I was out the other day and found myself in a conversation with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. He mentioned that he enjoyed catching up with my life through the blog, and I sheepishly remarked, “Well, you might not enjoy it so much after today.” He laughed and asked why to which I responded, “I’m writing about Rob Bell’s big statement.” I think he assumed that we would probably have a similar opinion on this controversial man having grown up in the same church, and he felt comfortable going there and digressing a bit on his personal thoughts surrounding this very popular pastor. We did share the same opinion on many of the issues but there were a few choice words from the conversation that caused the wheels in my brain to start chugging out some thoughts –
“It’s like Rob Bell’s church is full of all the people who went to the bar the night before and showed up for church in the morning – like they can just play church on Sunday and they don’t have to be Christians the rest of the week.”
First, those with that opinion I would ask, have you been to Rob Bell’s church? And second, why is this a problem? I ask this sincerely. Because I am ALL for love the sinner hate the sin but where is the line? I went to this church for about 4 years and his goal, the church’s goal, was to attract those people who would have never set foot in a church before. They were not after the perfect church crowd; those with the pretty dresses and slicked back hair, who knew all the proper Christian catch phrases and could sing along with the popular Christian songs of the day. They were not after the “I’M BLESSED” crowd; they were after the “I am at a point in my life where if someone doesn’t throw me a legitimate lifeline, I’m going to hang myself with the nearest rope I can find” and it often showed. Walking into those church doors you saw piercings, you saw green mohawks, you saw Caucasians and African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, you saw girls with skirts that came way above the knee and boys with their pants hanging low, and you saw, what one would assume to be, homosexual couples. You saw people who you would not normally see in a church and for some reason they felt comfortable about trying out this church; here they felt like they would not be judged for not looking very traditionally churchy.
Generally the people who attended Mars Hill embraced this philosophy of welcoming one and all, and we recognized that if we were going to be a part of this church we needed to be not only okay with running into people who were very different from ourselves but we also needed to accept our responsibility to be Jesus to these people, wherever they were in life, just as Jesus would have done.
In contrast, if a homosexual couple showed up in the majority of churches around America, searching for answers, searching for meaning in life, searching for a Savior, I would dare say most congregations would probably not act very favorably towards them. But…. if Mrs. Smith shows up every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night catechism with an overflowing bag full of gossipy goodies to share with the whole congregation, how does the church family treat her? Mrs. Smith who would consider herself a lifelong Christian – the homosexual man who is searching – I’m not sure where exactly the line is. I struggle lately with this. When are we condoning the sin? What if the homosexual accepts Jesus as his Lord and Savior and then continues in his lifestyle? What if his reasoning is, “Well, Mrs. Smith is a Christian and she gossips and slanders more than anyone I’ve ever met and no one has kicked her out of the church.” And for an interesting comparison, God speaks about the tongue in the Bible 129 times – mostly in reference to taming it. Mentions of homosexuality are an iffy 12. Iffy because it is often unclear as to whether or not the verse is in reference to all sexual immorality or to catamites (young boys used for sexual relations with a man) or a male prostitute in general. And it becomes especially iffy as we enter the New Testament, but I won’t go into all of that right now. If anyone is interested in digging deeper into this topic this is a good link to check out. http://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_homosexuality.htm
I think most can agree that churches are for the lost and hurting but as the church we so often adopt this, “It’s not fair” sort of attitude towards those who still struggle with activities that we deem as sinful. We judge harshly those who show up in our churches not quite as perfect as we’d like them to be, and we are hard on those who haven’t quite gotten there yet in terms of holiness. WE gave up all of the fun stuff to be a Christian and we view our reward for giving up the “fun stuff”, drinking, smoking, dancing, green hair, longer hems, etc – we gave it all up for the respectful Christian life and the eternal reward of a mansion in Heaven, right? A mansion without any green haired, homosexual prostitutes living next door to us. This life isn’t supposed to be fun; this life is supposed to be spent in serving, doing good, putting on our happy faces and pretending like everything is always absolutely blessed and right side up, right? Is that how Jesus portrayed his earthly ministry? Was everything always so neat, and tidy, and perfect? I don’t think so. Just glancing at the lineage of Christ seen in Matthew 1:5-6 we see that his ancestors portrayed people that might be found in Rob Bell’s church more so than most of the other churches around our sleepy, little American towns.
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth was a desperate Moabite widow who, in my opinion, turned on the charm in a wheat field to attract a new man, (been there, done that) and King David, although a man after God’s own heart, had a bit of a Tiger Woods complex when it came to lusting after beautiful women, not to mention a little bit of a malicious streak that would come out as he conquered nation upon nation.
Historically the church has gotten extremely hung up on particular sins, homosexuality specifically, while often ignoring those sins that its own people tend to struggle in. I was one of these people. I was ultra conservative until a few years ago. I truly knew that I had it all figured out, speak it and believe it, knew all the verses on obeying and receiving the blessings,
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lordyour God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God,”
The prayer of Jabez, “Oh Lord, enlarge my territory and bless me!” and then something happened. My speak it and believe it and my declarations of “bless me oh Lord” didn’t pan out the way that I thought God had promised it would in his word. My son was born severally handicapped and my late husband died, and I had four kids to raise by myself. That’s not the way I had interpreted what the Word said about those who had faith. I believed that, “Whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him” Mark 11:23. I was forced to reexamine some things, I had a few questions, and I wasn’t letting God off the hook until I had some answers. I started to look inwardly at the box that I, and my upbringing, had created around the God of the Universe. I still have many questions and I have few answers, but I am looking into it for myself and not necessarily just taking everything at face value that I’ve ever been taught by religion or the church. Historically the church has been mistaken a time or two; they at one point could be found defending slavery and using the Bible as its biggest defense weapon – food for thought.
Right now as a family we are learning about fruit and how to be more fruitful towards one another. The most fruitful family member at the end of the month gets a goody bag full of prizes. These verses seem especially applicable in light of the controversy surrounding Rob Bell.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:16
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
May we all bear as much fruit as we possibly can wherever we are in life.
Just keep livin!!