12.9.07

Kindness and Repentance

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Ro 2:4)

I heard a news article on the radio yesterday about the split caused in the Anglican church in the USA over the issue of homosexuality.

I don't want to comment on this directly, or about any of the people or the organisations involved. But I do want to give some general comments on the debate as a whole.

The Scriptures tell us it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. Both the kindness of God that reaches out to all men while they are still in their sin, and the repentance that this must lead us to if we are to come into the new kingdom order of God are essential if we are to present the good news of the Gospel without distortion. The polarization that can occur in any debate must not drive us to an extreme where we let go of one or the other.

Jesus was the "friend of tax collectors and prostitutes." These were the outcasts of society, the ones that the religious people did not want to associate with. We must guard against a new wave of pharisaic self-righteousness that deems that certain men are beyond the love of our saviour. I'm sure if Jesus walked the earth today he would upset just as many religious people by being the friend of homosexuals. The Gospel is good news to all men. We must be careful that we do not portray it otherwise.

However, although Jesus was the friend of tax collectors and prostitutes, he never condoned the common practice of extortion among the tax collectors, nor the prostitution of the prostitutes. His message and his ministry were clear from the very first day: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" The kindness of God reaches out to all men in their sinful state, but it does not do so to endorse any form of sinful lifestyle, nor to come just to meet our spiritual needs as we carry on the way we have always gone, doing our own thing. It calls us to repent. To radically change the way we think and act. It is not just the homosexual who has to repent and change his lifestyle when he comes to Jesus - we all do!

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Ro 3:22b-24)

I thought about the word "repent" today. It is still a good word, but sadly because it is not common in everyday speech it has lost some of its true impact and accumulated some unwelcome religious baggage. I had a think about an alternative, and came up with this: "Defect!" It carries the same sense of radial switching of thought and allegiances, and the same result of transfer from under one kingdom to another.

"Defect, for God's kingdom is coming. Change sides, so you are on the winning team!"

Both kindness and repentance are vital to the gospel message. We must reach out to all men, regardless of what label society or even they themselves have applied. Note well, the Bible does not talk about homosexual men, but men who practice homosexuality. Society may define people by their sexuality but the Bible never does. There are not gay men and straight men, there are just men. In fact...

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)

The only real division that is left is between those who have defected, and have brought their lives out from "doing their own thing" to being under the rule and reign of God, and those who have not.

Without repentance there is no entry to the kingdom, let alone leadership within it!!

5 comments:

Sarah said...

Good post on a difficult topic. I felt that the distinction between how the world identifies men and how the Bible identifies men is important. We are not defined by what we do. What we do does not always line up with who God created us to be. What I love about Jesus is that He didn't relate to people according to the way the world identified them (prostitute, tax collector), but as children made in God's image.

SLW said...

"the Bible does not talk about homosexual men, but men who practice homosexuality. Society may define people by their sexuality but the Bible never does. There are not gay men and straight men, there are just men."

You may have just posited the elusive logic I've never been able to find for the ever popular, "God loves the sinner, but hates the sin."

Elwyn Jones said...

I will agree with Sarah that this is a difficult topic you have posted.
I was recently drawn into a conversation with a man who calls himself “Gay”
Because he knows that I am a Christian. I always carry around with me a pocket N.T.
I showed him Paul the Apostles words in Roman 1 26-27 this man read for himself what the Bible says.
There Paul describes Male Homosexuality as a indecent act, and it is not compatible with Authentic Christianity. I did not pass any comment to this man I just showed him
What the Bible said, but afterwards I was accused of being homophobic, judgemental, old fashion in my views and insensitive to my fellow man?

But it’s SLW comments that interest me here. Does God love the sinner but hates
the sin. Because Paul’s writings is clear and without compromise on homosexuality.
It’s wrong.

SLW said...

Elwyn,
I have always had trouble buying into the notion that God loves the sinner but hates the sin (Ps 5:5, 11:5). I know that God is love and that he loves the whole world (I John 4:8, John 3:16), but there is no way he stomachs sin, and only faith in Christ can separate the sin from the sinner. Chris offers in this post, something that comes as close to a logic for that notion (even if that was not his intention) as I have ever seen. There is in our humanity a reality that God sees as precious (as in his response to Nineveh in Jonah's day) that is not identified nor circumscribed by what we do. Others, like Augustine, have posited this thought, but something in what Chris said made the lights go on in my head.

Elwyn Jones said...

Thank you SLW for your reply. I appreciate the time and care you have taken to write your comment.Chris'blog site is certaintly worth visiting, he is always open to Brothers and Sisters what ever their persuasion.

For what it is worth. God must love sinners because He sends so many blessings on them including letting the sinner live. It's the sinner that hates God, disobeys God, is ungrateful to God for all His favours, but God is so kind that He is always willing to forgive sinners. What a wonderful,kind,patient, loving God we believe in.
God bless you SLW, and all my Christian love from a brother in in Wales U.K.