,
removing sin’s stain once and for all.
Isaiah 53:10-11 says, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to
crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord
shall prosper in his hand. Out of the
anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the
righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall
bear their iniquities.”
John 19:30 says, “When Jesus had received the sour wine,
he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
The phrase “It is finished” was actually an expression used in Rome in the time of Christ when a debt had been paid in full. When Jesus shouted this just before He died, He was indicating that He had made a perfect, complete and final payment for sin.
Having just celebrated the USA’s 243rd birthday, combined with the fact I just finished two weeks in Europe, I have been thinking much about what makes my country of birth great. Our constitution is pretty amazing, for sure. The freedoms it promises I often take for granted and explaining differences abroad to the kids made me feel proud. The diversity we have also makes me smile, especially when I consider the bulk of my life was spent in Southern California where dozens of countries were represented with my neighbors alone. And, as much as I love pasta, it’s nice that within 20 minutes of my home I can eat at least 6 different ethnic meals. The list could go on and on.
However, being abroad also made me see outside of my “normal” in many different ways. Throughout my life, but most especially in the last few years, living in the US has started to expose our collective need to separate, to divide while also highlighting a patriotism that seems like a stranger to me. In sometimes tacit fashion, the definition for a “true American” has become blurred to me. We have all seen the viral videos of white Americans confronting others who are not speaking English (here is one such incident but there are many, many more https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/412647-woman-demands-to-see-passports-of-spanish-speaking-family-at). Many of us are either decrying the “dangerous people storming our borders”, or are watching in pain as hundreds of children are being held for weeks at a time without basic necessities such as water, toothbrushes, and compassion. But that is another post in itself.
In our country, there is this “rule” that you must speak English to be truly American, at least it feels that way. While no language has been designated as official for this country, most agree that English is needed for success in this land. In the 1980’s, a push was made to make English the official language, originally so that federal funds could be allocated for language classes for immigrants so that they’d have an easier time getting work and establishing themselves in American society. Shortly thereafter, it was morphed from that to a way to “keep America great” but assuring that English (aka “white Americans”) would retain its place in this country. That push was influenced by Nationalists (some of the racist bent, but not all). It went from a way to help immigrants to succeed to forcing immigrants to turn their backs on their heritage and, yes, even give room for English-speaking Americans to confront and belittle anyone who dared to speak another language on our sacred soil. Had I read that information a few years ago, I’d have scoffed. But the reality is, today that is abundantly true.
So it is with great disappointment that I’d like to share that this American Ethos is quite literally BS. Not only because I believe our country was meant to be an amazing experiment in democracy and DIVERSITY, but because it is extremely hypocritical. In the last two weeks, I have been to Paris, Florence, Pompeii, Positano, and Rome. THE MAJORITY of every person I interacted with spoke at least some English. Deana and I tend to avoid tourist stops when shopping and eating, and we were often off the “beaten path”. You’d think that we’d encounter people who did not speak English. We were surprised. Even years ago in a small town about 8 hours from Moscow, we met many people who could converse with us in English. Our own ability to speak the local language recently and in Russia was horrible, at best.
I’ve even met some people at my work’s Buenos Aires location that have never been to England or the USA who speak English. When I am there, I try my best to speak Spanish, but let’s be real – had the tables been turned and I moved there to work, I am confident that if I spoke to my family in English I would not be confronted or ridiculed.
Some of you reading this might be thinking, “well, the USA is important so it makes sense that the world speaks our language.” I don’t disagree with you. But what I AM trying to say is, we are a lazy bunch. Somehow we’ve moved from patriotism to Nationalism. Nationalism is ” identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.” In doing so, we want everyone to bow to us (or our language, our preferences, our definition of anything) while we also expect to be accepted “as is” when we enter into other nations. We don’t put our own requirements on ourselves and hold onto our language of birth in arrogance and maybe even defiance. We want to say we are better than others because of where we were born while paying big bucks to visit other countries for vacation. We often don’t even invest much of our time to learn other languages and just expect them to be able to meet our needs on our terms when we are there.
This was a humbling lesson to experience in real time, to discuss with our youngest kids, and to remember that all humans have a right to live in this world. I am a Proud American, but that does not mean pride is exclusive to me and mine. We are better than that people!
Many Christians today have built their day-to-day dealings and world view around the Bible, or so they claim. Hear me, I don’t think having a Christian or Biblical World View is wrong – I went to a Christian University because of mine – but sometimes we followers lose sight of the real goal in doing so. Too often, we create parameters or definitions of morality and then hold people around us to those standards that they might not even follow. Or we interpret “the rules” we follow in the Bible and treat them as more sacred than God, losing site of the ultimate goal in the first place.
Take the recent push for “religious freedom” laws spreading across the USA. In the name of Christianity (which the USA is not supposed to honor more than other religions), employers and businesses are being given the right to refuse services to people they define as outside their belief system. Most often, these people are homosexuals. So, in some states, a restaurant can refuse service to a gay couple or a doctor can refuse to offer medical treatment to a gay person. Why? “I do not agree with their lifestyle, the Bible says it is wrong.”
When Jesus walked the earth, the Pharisees and Scribes had PLENTY of things they called wrong as well, most of which they based on the Bible. As previously shared, eating with the “impure” was a big no no, and yet Jesus did it and chastised the leaders when they called Him out. “True” Jews followed strict rules, even when they were under the power of Rome, and were fearful of being kicked out of the faith if they failed. One such rule was honoring the Sabbath; the Pharisees already had a run in with Jesus when His disciples pulled grain to eat on the Sabbath, so they were watching for a misstep to give them authority to arrest Him. Here’s how the new situation went down:
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
Jesus challenged the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law because it lacked love and compassion. It made rules more important than people, just like I believe the new “morality laws” under the banner of “religious freedom” do today. The rules the Pharisees insisted on and people today insist on not only are not founded upon love, they do not incorporate the law of love that Paul wrote so much about. Jesus instead did what was good and kind and loving: he met that man’s need in love and healed him – even on the Sabbath. And I believe Jesus would provide food service to a gay couple and medical service to a gay man.
I pray that we, especially those in this country that are Christians, stop manifesting this problem today. May we stop struggling with letting rules be more important than loving people. May we definitely strive to be good and do what is right, but not forget the bottom line of LOVE.
One of the things I love about riding my motorcycle is the sense of community I feel with other riders. If you’ve never ridden, there is a common thing that happens; when other riders pass you, we wave at each other. It doesn’t matter if you are on the same kind of motorcycle, if you are wearing leather, the size of your engine, if you’re a weekend warrior or hardcore biker, if you’re a guy or not……we always wave. There are no conditions involved, and there is a sense of relating without knowing more about the other person other than they are riding a motorcycle. There is an unspoken agreement that we have each other’s backs and appreciate each other.
As simple and silly as this may seem, it is truly beautiful to me. How much better would the world be if we all acted this way with other strangers we interact with throughout our days?
In the world, however, things are not so simple and certainly not as friendly. For thousands of years we, as humans, have created lines to separate each other. We divide communities by race, by politics, by religion, and millions of other ways. Too often, by creating these segments we allow ourselves to create perspectives that designate a person’s worth (or lack of it) by what side of the line they exist. And that is wrong.
When Jesus walked the earth, this was also true. The Pharisee, the Scribes, and the Sadduccees were all experts on the Torah and the law it taught. Not many during the time Jesus was about had access to the Word, and therefore relied solely on the leaders to tell them what needed to be done to stay in God’s good light. As the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadduccees all believed that following the law to the “T” was the only way, they provided little help to people who were illiterate and often poor. Further, as they were “experts”, they often felt they were better than most every other group that existed during this time. After all, not only could they read, but they insisted they KNEW the law, and because of that were of a higher social order than the majority. The Sadducees, who consisted of rich, almost aristocratic families, had an added layer of prestige that made it easy to look to the rest of the community as “filled with others”.
Then Jesus hit the scene. He did not come from a rich family. He was not a Pharisee or a Scribe. He, in fact, was shaking up the traditions and even the authority of the leaders, which made Him not only suspect, but endangered the foundation in which the leaders had built their “line” of separation. This is abundantly clear in many scriptures, including this which is found in Mark 2:15-17 ESV
“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
To the religion leaders, communing in any way with “tax collectors and sinners” was a horrible thought. They taught that doing so would make a person unclean, and being unclean meant you could not commune with God – who they taught did not associate with the impure. They had created a mechanism to draw so many lines, it was almost impossible to live let alone create a community. Jesus, however, was clearly saying that avoiding people didn’t help them in any way, especially as it related to God.
It is easy for any of us to create a line to differentiate ourselves from people or actions we do not like. Especially in the religious context, that has been tradition for far too many centuries. Even in the political realm, we humans have created a “community” where acting as if it is “us against them” is more righteous than getting along. And none of that has anything to do with Christ or Christianity if we truly listen to the teachings of our Savior.
Further, it is clear that the Pharisees did not consider themselves sinners. Too often we forget that we are sinners, too, worthy of death. Those who have accepted the Grace of God through Jesus have been saved from the sting of death, not by anything we’ve done but by a free gift given to us. Yet, too many Christians put on the robes of the Pharisees and claim they are saved, and maybe even no longer sin or at least cannot be called “sinners”, while condemning those who are different.
But I want to be more like Jesus, who I picture would also wave if He was riding past me on His motorcycle, not caring what kind of bike I rode, what I wore, or if I was a sinner (which I most certainly am).