Joseph? All the excitement and intrigue you could ask for. Twists and turns as a (slightly arrogant) younger brother goes from favoritism to slavery to honor to jail to near royalty to a suspenseful family reunion. Throughout it all we watch Joseph in his unwavering faith and trust in God.
Job? Heartbreak and loss. Incredible dialogue looking at man and our rightful place and who God is. What He’s done. Eventually we see Job’s faith rewarded and new life given.
Esther? Now that’s a story. Little Jewish girl finding herself in a once-in-a-thousand-lifetimes sort of situation and saving a kingdom. Haman working his betrayal and finding himself on the end of the very noose he had built for his enemy. God using ordinary individuals to save His people.
Peter? Watching his life, from fisherman to Pentecost, and seeing him grow and stumble. Witnessing his very believable, very human struggle to follow Jesus in the way he wants to and knows he should.
I love studying words and themes. Covenant and mercy and grace and judgment are all throughout the Bible, setting patterns that God follows throughout history. I hate seeing how many times the Jewish nation failed God, did “what was right in their own eyes”, hardened their heart to His commands – knowing I’ve done the same thing. I love seeing how many times He forgave them, over and over as many times as they were willing to return to Him.
These things define me. They define my Christianity and, as such, I hope they define my life. Things like knowing God is a just God who has incredibly high expectations from everyone who claims to follow Him. Knowing I have a responsibility to study His Word and obey it. Things like knowing that as much as I try to do all that, salvation still wouldn’t be possible without Christ’s sacrifice and the unbelievable mercy He showed to me.
When I think about what defines my Christianity, do you know what I almost never think of?
I believe the words of the Bible, that living a gay lifestyle is a sin. Just as a I believe that living an adulterous lifestyle is a sin. Or a drunken lifestyle. Or a pornographic lifestyle. Or any lifestyle that’s outside of the commands of the Bible. I’m not ashamed, either of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality or my belief in that teaching. But, in my own mind, that knowledge is a relatively small part of my view of my Christianity. It’s there. I have no desire to deny it, hide from it, or say it says something other than what it says. But there’s so much more to who I am, what I believe, and most importantly – Who I serve.
Which is why I often have such mixed feelings. This week, so much has been focused on the Christian view of homosexuality – as often happens when a public figure makes a non-approving stance. I appreciate that there are those willing to do so, and are not afraid of standing by the Biblical view of marriage. But I hate that once more, Christians have been backed into a corner of sorts and had our focus chosen for us. In a whole wide world full of all sorts of sin and lost souls, there are so many things I’d like to teach people. If the media is going to focus on Bible teachings that Christians believe, I’d love for it to be on the idea that God “is patient…that all may reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), or a textual study of Romans, or what the Bible teaches about baptism. Things that don’t make Christians look like Bible-beating, ignorant bigots. Things that are foundational to Christian beliefs.
But that doesn’t sell magazines. Messages of love for everyone might be kinder, but it doesn’t cause the kind of controversy that people love. And let’s be honest – people crave controversy. Everyone “hates drama”, but we’re all attracted to it like crazy women are to a black Friday ad. And homosexuality is a big deal right now. It Gets Better, DOMA, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – you couldn’t get away from it if you tried. As culture changes different issues are going to become more prevalent. Every Christian throughout history has had to deal with living in a culture embroiled in some sort of sin. We don’t really have to fight back against gnosticism, or polytheism, or other issues some earlier Christians faced. This happens to be the card that was dealt to us. This is what the world cares about right now and this is what it’s focused on. Why do Christians in the news seem to focus so much about homosexuality? Well, nobody’s really asking about their views on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Homosexuality is current, it’s accepted by most of the world, and people know Christians will give them the controversy they’re craving in their lives/magazines/Twitter.
But Christians shoulder a lot of the blame too. Why do we wait so long to put our foot down and take a stand? This week I saw over a million people join a boycott page on Facebook in less than 24 hours. Less than a day! I saw a major restaurant chain reverse their actions because of an outpouring of response from offended Christians. I’m happy to see that. I am. I’m happy that there are people out there who are willing to say something isn’t right and do something about it. But why don’t we see that happen every day, instead of only when we’re upset about losing a cast member from a beloved TV show?
Of course the world is going to see the church as focused on homosexuality when that’s the only time we decide to unite together and make a statement. Why don’t we do that for divorce? How on earth can we expect us the world to take us seriously if we say we believe the Bible teaches one man, one woman for life but choose to ignore divorce and adultery and premarital sex as we focus on gay marriage. I’ve seen far too many of the same people quote that 1 Corinthians 6:9 talk about how they love Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert – whose relationship began while he was married to another woman.
That’s inconsistent. And the world sees that. Who do we have to blame other than ourselves when we get called out for it? When we pat our self-satisfied selves on the back for refusing to back down on this issue, but daily ignore so many of the rest of the “weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23)?
What if we cared as much about standing for every part of God’s word as we did for the Bible’s view on homosexuality? You know, Paul was a pretty dedicated Christian. From the time he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was absolutely committed to the cause of Christ. He didn’t shy away from mentioning homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Tim. 1:9-10). He acknowledged it as sinful behavior. But that was a pretty small part of his focus as he dealt with teaching the truth in every aspect of Christianity. And do you know what he was accused of? “Turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). I’ve seen religious people this week band together in a way that has shocked and, in some ways, amazed me. But I wish it was bigger. I wish it was more. I wish we would band together and really seek to fight all sin and, in doing so, turn all people to God.
With God and His truth on our side, Christians today are absolutely capable of turning the world upside down. We just have to care all the time, not just when something is media-worthy.