When God Says Something I Totally Dislike

genericrandomusername asked a question:

I know that homosexuality is a sin. But one thing I’ve learned is that everything labeled “sin” is something God is protecting us from. Like any good father, his rules are there for a good reason. I understand why casual sex, lying, and gluttony are dangerous, but what are the dangers of homosexuality? What is God protecting us from? The reasons I’ve gotten from Christians have were either stupid or totally convoluted. I need to know why I oppose something. Something beyond a weak apologetic.

Hey my dear friend, please allow me the grace to offer just a few challenges to consider from very opposite angles.

– I’ve written about homosexuality before and I no longer talk about it much because everyone starts yelling at each other as loud as dang possible, and the people actually inside the issues get lost in the mix.  Whenever issues get trumped over people, I’m out, because I love people more.

I’ve realized long ago that no one’s actually interested in having a real conversation over this one, and I haven’t had a single rational discussion about it, not once.  It doesn’t matter how polite I am, someone is going to rage-cuss and I’m just too jaded for it now.

I’m not pro or anti anything, I’m just pro-people.  I tend to anger both “sides” with that answer because it’s apparently too soft (sort of like “Give to God’s what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”). But if that makes me a cop-out, I think it’s actually more of a cop-out to reduce a person to his or her sexuality; it’s too simplistic to reduce the abortion issue to a nine-month window of time; I think it’s reductionistic to get angry at the President or to legislate morality on Capitol Hill or to dichotomize people into binary oppositions.

Let’s see it this way. If I’m caught in a current about to head off a waterfall and you throw me a lifesaver, it would be weird if I said, “What color and texture and material is this thing?”  In other words, I need to get saved before I work out the details.  I know the analogy breaks down somewhere (they all do), but the doctrine of faith is prioritized over the doctrine of sexuality.  Both are important, but there’s an order.  If we’re not getting to Jesus first, then who cares what I think about sex?  I can’t put the caboose before the engine.

So I’m done with that.  I’m a simple guy.  My job isn’t to persuade anyone of anything.  I love people like Jesus does, with grace and truth: end of story.

I’m going to leave behind that topic to back up over the larger picture.

– The thing is, if I tried to convince you of why you should believe any particular thing about the Bible, it won’t work that way.  If you or I presume that God has to make a convincing case for His Word, then 1) we’ll keep our arms crossed and never be convinced enough, 2) we can be persuaded right out of it, or 3) we’ll follow Him with begrudging drudgery.

While I absolutely believe there’s a logical rationale behind all of God’s commands, if we don’t believe they’re for our good, then it doesn’t matter how logical they sound: I still won’t believe them.

Adam and Eve had a really strange rule in the Garden.  Don’t eat the fruit off the tree.  Was there any tactical advantage or practical benefit?  Did it somehow profit the human race or create positive energy?  Did the fruit have mystical evil properties?  Maybe.  But it’s more likely that God was saying, You have the entire Garden for you by grace, because I love you. Now please don’t eat the fruit off this one tree, simply because you love me.

That’s it.  No hocus pocus or diagram or flow chart.  No list of seven reasons why it’s a good idea to follow God.  This is called a covenant, in which both parties love each other out of mutual trust instead of functional pragmatism.  It’s for the essence of, not for what it can do.

Here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying we don’t ever question God. Believe me, I’ve questioned Him about a billion times at every painful step of faith. I grew up an atheist and I still default to doubt and skepticism very quickly.  Some of God’s commands seem ridiculous at first glance.

But the more I learned about the particulars of the Old Testament (they’re an unfolding narrative and not a prescription) and grasped the idea of God’s commands (they’re not to restrict us, but to show us what’s best and give us abundant life), the more I was able to settle with God one-by-one on what He says.

It’s not that I flip a switch and trust Him overnight; I know some Christians who can do this, and God bless them.  But I’ve eventually found that the heart of God is His love for me, and even His law is about touching upon His heart.  My bias used to be that I distrusted God at every word; now my bias is slowly coming around to trust Him at His Word, and when I obey, it always makes sense later.

There’s also no place I need to look much further than the cross and resurrection.  The Gospel is primarily an invitation into the True Story of the world; without this, then none of His commands matter anyway.  All this will only make sense when we see the man on that tree who died for me, that savior who released me from the grip of sin by conquering its terrible grip.  Without faith in Jesus, then it doesn’t matter what else we believe about what he says.  God rescued His people from the slavery of Egypt before giving them the Ten Commandments. Rescue comes before internal renovation.  I can’t put doctrine ahead of the Gospel, or else we have no doctrine.

– The other thing is that if I continually corner God by saying, “Well I like this rule, but not that one,” then I’m eventually making God in my own image.  I’m turning Him into a tiny two-inch keychain god, and I would reject that god too.  It’s a phantom I can dismiss at my convenience.  Imagine that every time my future wife disagreed with me, I pressed an off-button and she could no longer stop me.  Then I wouldn’t have a wife; she would just be an accessory.

I think at some point, we need to allow God to challenge our current ideologies.  Yes, we all have ideologies.  We’re so afraid to admit this because we’ll do anything to claw for our status quo, to keep the old guard, to never say “I’m wrong.”  Yet as a fortune cookie once told me, If you haven’t said “I’m wrong” in a while, you’re not living right.

We’re all a product of our time (C.S. Lewis called this “chronological snobbery”).  We each think we live in the wisest, smartest era of our day, that we’ve outgrown everything before us.  This is a horrible fallacy. While humanity has grown in many ways, we’re also each stuck in our time periods, and therefore all the holes and mistakes with them.  Westerners have grown up in a Post-Enlightenment period that dismisses the spiritual and transcendent, while also hating a “God of wrath.”  Easterners have embraced the spiritual and mystical, but they’re insulted by the idea of a God who’s personal and loving.  I’m aware I’ve been indoctrinated in certain biases that need to be laid aside to see life clearly.

This is why the God of the Bible is His very own real being: because He will inevitably offend all cultures and shake up the familiar areas that we’ve taken for granted. This is not a God you can make up as you go alongHe has a mind that will run full speed through yours.  He will tear down old walls and build entirely new worlds in you, and it will be both agonizing and liberating.

I know this is a hard thing, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? We hate to be challenged. We don’t ever dare to allow God to confront our most precious beliefs. Since most Christians don’t allow this process to flourish, this is why we have binary religious church-people who say “Us versus Them.”  And I’m not saying I’m any better than “them.” I’m including myself in there.

I hope we’re willing to really wrestle with God on these things, that we might not remain in our cultural and emotional blind spots for long.  Perhaps our conclusions will differ on the secondary issues, but Jesus remains the primary center, and so I love what He loves: namely, His people.

God will challenge our comfortable constructs about sexuality, money, forgiveness, business, self-image, beauty, and friendships.  At times it will feel like common sense; at other points it will sting really bad.

But may we be open to both?  What may be a hard teaching to you is obvious to someone else, and vice versa.  Yet it’s the hard teaching we each need to hear the most, so that we become the well-rounded, fully complex individuals that God aims us to be.  It’s how believers across the world can be unified by One God.  In the end, perhaps we can question God’s Law with the same sincere love that He shows us, that we could see the joyful possibilities He offers.

— J.S.

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