Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Matter of Perspective

A 41-year-old woman goes into a Magnolia’s Mystery* store in her local mall. She selects a few items, heads toward the dressing room and almost walks into a man coming out of the dressing room area.

“What is that man doing in the dressing rooms?” she asks a saleswoman.

“Oh, don’t mind him,” the saleswoman says calmly. “He’s an employee.”

“Well, what is he doing in the dressing rooms?” she asks again.

“I told you – he’s an employee.”

“Well, I don’t want him in the dressing room – I’m going to be in there trying on bras, and I don’t want him in there.”

“The idea that a man can’t work in the fitting room and not leer at the customers, not start panting with lust, is beyond insulting; it's ignorant! What kind of hate-monger are you?” the saleswoman fumed.

“What difference does it make if I hate men or not? I just don’t want them in the dressing room when I’m taking my clothes off! I’m supposed to give up my rights just because you didn’t have the sense to hire a woman? I’d feel the same way if you had a lesbian in the dressing room – it isn’t about them, it’s about my right to determine who might see me without my clothes on!”

“Just for that, we’re going to take away your Magnolia’s Mystery credit card! We don’t want to do business with someone as bigoted as you!”

[End scene].

*Magnolia's Mystery is a renaming of a famous women's lingerie store..... :)

Sound familiar? I know, it’s a bit of stretch. But think about it: don’t men have as much “right” to work in “Magnolia’s Mystery” or anywhere else that sells women’s clothes? By the same token, Tim Hardaway – agree with him or not – has the right to express his opinion about who he shares a locker room with.

The problem we get into whenever we tackle these topics is the difference between state and action, and by “state” I mean “who (or what) you are” as opposed to “what you do.” (I could have said “who you do” but that would have been a) poor grammar, and b) poor taste….)

People on both sides of the discussion miss a very important point: there is no question that God hates, and the Bible rightfully condemns, homosexuality. Anyone who disagrees with me should read Romans 1 and any number of other passages I could point to. [While I’m on the subject, heterosexual sexual behavior between people who aren’t married to each other is just as bad – and no, there is no “exception” if you’re “really in love” with the person you’re having sex with.]

What we miss is the fact that God hates all sin – not just homosexuality. He hates lying (even the little white ones), cheating, stealing, murder, envy, lust, gluttony, disobedience to parents and rebellion against His authority – just to name a few. All of those behaviors and attitudes are sin that God hates – not just homosexuality.

But in spite of our status as sinners by nature and by choice, God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to pay for our sin with His own blood.

Think about it. God hates sin so much that He requires blood (death), but He loved us so much that He, through His Son Jesus Christ, volunteered to pay that penalty for us so we could be reconciled to Him.

Here’s the thing, though. Maybe because we’re sinful human beings, maybe because we’re lazy, or maybe because we haven’t been taught, we equate hating the sin with hating the sinner. If you really think about that, it’s like hating your child because he disobeyed you.

What reasonably normal mother would tell her, say, 16-year-old child, “I hate you! I don’t even want to be in the same room with you! You disgust me!” just because he stole money from her purse, got drunk and ran the family car into a tree? Would the mother be angry? Sure! Would there be consequences for the child? Absolutely! But would the mother’s love be extinguished? I would hope not – maybe in some families, yes, which is sad, but likely not.

Here’s the thing, though: as humans, we can understand the difference between being angry with a child for doing things like I’ve described or worse, and still loving the child and wanting what is best for the child. How much more does God, who is perfect and therefore loves perfectly, feel the same way? It is not inconsistent to say, on one hand, that God hates homosexuality and on the other that He nevertheless loves the homosexual.

Going on with that thought, does the mother who loves the child who steals money from her purse, gets drunk and runs the family car into the tree want her child to continue doing those things? Not at all! Why? Because those behaviors are dangerous for the child, harm the family unit, and are illegal in most states. The mother doesn’t sit around wishing or lobbying for laws that will allow the child to have an endless supply of money, alcohol and motor vehicles so that the child can continue his or her behavior.

God’s will for us as human beings is that we will become reconciled to Him (by our acceptance of the gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ), that we will be holy as He is holy, and that we will tell other people about how they can become reconciled to God, so that we can all enjoy a relationship with Him.

We can’t do that if we sit around redefining sin so that it doesn’t offend anyone. I don’t agree with Tim Hardaway’s hatred of homosexuals – I don’t think they’re right, but I don’t think hatred of homosexuals is right either. We can hate the sin without hating the sinner. But at the same time, by refusing to call sin “sin”, we’re blocking the path for people to come to God. Regardless of our “sincerity”, lying to people about what the Bible says is as much sin as homosexuality.

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