From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by order of God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope—
To Timothy, my true son in the faith:
May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.
I want you to stay in Ephesus, just as I urged you when I was on my way to Macedonia. Some people there are teaching false doctrines, and you must order them to stop. Tell them to give up those legends and those long lists of ancestors, which only produce arguments; they do not serve God’s plan, which is known by faith.
The purpose of this order is to arouse the love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. Some people have turned away from these and have lost their way in foolish discussions. They want to be teachers of God’s law, but they do not understand their own words or the matters about which they speak with so much confidence.
We know that the Law is good if it is used as it should be used. It must be remembered, of course, that laws are made, not for good people, but for lawbreakers and criminals, for the godless and sinful, for those who are not religious or spiritual, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the immoral, for sexual perverts, for kidnappers, for those who lie and give false testimony or who do anything else contrary to sound doctrine. That teaching is found in the gospel that was entrusted to me to announce, the Good News from the glorious and blessed God. (Good News Translation)
We all need to be continually reminded of the supreme, overarching, and divine imperative of love. Love God and love neighbor is the summation of all other commands in Holy Scripture.
Whenever we lose sight of love as the guiding ethic of law, we stray into foolish discussions which are always unhelpful, and oftentimes harmful. As a result, there is today a plethora of shortsighted and small-hearted pundits who don’t even understand their own speech.
The irony is that those who rail against particular sins are themselves the most egregious sinners of all; and the ones calling for observance of Christian ethics are themselves acting unethically.
While there a large chunks of the Christian world who condemn same sex relations because “the Bible says it is sin,” they never question the translation of what they’re reading in Scripture – failing to realize that the original scriptures were not authorized by King James to be written in English.
Translation is no easy task. Believe me, I’ve done my share of it. Unfortunately, many translations simply go with “homosexuality,” even though it’s difficult to translate from the original Greek. It seems to me that the Good News Translation of “sexual perverts” is about as accurate as one can get.
The word has much more to do with pederasty (same sex relations with a minor) and rape than it does with all same sex relations. If we can easily understand the nuances of opposite sex relations, then why not same sex relations?
Frankly, I am genuinely grieved, and I lament over how Christians talk to one another about these matters.
On the one hand, there are the “truth tellers.” They have a passion for holiness and a zeal for righteousness. They point out that Jesus got angry and did not put up with people watering down the gospel. Jesus, for them, is the Divine Warrior who is ready and armed to oppose same sex marriage.
On the other hand, there are the “lovers.” They are sincerely hurt by chatter about homosexual sinners bound for hell. For them, Jesus loves, period. He would never hurt a fly, drives a Prius, and tries to leave the most loving impact he can on the earth without a harmful spiritual footprint or a rebuke from anyone.
I, of course, have painted two extremes. But therein lies the point: The rhetoric from both hands is extreme, as if, somehow, love and truth cannot co-exist together.
Methinks one of the great problems is that few people want to take the time to listen; few are interested in understanding the other.
Failing to possess a listening spirit means there isn’t much poverty of spirit, very little mourning over personal sin, and even less meekness.
Instead, we look down our noses at one another.
But is listening really that important? Yes, it is.
Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back.” (Matthew 18:15, GNT)
It’s hard to listen when people are taking pot shots at each other through social media and huddling together in their own small worlds without any diversity or contrary thought. The aforementioned quote from Jesus presupposes relationship; and there seems to be little of it going around.
“Truth teller,” will you take the time and effort to build a relationship with someone, or even a group of people, very different from yourself? Will you seek to ask questions, listen, and understand without judgment or making comments? Are you able to see the image of God in them?
“Lover,” do you have room to love someone who is at the complete opposite end of your own understanding? Are you willing to take the time and effort to see why this person or group of people are so passionate about the issue – without believing that you already know why they think the way they do? Can you see that God’s love is big enough to extend to the unloving?
Everyone has their hot button issues in which people are at very different ends of the spectrum of thinking.
What I am pleading for is that we in the church must take the lead by having the maturity to learn how to talk to one another without assuming we already know what the other side is all about. We don’t. And we won’t unless we listen. And we won’t listen unless we are humble; we will never be humble unless we realize our poverty of spirit before God.
Please don’t turn the good news of grace into the bad news of judgment. That, perhaps, is the worst blasphemy of all. Instead, may you embrace the mercy and peace which has been graciously given to you at the cost of great suffering.
Almighty God, from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed: kindle, we pray, in the hearts of all, the true love of peace and guide with your pure and peaceable wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth – so that in tranquility your kingdom may go forward, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.