Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The 11th Commandment: Don't Get Caught

When Princess Diana went on television to discuss her marriage and Charles' infidelity, I remember a comment made by one of the royal experts:  "She violated the 11th Commandment.  She got caught."

The Royal Family has behaved less than sterling over the years; it isn't until years later that we find out about their infidelities and other sins.  Diana short-circuited that: she wanted the public to know how broken this family's behavior was, and some of them never forgave her for it.

But the Royal Family aren't the only folks that misbehave in the shadows and work hard not to be caught.  Our churches are filled with folks who live a double life.  Here are some grim statistics from Pure Desire's website:

"33% of all Americans seek out porn at least once a month"
"68% of Christian men struggle with unwanted sexual behavior"
"25% of Christian women struggle with sexual dependency issues"

How many of us come into church each week and sit next to someone who looks at porn?  Abuses their wife?  Has an alcohol problem?  Abuses children?  Uses an illegal substance?  Is angry, unforgiving and prideful?  Thinks the pastor is an idiot?  Condemns the worship team for being too loud and sends nasty text messages to the worship leader every Monday?  Gossips about the pastor?  Gossips about other people?  Is relentless in condemning the President?  Is having an adulterous affair?  

Whoa!  Hang on!  Abusing children is not the same as sending nasty texts or gossiping!  

If we are talking consequences, yes, you are right, but if we are talking about sin, then, sorry, sin is sin.

The above list has people doing their thing in the shadows.  They are hiding their sin at home, justifying it and then walking into church looking like everyone else--a God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christian.  They don't wear a scarlet letter on their shirt.  They smile, sing, shake hands, listen to the message and then go home, where the ruler of their heart takes precedence over God.

Maybe this describes us.  

But what about the gay person that walks into church?  The drug addict, whose appearance shouts aloud about their addiction?  The trans person who comes in and shakes your hand?

Their sin is obvious.  So we zero in on their sin because they can't or won't hide it.  We condemn such blatant sin and all the while, those who haven't broken the 11th Commandment--they haven't gotten caught--smile inside, knowing their blatant sin is hidden away.  

Paul has an interesting trajectory he plots in Romans 1-2.  In summary, despite the beautiful testimony of the creation about its glorious Creator, people were not grateful and glorified Him not; they grew foolish in their thinking and their darkened wisdom led them to create idols. Their truth was a lie and out of that, they engaged in shameful behavior, with sex being perverted way beyond God's holy design. 

Now, we, who attend church, upon seeing such egregious sin, would close the Word and say, "See!  Your orientation is not biblical!  Look at Romans 1!"  

OK.  But, open up that chapter once again, and keep reading:   

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (verses 28-32) 

Now that hits closer to home.  Paul could have ended with the behavior section, but he kept going, showing how ideas beget behavior and behavior beget ideas.

Now, if you were a good person, you would read Romans 1, and say, Well, I may occasionally slip here and there, but I am not like that!

Keep reading.  Go to Romans 2.  Paul launches into the good people:  his Jewish readers.  They probably (like us good folk) read the first part of Romans and thought, Of course the Gentiles--those disgusting and godless people--act like this.  They are not, well, us!  

OK.  So Paul takes us on: 

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness,forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Rom. 2:2-4)


Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: 'God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.' (verses 17-24) 


When Christians act as if they have it all, and then fall short and are caught in sin, why would the world take us seriously?  I believe there is a crisis in the church, and it's not gay people wanting or being granted full inclusion.  It is the failure of God's people to live lives that reflect Him.  Yes, we struggle.  Yes, we sin.  But we must view sin as something to move away from, and moving deeper towards God is our deepest desire.  We also must be willing to have full disclosure with the Lord and with each other:

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:17-21)

Why have Christians lost the battle, so to speak, with sin?  We condemn the big sins, but those change over time as cultural mores shift and more and more people no longer avoid the sin.

For example, back in the 1970's, when I was a new Christian, being divorced was the big sin.  Getting an abortion was the big sin.  Being a drug addict?  The church had compassion for those folks.  Alcoholics?  Well, they went to AA.  Gay folks?  Nope.  That big sin wasn't even on the radar.  

Today, divorce is not considered a sin; is it a moral failing?  Perhaps.  But with the huge numbers of pastors and Christians having experienced it, it no longer has any impact on how we see someone.  We now have programs to help people deal with it.  It is no longer an impediment to being in the pulpit.  

Abortion is still a big sin, but we are more compassionate towards those who have had one. 

Drug addicts and alcoholics have programs in the church to help them recover.

Gay people?  We are trying to sort this one out; is it a moral failing?  Born that way?  Recovery?  No judgement?  

Today, calling an attitude or behavior, "sin," just doesn't seem to have a moral impact on people.  Instead, they grow angry and storm off.  Others start the eye/plank/speck argument.  Repentance is a word that echoes at revivals and crusades; but in church, because we take a more therapeutic approach to a person's condition, that word is replaced with "recovery," "felt needs" or "support." 

Jesus becomes your Life Coach; Cosmic Buddy; Eternal Therapist who will help you live your best life; Your Wealth Manager, who blessings are waiting to drop all over you; Your Healer who will never let you suffer; the One who loves you as you are and doesn't judge you.  

I am on a journey here, trying to understand that as the church has redefined sin as a psychological missed opportunity that the church must remedy, we are no longer on our way to becoming holy people, set aside for God's use.  We are on our way of aligning with the world's values, and looking surprisingly like the world in how we conduct our lives and how we conduct church.  

More to follow.

Blessings, fellow travelers. 



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