Confronting (in)consistency
May 2 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Confronting (in)consistency | Friday, May 2, 2003

Friday, May 2, 2003

Confronting (in)consistency

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

The recent expulsion of McGill Baptist Church from the Cabarrus Baptist Association is the latest reminder that Baptists have a split personality when it comes to our perception of sin.

There are regular sins, which don't seem to trouble us much, and there is homosexual sin, which sends us off the edge.

The kinds of offenses described in the Ten Commandments are present in every church I'm familiar with, sometimes in rather obvious fashion. We have members who routinely break the first commandment by putting the God of materialism before the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

We have members who fail to honor God through observing a "Sabbath" of worship and rest.

We have members who disrespect their parents on a daily basis, and make little or no attempt to hide it.

We have members who can lie to their families and to the government without blinking an eye.

We have members who covet, members who steal from their employer (or employees), members who cheat on their spouses and break promises meant to last forever.

Outside of reading the minutes from church business meetings back in the 1920s, I've never known of a church that gave any of those members the boot, and most of those were for dancing.

I've never known of an association or state convention that "withdrew fellowship" from a church for harboring such sinners, whether repentant or unrepentant.

But, if the perceived sin is related to homosexuality, we have a different set of rules.

There are indeed some biblical texts that describe homosexual acts as sin.

There are many, many more texts that describe heterosexual or non-sexually related activities as sinful and falling short of God's ideal.

But we react to people with a homosexual orientation in ways that we would not react to heterosexuals, though they may also be adulterers, drunkards, liars or materialists.

The Bible clearly says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Here is the issue: is it better to have homosexual sinners in the church where they can learn more of God and grow in grace, even as we hope heterosexual sinners will do? Or do we believe their gender orientation should exclude them from the church in ways that do not apply to other sinners?

I can't find one biblical text to support the idea that God's grace and love are limited by gender or by gender preference. The discrimination we show in our different approaches to heterosexual sinners and homosexual sinners is not based on scripture, but culture.

I'm aware that the current issue has to do with baptism, and the belief that new Christians should publicly repent of their sins as they declare allegiance to Christ.

But Christians are called to a life of continued repentance as God convicts us of our continued failings. Should not churches that harbor unrepentant members also be held to account?

Brian McLaren has pointed out that one problem of modern evangelicals is that we tend to make the starting line the finish line. We seem to think that those who are beginning their Christian walk must be perfect, rather than acknowledging that every believer faces a lifelong struggle to grow in grace.

Maybe that's one of the reasons we have so many inactive members who care nothing for a daily walk with Christ, but remain comfortably in our membership files. If we market salvation (and church membership) as little more than an easy ticket to heaven and the gateway to immediate spiritual perfection, we discount Christ's call for a lifetime of discipleship and growth.

When we send the message that only one category of sinner is unacceptable in the churches, it gives the impression that other categories are okay.

That is a mixed message at best.

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5/2/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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