Monday, December 12, 2011

Welcome Kent Kloter

On Sunday night, our church unanimously voted to affirm hiring Kent Kloter as our newest associate pastor. It’s hard to express the joy I feel about our plans to have Kent join our staff on January 1, 2012, but let me give you just three of the many reasons I’m so eager for him to join our staff.

1. I’m excited by his shepherd’s heart.

Kent loves the flock at Bethany Community Church.  One of the most convicting passages for me as a pastor is God's rebuke to self-serving shepherds in Ezekiel 34.  “The weak you have not strengthened," God tells them. "The sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them" (v. 4)

Kent is the very anti-thesis of these uncaring shepherds.  I have witnessed the pain he feels as he ministers to those who are hurting.  I believe that his love for the church will cause us to grow in our ability to minister to one another.

2. I’m excited by his love for God’s Word and belief in the power of the gospel.

Kent’s care for the flock is coupled with a deep understanding of God’s Word and appreciation of its power. Like Paul, he is “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17).

3. I’m excited by his spiritual maturity.

Kent likes to joke about being an “old man.” He’s not, of course, even though he does raise the average age of the staff (in a good way).  There is a strength of perspective and wisdom that Kent will add to our staff and I’m glad that God is allowing us to benefit from his experience.

So this is a thrilling time for our church.  Thank you for allowing me to serve as a pastor here.  Thank you for the confidence you have showed in the leadership by affirming Kent in this position.  Please pray for Kent and Janell as they make the transition to Bethany Community Church. Pray that their ministry for the Lord will be joyful and bear much fruit.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christians and Love for Homosexuals

A friend asked me to post a response to a blog article entitled, “I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay,” by Dan Pearce (warning: some language). While I normally refuse such requests on the “you’re not the boss of me” principle, this request intrigued me.  The article has generated lots of responses and hits upon a topic with which many Christians are wrestling.

Let me share four thoughts I had as I read the article.  I hope that my friends who would identify themselves as homosexuals would read the entire post and know the spirit of love in which I write this.

1. The post is about Christianity and Homosexuality.

At the beginning of his article, Pearce writes:
Before I go on, I feel I must say something one time. Today’s post is not about homosexuality. It’s not about Christians. It’s not about religion. It’s not about politics. It’s about something else altogether. Something greater. Something simpler.

It’s about love.

It’s about kindness.

It’s about friendship

And love, kindness, and friendship are three things that Jacob [Pearce's friend] hasn’t felt in a long time. 
In many of the follow-up comments to the post, some claim that if you think the post is about homosexuality and Christianity, you’ve missed the point. If that’s so, please count me among those who missed the point.

Certainly the article touches tangentially on other topics. The themes that Pearce claims are the main points are certainly discussed. But the themes that dominate both the article and the follow-up posts are Christianity and homosexuality. Those who write to Pearce to express how much the article has meant to them primarily address the issue of homosexuality. Those who are angered by the article identify themselves primarily as Christians.

If the article isn’t about Christianity and homosexuality, (1) it was poorly titled and (2) most people have responded to it for reasons that were not the author’s intent. I don’t believer either of those is true, however. I think the title expressed the intention of Pearce and people have responded pretty much as he anticipated, except maybe for the intensity of their responses.

2. Some who claim to follow Christ act in a way that is contradictory to that claim.

In his article that is not about Christianity (ahem), Pearce contends that many who claim to follow Christ act in a way that is contradictory to that claim.
Love others.


So if this is the founding directive of all the major religions… why is it that sometimes the most “Christlike” people are they who have no religion at all?

Let me repeat that.

Why is it that sometimes the most Christlike people are they who have no religion at all?
Of course it is true that those who claim to be Christians do not act in a Christ-like manner. It would be very foolish to argue the contrary.  Jesus said that there would be those who named His name and yet He would tell them that He never knew them. The apostle John tells us that those who claim to be followers of Christ yet do not have love are deceiving themselves (1 John 4:7-8).

So I agree with the truth of Pearce’s statement if by “Christ-like” he is referring to those claiming the mantle of Christ while denying Christ’s teaching. That certainly happens and it is grievous when it does.

3. Defining the terms "loving" and "unloving" is crucial.

And here we come to the most significant problem with the article. What is it about Christians' actions towards homosexuals that Pearce finds so unloving?

Mostly, the article is full of vague statements about unloving conduct that simply assume the truth he’s claiming.  One specific instance that Pearce notes is the shunning of his friend “Jacob.” After Jacob revealed that he was practicing homosexuality, he claims his friends deserted him and refused to even talk to him. If this is indeed what happened, certainly we can agree that this is unloving.

And in some places I agree with Pearce’s exhortations. Of course we should be willing to put our arm around someone who is hurting.

But in other places in the article, “loving” is defined in a way with which I disagree.
I think it doesn’t matter if you or I or anybody else thinks homosexuality is a sin. It doesn’t matter if you or I think anything is a sin. It doesn’t matter if homosexuality is a sin or not. In fact, it doesn’t matter if anything anybody else does is a sin or not.

Because sin is a very personal thing! It always has been and it always will be!

And it has nothing to do with love.

Absolutely nothing.
But sin is not simply a personal choice and is very much related to love. James 5:19-20 tells us:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
If Scripture teaches us that one of the most loving things we can do is warn someone who is headed for a path that will end in misery, I think we should do so.

The problem is that our actions may be perceived as unloving by those whom we care about. And those who claim Christ’s name and behave in an unloving don’t make it easier for those of us who truly care about homosexuals. Reading many of the comments posted on Pearce’s article, there were some claiming to be Christians who seemed to relish the idea of eternal destruction for homosexuals. Such an attitude does not reveal a heart that has truly been transformed by faith in Christ.

The unstated thesis in my opinion is: Christians need to love those who are practicing homosexuality. But with Pearce’s definition of love, the expanded thesis is: Christians need to love those who are practicing homosexuality by refusing to say that it is contrary to how God says to live.

4. We must think rightly about how to minister to those struggling with homosexuality.

Those who wish to promote the homosexual lifestyle would have us believe that sexuality is predetermined. We are what we are and we need to accept how we feel about how to express our sexuality.

Sexuality is much more complicated, in my opinion. All aspects of our human nature have been tainted by our sin nature, including our sexuality. No person save Jesus Christ has ever been sinless in the area of sexuality. We all have or have had wrong views or thoughts or actions in regards to sex. Based upon our past experiences and current temptations, the way in which we fail to honor God in this area differs.

The solution to these wrong opinions is not to look within ourselves to see what seems “best” to us. The solution is to see what God says regarding how we are to live our lives. Then our responsibility is to lovingly proclaim that message to others.

How do I believe Christians demonstrate love to those struggling to rightly follow God’s instructions for sexuality?

With those who claim to be Christ-followers yet are living immoral lifestyles, other believers should talk with them about what God’s Word says regarding how we are to conduct ourselves as saints. If those who are members of your church refuse to turn from sin, this may end in removing them from membership (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-3).

The purpose of removing them from membership is not to shun them but rather communicate to them the danger of knowingly following a path that is contrary to what God has told us to do. The goal and heart attitude is always complete and full restoration.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:7-8 regarding a man who had committed immorality and was now repentant: “you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”

This is true love, according to Scripture. Holding fast to Biblical principles of sexuality, yet caring for those who have turned from these principles. We encourage Christians to pursue holiness not to rob them of joy but so that they may know the fullness of joy!

With those who are outside the church and make no claims of being Christ-followers, other believers should pursue friendships the way one would with anyone else. As the opportunity allows, proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, not focusing first and foremost on the question of sexuality but rather the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Love is not the absence of conflict.  Love is sacrificially caring about another person for the glory of God.