God is Tearing Away Church Influence

Yes, you read that right. I believe that God is tearing away church influence. Let me explain.

This morning while I was spending time with God I was reading the book of Jeremiah and came across something I thought extremely profound:

 “2“Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:
      ” ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. 3 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

 9 ” ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”-safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.

 12 ” ‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your brothers, the people of Ephraim.’”

Those are some powerful words of warning from the Lord to His children. The pinnacle of this passage is verses 12-15, something I want to look at closer.

Vs 12: Shiloh was the center of worship for all twelve of Israel’s tribes throughout the eras of Joshua and Judges. It is where the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were first set up as God’s resting place (Joshua 18:1).

Vs 13: The Lord succinctly summarizes to His children what they have done to themselves and the rest of the world as a representative of His name and His church (see vvs 2-11) while continually calling them again and again to not continue in their ways.

Vs. 14-15: A clear reminder that what happened in Shiloh, God thrusting His presence away from the “designated place of worship,” will once again occur today as His children continue to:

1. Trust in deceptive words that are worthless (vvs. 4 and Eight)

2. Mistreat each other (vs. 5)

3. Oppress the alien (vs. 6)

4. Oppress the fatherless (vs. 6)

5. Oppress the widow (vs. 6)

6. Shed innocent blood (vs. 6) – and this is not just murder, but also blood that was shed due to the church not welcoming outcasts and providing shelter.

7. Steal (vs. 9)

8. Commit Adultery (vs. 9)

9. Perjury (vs. 9)

10. Worship things not God (vs. 9)

11. Stand before God and ask for shelter amidst all of the aforementioned actions (vs. 10-11)

With all of these things happening in God’s name back then, is it any wonder He thrust Himself away from the church and gave them no influence? No.

Then my thought is, with all of these things happening in God’s name today as well, is it any wonder why the church finds herself in the same predicament that God is thrusting Himself away and giving us no influence? No … it’s not a surprise. You don’t believe me? Let’s go through them in numbered order:

1. Here is a quick example that Tony Campolo told me once: “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”: Jesus never said that. Jesus said, love the sinner and hate the sin in your own life.

2. Do I really have to give any examples of this happening in our churches – brother to brother, sister to sister?

3. Why are our churches fighting to close our boarders, and then deport those who are “illegal” and yet have been working here for decades and paying taxes like the rest of us?

4 and 5: Are mentoring and single mother programs mandatory in every church?

6. How many deaths have occurred because the church didn’t take someone in, in their time of most need?

7. This is not just property, it is also misappropriation of funds including reimbursements that look perfectly legal on paper, and yet are not in the scope of church ministry.

8. How many pastors step down because of this?

9. The church is now big business—when productivity drops, the accusations rise.

10.Even in the culture war of GLBT and conservativism, I feel both have started to worship the fighting—which has become the norm, the M.O., the only way to handle things. And when someone messes with that, they’re messing with the idol.

11. How much longer can we beg God for peace and protection when we’re not offering any of it ourselves?

Just as in verse 13, God is calling us to His ideal and we’re not listening. Two prominent lessons are applicable here: History repeats itself and God is the same yesterday, today and forever. I believe both of those to be true, and today’s church is repeating what the Israelites did, and God in His unchanging ways, is also repeating what He did. Whoa to us that we’re not listening. We’re not reading the Bible to see the errors in our ways. We’re not looking at history clearly repeating itself over and over again—all the while God is pleading, yearning, desperately calling us to reclaim what it is to live a real, authentic faith in this life. And what has happened because of it?

God is intentionally leaving the church to itself. It is the church who now speaks louder than any of her actions can recoup. God wants our hearts, not our politics or rituals or dogmatic practices that we think draw us closer to Him. And until we realize this, God is separated from the church.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Henry – True, Jesus never said those combined words in one sentence. However, over the course of much of what he said, the communicated message was as I mentioned. If you would like, I could do a more in-depth reference for you of where I understand this to be true. The "love the sinner hate the sin", although many cognitively understand it, hardly ever seems to be lived out in the correct fashion. My focus then (as it is the Holy Spirit's job to convict and God's job to judge), is to focus on loving the sinner and continuing to work on my own sin, striving to be closer to God.

  • http://jonathanstegall.com Jonathan Stegall

    These are great words. I have always been stricken by Jeremiah 7 in light of thoughts like these.

    For what it's worth, though, I would say that Jesus spoke the message you mention in point 1 in several places: when he asks us to remove the log from our own eyes, when he asks the one without sin to throw the stone, when he asks people to repent instead of worrying about why the tower of Siloam fell, etc.

    In any case, thank you for this.

  • mary

    I agree with so much of what you said and the church isn't responding in appropriate ways, but it also can't turn a blind eye to sin in the name of "love". this is something i continue to struggle with in terms of the GLBT community. i do love them because they are humans beings and i believe God loves them as well, but i still have to communicate the idea that i disagree with the lifestyle according to Biblical principle.

    i realize it isn't a black and white issue and you can't just tell people to "get over it" or "choose something else" but i also don't believe we should encourage or tell them its not wrong, but its a fine line i suppose.

    i appreciate your ministry and sharing the love because the love of Christ is the only way to change anything.

  • http://www.jonathanpaulmusic.com/ Jonathan Paul

    Andrew,

    Thanks for sharing this; it's quite thought provoking. Henry's thought crossed my mind as well. Your comment on point 1 doesn't seem obvious, and could benefit from something more in depth if you want to make it convincing. Not that the rest of your point here depends on it though anyway.

  • Audrey

    4 and 5: Are mentoring and single mother programs mandatory in every church?— I thought this was an interesting point. Some churches may be doing this, but I think the idolatry of the nuclear family prevents them from seeing this as an institutional issue, not an individual one.

    5. Oppress the widow (vs. 6)– Most of the widows I know are Buddhists, and living rather tranquil artistic lives. Again, is the worship of the nuclear family a detriment to everyone else who isn't that rare 8% of the population?

    As for music Mrs. T, I can't imagine having my partner dictate my musical tastes. This may be another male dominance thing that hetero women go along with. My idea of partnership is to increase the cultural possibilities not limit them. I find legalism kind of tiring, because it is about men who make the laws, fully expecting women to follow them. I don't believe in a male dictated legal state, and since women weren't considered full participants in the temple in the old testament, I'm not sure those laws apply to women. Jesus, of course, completely challenged the legalistic thinking of patriarchal men, and challenged the male enforced purity codes as well. He didn't like the idea of temples being pigeon marketing operations either. He might have a few things to say about mega-churches and capitalism. I tend to think of Jesus as always being with street people, always being in the gay and lesbian bars, always being with the non-conformists. Those were the people who first heard his message, along with a few elites now and then. Christianity isn't really about middle class life at all, it is about something different.

    And Mary, I don't get what you mean when you say you 'love' gay people.

    Do you know any? How many lesbian couples have you had lunch with? I think conservatives need to be very careful when they use terms like "love" when they are talking about lesbians and gay men. Personally, I don't believe you can love anyone without really knowing them well. And then we have to discuss whether Jesus meant conditional love or unconditional love. I don't believe conservatives when they use the term "love" — it is always a danger sign to me. I would never use that word carelessly. It might be a good idea to avoid using this word and lesbians in the same sentence I think, at least, until you really understand the community you are talking about.

    And overall, I don't think "the church" is one way or another. Each congregation varies case by case. We have very different demographics now in the U.S. We have several Buddhist temples near my home, we have Mosques, we have a tremedous increase in the number of women college graduated since 1940. This means more women are being ordained, and are commenting on the Bible than ever before. There is a very strong feminist christian movement now that women are studying the texts. It's not a male exclusive enterprise anymore.

    I think christian conservatives have a hard time dealing with the fact that the U.S. is not about a monolithic "christianity" but more selective and diverse. There is no one church, and that might have gone out the window with Henry VIII.

    I guess my basic question is: are christians in America any different in their daily lives than any other group– say Buddhists or Jews? Is the christian group radically different in behavior patterns than any other American group? Statistically, the answer is no. You can't tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. I remember an old Catholic song from the guitar masses of the 1960s (dating myself here :-) and the phrase went "they will know we are Christians by our love…." I personally don't see this or feel this at all.

    In fact, the most lovely and open person I have met recently is an atheist.

  • Keenan

    I agree with so much of this, but I've also found it important to remember God has grace on the church.

  • Audrey

    I think god has grace on people, not institutions. We have to remember that. Every side in a conflict believes god will favor them. This is common practice at football games and wars. We all want to believe god is on our side, and I think this is ok. Where we get into all the trouble is when we don't believe that god is really on everyone's side, and that's her point of view, not a human point of view.

    And remember, Jesus went to the temple to reform it, not to join it. Jesus actually revealed a way for the powerful to create something anew, and he did this by example.

    The last time "the church" really did have influence in a positive way, a way that made America truly better, was in the teachings of Martin Luther King.

    God's word is made powerful when freedom is expanded, when more people are a part of the story. Martin Luther King, got this doctrine of non-violence from Gandhi, and Gandhi got his idea for non-violent protests by observing the Suffragist movement first hand in Britain.

    So technically speaking, the non-violent tactics that work so well for minorities came from a Hindu, not from a Christian source, although, I believe Christian movements were powerful in 19th century women's rights communities. Another herstory for another time…

    Martin Luther King's words are biblical quotes most of the time, something that a lot of Americans don't know. I think maybe the conservative church reacts in alarm, but is it creative the way Jesus was? To me god is about the creative, and that can have a very powerful influence in the world.

    We have to look at how Jesus viewed power, how he used it, what he thought about it.

    Any group that discovers the word of god for herself becomes powerful and influential. We wouldn't be here if Troy Perry hadn't received the word of god in the gay dialect. No straight ministers of that time were even on the same page. Conservatives come along later after the prophets have long spoken. They might even try to understand the social change that has already occured. The zeitgeist often has nothing to do with christianity, but christians might think it does.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "is the worship of the nuclear family a detriment to everyone else who isn’t that rare 8% of the population?"

    Can you please explain this allusion, Audrey?

  • Br. Michael

    "Bride groom…." People in churches are destroying what God has planned. God may get tired of how most conservatives are "rotten harvest with judgment spoiling the laws and prophets." However, church is still "bride groom" with God. What is the "wow" as always is how "all knowing, loving, and forgiving God is, all the time… In God's time."

  • Henry Cambridge

    Where did Jesus say what you say he said in:
    1. As one quick example: “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”: Jesus never said that. Jesus said, love the sinner and hate the sin in your own life.

    Jesus never said that, as far as I know. So, why do you say he said this?

  • Mandy

    I would say the message from Jesus was more succinctly, “Love the sinner.”
    That about covers it, I think.

  • Mrs T

    It makes sense that God may remove our influence, as has been happening since the 60s, more or less. It constantly happened to Israel in the OT. In Revelation, God warned the churches.
    I don’t think the average church is as bad as you describe, but churches can so easily get off track. This is a good reminder. Where did the church go wrong? It did in many areas, from beng wishy-washy about abortion to the legalism that I learned about as a new Christian. I didn’t think the innocent rock music I listened to in the 60s was bad, but my
    legalistic new boyfriend was so appalled at it. I did quit listening to it for 20 years, except for an occasional song, but I think had I kept listening to it normally, I would have lost interest as the Lord would become more prominent in my life. Certain things are not bad in themselves, but the frequency of doing them is more the issue. Music is an example. It’s a great outlet to go to some secular concert, but if that becomes my life when I have so much else to do, then it may become sin.
    I think the church of the 60s mixed priorities up & maybe that(what the church did) was sin, further confusing new converts.
    I told my kids that the Bible doesn’t forbid drinking, but that it is a good idea to abstain as one can easily become an alcoholic or it may affect behavior. I felt that being honest & risking them becoming drinkers was better than telling a half-truth! Personally, I don’t drink, but the reason is now more health than legalism…….
    The church needs to focus on the Word & let the Holy Spirit work those other things out! I still think it may be OK for Christian schools to have stricter rules for these things, as it facilitates learning, but to explain why!
    The military has rules, but no one is expected to get up at 5am all their life or march many miles a day as in boot camp. We need to get away from this legalism & focus on the Word! It bears repeating!!!!!
    Thank you again, Andrew!

  • http://www.arwenmitchell.com Arwen Mitchell

    I loved every bit of what you said in this post, but #1 jumped out at me as well, because I’ve been chewing on this for a couple of weeks now. I’ve spent this time thinking about the Lord’s prayer, and how he tells us to pray for the forgiveness of our tresspasses first, and then (and along with) us forgiving the trespasses of others. It’s extremely meaty to me, because amongst many other things this line (and prayer) is asking us to do, it’s asking us to grasp how we are not apart from our own sin, and the instant we forget that and just walk around offering “forgiveness” to others who have hurt us (or sinned – and I define that as putting yourself before others, the opposite of Christ’s sacrifice in love) or have done “wrong”, we have missed the point of the Gospel, and have shifted back into sinfulness ourselves. (Maybe this isn’t clarifying anything. But I think there’s much to dwell on in this, and yet, Christians in our culture/country would very much like to make it about product and not process, about judgement and not grace.)

  • mary

    audrey,

    well, I love my sister and i love my best friend!

  • Mrs T

    Audrey, you are answering what Andrew said. If you don’t see the church or individual churches having much influence, then you are affirming his thesis. Yes, many men have done much harm, thinking they are doing good in some cases & just throwing around their weight in others.
    Of course, Jesus is in the streets, the bars, etc. He’s everywhere & truly loves us all. [BTW, I broke up with that boyfriend in 1971 & have been married to Mr T. since soon afterward.]
    You have a lot to say. Do you have a blog?

  • http://sassygranny.blogspot.com/ Kathleen Flanagan

    There's an awful lot to chew on here, but this I know: The church is God's organism for advancing the Great Commission. It is God-ordained and God-sustained – and, as Jesus tells us: " … on this rock (the truth of Who He is) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18

    We also know that the day will come (today?) when apostasy and all manner of false/deceptive teachings will infiltrate the Church. We have been told that goats & weeds will be mixed in with the sheep & wheat, and not to fret over them; that God Himself has a plan for sorting it all out. He asks only that I (me, myself, and I) make my OWN calling and election sure, and to live according to/obey His word. In my mind (and heart), that calls for great accountability and a boatload of love – supernatural love.

    Much of what is served up as "church" is anything but. However, as long as the Holy Spirit is moving upon the hearts of man, the church will continue to be a powerful force; not an organization, an organism. It, the church, may come together in a designated building or a private home; above ground or below it … but it will continue until the Times of the Gentiles cease. I am the church, and so are you.

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

  • pm

    You wrote: 3. "Why are our churches fighting to close our boarders, and then deport those who are “illegal” and yet have been working here for decades and paying taxes like the rest of us?" What? Is this a social gospel being preached here? What are you saying?

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "According to the Dept. of the Census, the number of households who conform to the ideal conservative family of wife at home, husband working, and kids, all living together constitutes about 8% of the family populations in this country."

    Audrey, are conservatives or evangelicals trying to browbeat or guilt folks into this mold? If you believe so, your feminarchy is showing. The social revolution we've undergone over the past few decades — and the feminist message has been part and parcel of that — have given us many two-income nuclear families that are not automatically dysfunctional. Don't throw the term "nuclear family" around loosely or in vain, please. You are mixing anthropological metaphors.

    Even Wikipedia gets it: "A nuclear family is a family group consisting of only a father and mother and their children, who share living quarters. This can be contrasted with an extended family."

    I grew up in a nuclear, albeit dysfunctional, family in close proximity to an extended family that provided invaluable support to me and my siblings. I'll take that a step farther and say that my church family was also a vital part of that whole system. I had a wonderful, long talk with my mom yesterday. We recounted many of the experiences and people in our support community who made life more livable for us during tough times.

    I am trying to understand if in making your comment you are somehow lamenting the demise of what you think is the nuclear family, while at the same time championing feminism. That would be an odd duck sort of position to take. Or are you cheering its demise on? An equally weird thing to do, given how many problems that has wrought.

    Number 10 on Andrew's list: "Worship things not God." Oh, what a long list we could rattle off here. Both patriarchy and feminism are idols. Each has done its share of damage to the nuclear family.

    How on earth do we expect to keep families intact and healthy if we have watered down the Church to the point of seeing God "remove its lampstand"? What influences are already filling this void?

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Audrey is officially blocked. She is the first one ever. I just deleted her last post. I warned her three times publicly, and I can’t take any more of her forcefulness against gay men, any form of Christians, the Bible, straight woman who don’t hate men, the church, etc. It’s over. So Audrey, if you would like to comment again, email me at andrew@themarinfoundation.org and we will talk.

    PM – I’ve heard of a social gospel, I can imagine what it is, but I’m not too sure. Plus, I legitimately don’t care about those types of labels. All I know is that if there are people who have been working in our country for years and paying taxes like the rest of us, then they should stay and become citizens. If they have been cheating the system by not paying into it, then that is a different story. I think the one big issue with immigration is that so many people generalize that all illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes or that all illegal immigrants need to stay regardless. What is fair for naturalized and birthed Americans needs to be fair for “illegal” ones as well. So become a citizen and pay the taxes or you face penalties. I just don’t think the church needs to make sweeping generalizations against immigration like they have. Hence #3.

    Also PM, what would you think is meant for “oppress the alien” in verse 6? I'm very open to hearing thoughts on that.

  • Mrs T

    I think that the 'social gospel' means that the church is doing social things, however good, but not teaching the 'religious' Gospel or the Bible (or marginalizing it). Of course, social action whould be part of our lives, but not alone.

    Another definition may be a gospel of 'works' that helping in physical/social needs for our fellow man is enough & that 'religion' isn't needed.

    About that 8% statistic: I think it is skewed to mean only a husband, a wife, & 2 kids. There are couples with more or fewer kids, there are widows who were traditional, GLBT families, singles, cohabitors, etc. But when that stat was given some years ago, it was very limited. There were many more 'traditional' families at that time. Most of my friends are single, I live near the gay community, & so feel comfortable with various family structures. Those of us who are interested in Andrew's work are not haters or judgers. We often do not express ourselves well. This format often does not lend itself to the best writing styles!

  • Henry Cambridge

    Andrew,

    Following your reasoning, there is as much or as little justification in the Bible for the expression, "Love the sinner, hate the sin", as there is for your "love the sinner and hate the sin in your own life."

    Didn't Jesus say something about "when you see your brother sin" (Mt. 18; some manuscripts don't have "against you", others do) , go to him, talk to him to win him over…

    If you see brother sin, love should propel you to talk to him in an attempt to lead him away from it. See also Galatians 6:1.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Matthew 18 is chock full of "pearls." One of the most sobering thoughts for today's Church comes through Jesus' statements in verses 6-7 concerning "stumbling blocks." Those who cause believers to stumble come in all shapes, sizes and persuasions. Jesus said, in reference to what Henry cited above of a sinning brother, to "go and reprove him in private" (Matt. 18:15) first, but then to take one or two more believers with you if he does not listen.

    The message there is for the Church of Christ whose foundation was being laid. It is echoed in Galatians 6, again, a message for the Church in handling sinners in its midst.

    One of the difficult things about today's politically/socially correct vernacular, inside and outside the Church, is that a Christian calling out homosexual sinners as fornicators and fellow dis-inheritors of the kingdom with other sinners has quickly opened himself to being branded a hater and a homophobe instead a defender of the purity of the Church, Christ's bride. It matters little that a believer may see that as an act of compassion meant to turn someone to repentance. As we see literally in another major religion today, some Christians take it upon themselves to do "honor killings" of their fellow sinners — within the "family" — whom they see as impure rather than seek to lovingly "win" them.

    By default or attrition, if you will, the salt of the Church becomes tasteless as we assimilate the surrounding culture.

  • Paul Henry

    While I agree with you Andrew, that many of the these same "issues" are as alive today as they were yesterday; I am not so sure that we can make an exact paralellism between God's abandoment of Israel in Jeremiah, and his (potential) abandoment of the Church today. The Church's lack of effective witness/involvment in today's socieity may be as much due to our unwillingness to live the altenative lifestyle the Gospl asks of us as it is that we have sinned, yet refuse to acknowledge that sinfulness. My thought is that your leading the way of bridge-building between the LGBT community and the Church is an effective arm of that alternative lifestyle.

  • Seth

    Concerning No. 1 above, I've always considered "love the sinner/hate the sin" a heresy. It's the foremost rationale we use to distinguish between thought, word and behavior, and we fool ourselves into believing the distortion that sin is only behavior. In the several church families where I've participated, this distortion becomes the truce by which I might be welcome as a gay man, i.e, "It's okay to be gay, but it's not okay to have a gay partner, nor is it okay to have sexual contact with men."

    However, Jesus made it very clear that there is no distinction between thought, word, and deed as sin–lust toward a woman is the same as adultery; calling someone a fool is the same as murder. As a gay man, I think gay, I talk gay, and I act gay–anything else isn't honest. And even if I'm single and celibate, this half-welcome–based on loving the sinner but hating the sin–drives me away instead.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "I’ve got better things to do with my time than sit and listen to someone preach against me and my own. Hence, me shutting them out."

    Again, you took that very personally, no matter how hard I tried to moderate what I was saying to keep you from doing that. Except, I'll admit, for the martyr's badge comment. Which does fit.

    You do, I presume, listen to what God may have to say to you on the matter — so as not to be like the man C.S. Lewis speaks of who sits on a branch of the tree while he is sawing it off.

    This blog is an open exercise in learning how to communicate without rubbing salt in wounds. It's not easy. But you see, Jon, the Church has wounds, too.

  • Jon Trouten

    Sorry if I took the whole "martyr's badge" thing personally.

  • http://www.couragescotland.org RuairidhD

    Can I just make a comment on the social gospel question. From early in the 20th Century, the Liberal wing of the Church started to follow through on ditching the historic Orthodox teaching of the Church (Jesus’s divinity, virgin birth, inspiration of Scripture etc) and replaced it with an adherence to the more practical statements of Scripture – looking after the poor etc. During the 20th Century with the polarisation between the Liberal Church and the Evangelical Church lots of things happened. In the 19th Century the ones involved in social care – education, poor relief etc – were the evangelicals (and of course much is still done by evangelicals – though it seems to be more acceptable to do it on the foreign mission field but less so at home). With the theological wars caused by Higher Criticism (picking apart Scripture and denying its infallibility and ultimately its Authority) the evangelicals pulled away from social care and the liberals came in. This established the term ‘social gospel’ – where the good news was purely about practical stuff – poverty etc. Evangelicals dismissed liberals with the term ‘social gospel’.

    The problem is its not that simple. When the Church only speaks about poverty and opression etc. (the ‘social gospel’) it is not being the prophetic voice of God in society. When the Church only speaks about theology and relationship with God (the ‘real gospel’) it is not being the prophetic voice of God in society. For neither are really the Gospel. The Gospel is all encompassing where the Church is to proclaim the Risen Christ and his salvation for all who call upon him, and the requirement for social justice and fight against poverty and opression. Its not either/or.

    As a Christian in the UK, I confess to sometimes being dismayed by the politicisation of the American Church. One politicial ideology does not have a monopoly on Biblical teaching. Jesus would not have been a Republican (or a Democrat)! Our theology influences our politics. But the Bible teaches so much about opression, justice, care for the sick and needy, welcoming the marginalised, welcoming the stranger. All of this must impact how we present ourselves in the political arena – whichever political ideology we follow.

    So I do struggle with anyone attempting to label a discussion on justice as ‘social gospel’. I’m not saying you are doing that pm I am just saying what I heard – I’m probably wrong! :) I think it can be falling into the old traps that the liberals can do justice, we evangelicals will do Christ. To be the Church we need to do both. And we also need to accept that within the Church there is as wide a political spectrum as outside it – lets bring the Bible to influence our political view not the other way around.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Henry – For clarification purposes, let me quote Matthew 18:15,

    “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

    Now, we could go back and forth quoting Scripture to prove each of our points correct because I believe we could prove each of them correct (see Jonathan and Debbie’s recent comment). But that is something that I will not do because it will not get us anywhere but down a path that talks in hermeneutical circles. I am not here to disprove ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ but rather here to refocus our mindset inward. If there is something to ‘hate’ it should be in ourselves, in our own lives (which is what we can control) before we ‘hate’ anything on the outside (which we can’t control). I am not suggesting that as brothers and sisters we never go and talk to another brother and sister about sin, but we rarely legitimately earn the right to do so because our initial reaction is that we already have that right – which we don’t. I know some people reading that will think, “but we do have that right because Christ empowered us to do so.” Good point. However that still doesn’t give anyone the ok to speak to people in extreme opposition who don’t want to be spoken to. Which is better then, a relationship with differences (as you continue focusing on your own sin and relationship with Christ) or a blatant argument?

    I will be doing a whole post on this issue soon since it has been brought up a few times because ultimately, this post is not about loving the sinner, it’s about God tearing away influence from the church!

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    “Good point. However that still doesn’t give anyone the ok to speak to people in extreme opposition who don’t want to be spoken to.”

    Andrew, you are referring here to folks outside the Church, right? It is more than hermeneutically hair-splitting obvious that both Jesus and Paul were speaking in the aforementioned Scripture references to the Church. “People in extreme opposition” would make me think you mean outsiders, but you also referenced brothers and sisters just before that. I know you would not want folks to be confused on that point. Maybe you are alluding to the outsider status many within the Church have accorded to GLBT believers (?).

    And you are right, a blatant argument isn’t going to accomplish much in and of itself. It will likely further alienate.

    “Against you” is not in all Bible translations, of course.

  • Kevin

    RuairidhD – Thanks for your post. At times it feels like the actions of “proclaiming the risen Christ and his salvation for all who call upon him along with the requirement for social justice” do not always go hand in hand (at least in the US as I don’t know as much about the UK) and can at times even be treated as polarities. I grew up in a tradition that soley placed importance on a (personal) relationship with Christ, the authority of scripture, telling others about Christ’s love, etc. Those are all great things, but it did not seem like the complete gospel as we were not reaching out to seek justice and serve other marginalized groups as we needed to realize that Christ compels us to do so because of the intrinsic worth and dignity that is present in each child of God as a result of being created in the image of God. But then when I would try to seek out a group that seemed like they were trying to honor the divine in their brothers and sisters by serving them and fighting for the justice that God intends for them, I would often be confronted by a lack of focus Christ and the authority of scripture. They would be seeking out justice for the oppressed to the extent that it would become an idol and an end in itself instead focusing on loving God and letting our attempt to love and serve others flow naturally as a by product of the first. And I don’t mean to seperate myself from by saying “they” as I have spent a majority of my time in the last few years around Christian pacifists, anarchists, and others that would consider themselves more radical in terms of how they express their faith on a social level. At times this has caused me to really struggle and lose my way with keeping my focus on Christ and living out a wholistic faith that places just as much importance on proclaiming the risen Christ as you say while also focusing on social justice and honoring the body that God has given me by eating a healthy diet, excercising, etc.
    I think that what you were saying has a lot to do with Andrew’s ideas about the church loosinging influence or at least the possibilty of that happening because of what is going on today in the church. I think individuals outside the church have become somewhat tired of what we are talking about as they are many times not seeing the action to back it up and they don’t care about what we have to say until they know how much we care.
    So thanks for your words and the encouragement they had for me this morning.

  • Jon Trouten

    If someone called me a blatent sinner and fornicator and dis-inheritor of God’s Kingdom because of my spousal relationship and family, I wouldn’t bother calling them a homophobe. I’d likely shut them out and disregard their input from that point forward. I’d also probably stay away from them. But I’d be unlikely to call them a homophobe.

    Then again, I don’t know why someone is concerned about being called a hater or a homophobe if they’ve just called someone a sinner. Name calling’s name calling. Goose, gander. All that good stuff.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Jon, one is on thin ice when calling any person a sinner because, as Andrew makes clear, four fingers are pointing back at the accuser. Jesus told us to “first” take the planks out of our own eyes before even daring to remove the specks from another’s. In fact, he said, “Then you will see clearly how to” do just that. Why does no one want to address that statement with intellectual and spiritual honesty? Instead all we hear is, “Judge not,” which often translates to “I can do my own thing with impunity.”

    On the other hand, to bring the idea of sin out in the open as something that is real and it detrimental to one’s life and relationship with God is another matter. It seems to me the “gay community” — however we wish to define it — takes on a corporate identity and takes any such call as a joint personal insult. Am I wrong? Is it because that call is just so loud that it drowns out any other call that speaks to the myriad sins we all deal with? I think the answer is yes, to a great extent. And where that is happening, the shouters (who do not represent the entire Church) have earned the right-back-at-you name-calling they receive. It is disheartening that the rest of the true Church has to then work to overcome that stigma and wrestle our corporate identity back from them.

    Jon, as you have worn your union with your gay partner here as a martyr’s badge, let me ask you this: Are you at all able to admit there is legitimacy in folks objecting to equating — for a host of reasons, not all of which are religious — gay marriage to traditional marriage? Is that a debate that should be censored, in your opinion? Or can we let each side stand on its merits to see which ought to be accorded the higher status in the eyes of civilization? To say nothing of God.

  • Jon Trouten

    ROTFLOL! “Martyr’s Badge”. Gotta love it.

    “Are you at all able to admit there is legitimacy in folks objecting to equating — for a host of reasons, not all of which are religious — gay marriage to traditional marriage? Is that a debate that should be censored, in your opinion? Or can we let each side stand on its merits to see which ought to be accorded the higher status in the eyes of civilization? To say nothing of God.”

    Sure, you can legitimately object to my marriage, just like Catholics can object to my cousin’s divorced marriage and subsequent re-marriage.

    That doesn’t mean I have to listen to someone as they call me a sinner. I’ve got better things to do with my time than sit and listen to someone preach against me and my own. Hence, me shutting them out.

  • http://six11.wordpress.com Shawn

    I would like to interject some points about what you wrote Andrew. First, this is a great message – the Church needs to "wake-up" to the fullness of God and live for His namesake alone. We (the Church) need to start being the Body that God intended us to be – not what man has formed us into.

    Second, I believe that the Church today mirrors Israel in the Old Testament. We have betrayed our "Husband" for another. We are worshipers of idols (power, greed, judgment, pride, division, etc). We are not different today than how God described Israel in Hosea.

    Third, I strongly believe that Christ still deeply loves His Bride – the Church – just as He still deeply loves His people Israel. Though I think that God is allowing the Church to go through this refinement, I do not believe that He has given up on the Church. We are still the Bride of Christ.

    Just as the Church applies "love the sinner, hate the sin" to gays and lesbians (and other people they don't agree with), so I think we (Christians) need to apply this same statement to them (the Church). If that makes sense?

    My point is this: because Christ loves the Church, Christians are to love the Church. It's our job, as the "stronger brother" (Romans 14), to help lovingly spur on our brothers and sisters in the faith, who are "weaker", in living out the message of Jesus. I believe you are such a person doing this Andrew … as am I.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    A few thoughts:

    Debbie – I am speaking to both people inside and outside the church. Obviously, inside the church brothers/sisters have more rope to be able to speak into someone’s life. But none the less, my general thought is that until we earn that right, even in the church, speaking into someone’s life who doesn’t know/respect/have a relationship with you (just because you both go to the same church or profess to believe in the same stuff doesn’t mean knowledge/respect/relationships come with any of those commonalities), it will probably just be brushed off—for most people. I think that if someone cares enough to speak into someone else’s life, they should then they should also care enough to intentionally invest a lot of time in that person’s life before any speaking is done.

    Shawn – I really appreciate your remembrance that the church is Christ’s bride, and indeed, Christ is just waiting to empower us once again with all the gifts of yesterday, today and forever! Amen to that—and I believe we can reclaim all of it. It just takes that first step, which unfortunately today, is means that step is completely against the grain of acceptability in church settings.

  • http://six11.wordpress.com Shawn

    I agree Andrew. May the Church once again become who she was called to be.

    Thanks for helping us along.

  • http://msuth.blogspot.com/ PK KESSLER

    I found it helpful to think of the term “church” as it is referred to in the jewish bible as “the messianic community”.

    http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Jewish-Bible-OE-David-Stern/dp/1880226480/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1255465130&sr=1-1


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