To borrow a phrase, I am somewhat irritated about extreme outrage.
Recent coverage of Ridgedale Church of Christ’s decision to effectively excommunicate a family from their congregation for failing to publicly denigrate their child’s person and lifestyle has done much to pique my intellectual and religious curiosity. The public’s discourse following this decision has evolved as expected: a vocal half cheering Ridgedale for adhering to their Christian morals and a just-as-vocal half condemning Ridgedale as intractable bigots, nothing more than an illustration of the current manifestation of the Christian church.
It is how the former half affects the latter half that concerns me most. To quote the Apostles' Creed, "I believe in God the Father almighty ... and the forgiveness of sins." It would seem that the position of Ridgedale and several local commentators I’ve heard recently is to forget that the Bible makes no distinction between degrees of sins. That is, a sin of pride or of extramarital sex is no less sinful than that of homosexuality. Thus, if we as a church are to remove homosexual members from our midst, we must be prepared to do the same to our sexually active teenagers, the prideful and the liars amongst us.
We as a church collectively seem to be more focused on the righteous indignation of Jesus, the image of Jesus overturning tables in the synagogue, than we are on the grace, love and mercy that set him apart from the religious leaders of his day. We fail to appreciate the significance of the moment when Jesus stated, "He who is without sin cast the first stone" at those who would, righteous in their own mind, stone the adulterous woman. We forget that the colloquialism "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" is no less true in religion than in other areas of life. When we as a body of believers are so intent on denigrating a population of people as undeserving of Christ’s love and mercy, our hypocrisy serves to alienate not only that group of people but also those that count them as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. I feel we do more damage to the cause of Christ in this way than we are willing to admit.
I hear the phrase "hate the sin, love the sinner" espoused in Christian circles, and it is a valid one. It is one we generally follow when it comes to those filled with pride, to those sexually active outside of marriage, to those who lust after another. But we seem to be unable to take a dose of our own advice when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. Some commentaries are correct: The Bible is clear on the sin inherent in homosexuality. But to those I say: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" and "None is righteous, no not one." If we are to eradicate sinners from the church, there would be no church left!
I suppose the walkaway point is this: The long-term goal of the church is to save souls from an eternity apart from God. Making an example of, or taking a cultural stand at the expense of, those in a congregation that choose to mirror Christ’s unconditional love in their relationship with their daughter rather than publicly disavow her does more to push people away from the message of Christ than to bring them in the doors to hear it. We’ll welcome the Cooper family at my church.
The opinions expressed in this editorial belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.