Last modified: Mar 11, 2017

Spitting Image

This was turning out to be the longest car ride of William’s life.

As he stared out the window, what was just a 15-minute drive felt like an eternity. And to make matters worse, his father wasn’t talking to him. In fact, he hadn’t said a word since he’d driven out to pick him up. There was a palpable tension from the moment William had gotten into the car, into the passenger seat, and flung that seatbelt across his chest.

Every bump on the road made the lump in his throat more difficult to deal with. Everything inside him wanted to say something.

Anything.

All he could do instead was watch the siderail of the highway and the trees towering in the distance, passing from view as the car shot through the night.

He could say nothing.

He was a tall, handsome eighteen now, his hooded sweatshirt hiding his athletic build. His curly blonde hair was thick and wild and free, patches of his young beard coloring his sharp jawline. He was old enough to be on his own, but too careless to be trusted to make his own decisions. And he had gone ahead and proved it true again tonight.

It was just a foregone conclusion that there would be no apologizing for his behavior. Growing up in the house, there were no I-love-yous or I’m-sorrys. There were no hugs. There were no understanding conversations with cheesy television sitcom music playing in the background.

Instead, there was deafening silence every time William chose to do what his parents warned against. Deafening silence until the loud lectures came. And those threats of being kicked out to the curb. Oh, there were plenty of those.

He should’ve known better each of those times he messed up. And he should’ve known better this time, too.

He was the youngest of three boys, but looked most like his father did at his age—or at least that’s what he was told. But Father Time hadn’t stayed faithful to the older man. And William never saw the resemblance. He couldn’t see how he was a spitting image of the man. The father was cold and emotionless; the son was a ball of energy. There was always a disconnect between them.

William turned slightly to take a quick glance at his old man, a burly fellow in his mid-fifties, a thick brown wintercoat hugging his frame. His hair was salt and pepper but his beard was white like snow as it painted his chiseled jawline. He was a big breather, and you could see his chest grow wide with every breath—even with the coat on. He squinted just a little bit and watched the road as nightfall licked the road, the headlights of the car meeting white reflective stripes on the tar.

Silence.

Finally, the car pulled up to the familiar neighborhood, then to the familiar street, then to the familiar driveway. The porch lights flicked on automatically.

William felt the car ease to a stop in the middle of the driveway, the engine being shifted into park quickly before being shut down. The hum of the car dissipated into an uncomfortable quiet. As he undid his seatbelt, he turned and broke the silence.

“Dad, I’m sorry for tonight,” he said. But his father was out the door already.

William sighed deep as he opened the door and stepped out into the cold, tucking his hands into his hoodie. He walked slowly up the walkway, his father following close behind the whole way, his breath loud and heavy in the freezing night. At the top of the stairs, William was stopped by a tug on his jacket.

Turning, he was quickly met with a strong embrace, tears rolling down the old man’s cheeks. William threw his arms around his father, closing his eyes and savoring a hug he had waited 18 years—and a whole trying evening—for.

“You’re my boy. Our boy,” his father said, choking up with every other word. “And we love you very much, no matter what you’ve done.”

William closed his eyes even tighter, now even more aware of how embarrassing his short stay in jail was. It was his third offense of the year—his third involving alcohol—and his father had no reason to bail him out again. He wanted to say something appropriate, but that lump in his throat was back. This time, though, it was a good feeling.

His father continued, “We don’t love the things you do. And you know we don’t condone your behavior—”

William interrupted, “I know, Dad—”

“But this is your house. You don’t belong in a jail. Even for a night. And we’ll help you through this.”

William nodded, unable to look his father in the eyes just yet. He was still ashamed of his failures.

“Hey,” said his father, smacking him softly on the cheek to get him to look him in the eyes. William finally looked up. “Your mother and I. We promise we’ll help you through this.”

The old man’s assuring words echoed as frost slowly started to fall around them.

And as William stood there, the son smiling through tears just like his father was… he knew that, for at least this one moment, he had never looked more like his old man.

Exclusive Churches

Exclusive Country Club

Don’t let the title of this post scare you.

This article isn’t really about homosexuality or obesity as much as it’s about love and acceptance.

Let’s begin.

There’s this overwhelming fear in a lot of churches that opening the doors to people who live sketchy lives is, in some way, condoning their behavior. Or that it’s contagious and their tendencies will become the rest of the church’s tendencies. Or that it’s setting a bad precedent for even more terrible behaviors in the future that would be, in some way, buoyed by these current concessions.

I could tell you that’s ridiculous.

But it’s just nicer to share great quotes like this one from writer Pauline Phillips:

A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.

But, often, we don’t see church through that lens. For a lot of us, our churches are some sort of exclusive country club that other people have to measure up to. Like they have to earn their membership or something.

They’ve gotta dress like us. They’ve gotta sound like us. And there are all these traditions that our parents and their parents and their parents established… and that’s the standard for membership.

Wait. When did our churches start sounding like Augusta National Golf Club?

Here’s the problem.

As a church, we use our inside voices to talk about who we don’t agree with outside. And then we use our outside voices to let those same people know they’re not allowed inside.

If we let them in, we’re condoning their behaviors?

Hey you! Yeah, you. The person in the pressed suit/dress, recently-washed sedan, and bedazzled errything. Do you know when Paul says this in Romans 3:23:

All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.

You know he literally means all of us, right?

You are a sinner. A spitting image of the sinner outside your church walls. Outside your comfort zones. Outside your realm of evangelism.

This isn’t about homosexual people and how we need to figure out some methodology for loving them.

This is about loving them.

Period.

It’s time to wake up.

Gay Friendly Churches

Gigantic Insensitive Bible-Thumping Turds

The only thing I hate more than people taking Bible verses out of context is Taylor Swift being given the label of “New York City’s Global Welcome Ambassador”. Because, let’s face it. She’ll be giddy with NYC for a while, then break up with it, and then she’ll write a song about it.

Like this one:

(By the way… I may never forgive myself for linking to a Taylor Swift video on my site.)

I’ve written about taking the Bible out of context before. To summarize, here’s a quote from that piece:

If the Great Commission was about Jesus telling us to go into all the world and create one church that reads the Bible one way and dresses in one color and parts their hair in one direction, I’d get you. I’d be totally on board with you.

But Jesus chose to include — in his circle of best buds — fishermen, money launderers, a couple of brothers that had tempers powerful enough that he called them “Sons of Thunder”… and even a traitor.

Because the point of this whole Christianity thing is better reflected in John 3:16 than it is in any combination of verses you’ll find in Leviticus 19.

The problem for a lot of our churches is this whole idea that we’ve got something to fear by accepting people in. And we’ll passionately profess every single verse that helps defend our rationale of keeping people out of our hallowed halls.

Most of you are reading this and saying:

“Well, it’s not about being politically correct! We can’t make everybody happy, and if God’s word is what we’re following, then they’ll just have to deal with the truth!”

And I’m gonna tell you, quite confidently:

“You’re hypocrites.”

Why?

Because we aren’t scared of offending homosexuals who want to join the church or understand how Christianity is about… but we hold our tongues the moment somebody dealing with a weight issue walks into the room—out of fear that they’d be offended by our words.

Do you understand how many verses in the Bible ought to make the big people in our circles feel terrible?

Imagine if we quoted Proverbs 23:2:

… and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.

What about verse 20 from the same chapter?

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat…

What if we twisted around 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 to talk about being overweight just like we usually twist around this portion to talk about jewelry or tattoos… even though the verses have nothing to do with any of those things?

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We don’t do this, because of three reasons:

  • It’s insensitive to those people struggling with weight issues to call them out for their weight issues.
  • Being overweight isn’t necessarily a gluttony thing. It’s complicated. There are health issues, emotional issues, and psychological issues that drive some people to look how they look.
  • It’s none of your business how they choose to live their lives. You can cajole them into being better about things, but the change has to happen within themselves.

I’ve got friends who have the worst diet habits, consume sugar unabashedly, and live life gorging. And I won’t dare say a thing to them because of those three reasons I just mentioned. And we all see it this way. We’ll shut up the moment those people walk into the room, because we don’t want to offend them. Because their reasons for looking how they do… are probably pretty complicated.

We don’t use these verses to picket our bigger friends, our bigger pastors, and our bigger neighbors who are knocking on our church doors to get inside. Because we’re not gigantic insensitive Bible-thumping turds.

But with regards to homosexuality? Our opinions on gay marriage and homosexuality are informed by every verse in the Bible, all of which immediately become relatable to their sin, every Greek/Hebrew translation of a Bible word is seen in its most extreme light to admonish their sin, and we have no worries about damaging the psychies of the people dealing with that world.

A church that allows people who are fat and Christian can be incredibly understanding to fat people. But we can’t imagine showing love to people who are gay and Christian.

And that makes absolutely no sense.


Go and Judge Sinners No More

None of our contradictory behaviors is surprising, really.

We can’t even love our own pastors when they cheat, screw up, and take their churches for granted. Imagine if Pastor Robert Morris’s public forgiveness of embattled Pastor Mark Driscoll was something that we all did, all the time? We’d be able to understand the nuances of the sinner’s struggle better. Take a listen to the gravity of Driscoll’s current state of affairs:

It’s why tweets like this one are so compelling:

This isn’t about us trying to find the verses that will hold people down in their suffering, in their sins, in their shame.

This is about us putting down our stones, loving them despite their condition, and allowing Jesus to step in and change the trajectory of their lives.

If Jesus had said “Go and judge sinners no more” just like he told the woman “Go and sin no more”, my argument here would be irrefutable. But there’s something about love that reminds me that it doesn’t have to condone to accept, it doesn’t have to destroy to build up, and it doesn’t have to force change when it’s Christ’s job to bring about the change instead.

Love the people who don’t live like you do or see the world the same way you do.

Because Christ loves you even though you look nothing like him no matter how hard you pretend you do.

Love Gay Christians

Loving Gay Christians Helps Create Bridges

Somebody recently told me that if I was a parent, I’d understand why what I’m saying is so damaging and dangerous.

I disagree.

Because I’m pretty sure being a parent doesn’t magically and instantaneously endow people with heightened knowledge of the world. And I’m fairly certain that the moment you become a parent, you don’t magically know every right answer to every situation you’re ever presented with. Parents aren’t saints.

Neither are kids and young people, and I’m okay with that if you all are.

Loving people despite what your grandparents said, and what your parents said, and what you grew up thinking… That’s tough. I get it.

So no, you may not want to talk about alcohol, or drugs, or sex, or homosexuality, or tattoos, or jewelry, or cursing. But Christ didn’t toss you out when you made him look like a fool growing up, or at work, or in public. Yelling at the telemarketer on the phone, cutting people off on the road because they’re driving like they’re competing for “Slowest Driver of the Year”, or lying to your boss about work projections, or telling a friend you haven’t seen in ages that you’re doing better than you actually are.

Don’t tell me that because you’re a parent, you don’t screw up. I don’t want to hear it.

And don’t even dare tell me these conversations shouldn’t happen in your churches with your youth groups. Because if you’re only concerned with hearing the volume level of your own voice, you’re gonna miss out on the questions everybody else is raising.

Do you honestly not think that your youth groups aren’t gonna deal with these questions in schools, in workplace scenarios, and out in the real world anyway? Do you think that by not figuring out how to have these conversations in your churches, you’re protecting them from something? Or you’re preserving the sanctity of something?

It’s time to wake up.

We need to love. We need to talk. We need to figure out how the church as a whole can progress.

There are gonna be more pressing questions and concerns going forward, and if your head is still stuck in 1980s My-Childhood-In-New-York-City-Was-Awesome mode or 1940s My-Grandparents-Were-So-Rad-And-Right-About-Everything mode, I’m willing to tell you that you’re doing this church thing all wrong.

Again, love doesn’t have to condone to accept, it doesn’t have to destroy to build up, and it doesn’t have to force change when it’s Christ’s job to bring about the change instead.

Love can talk things out. Love can create bridges.

Love does. Hate doesn’t.

This isn’t about homosexuals in church. This isn’t about being overweight and asking for seconds at a church barbecue.

This is about why we just can’t love everybody anyway.

Loving people is uncomfortable as hell because accepting people despite their flaws is uncomfortable as hell. And because of this, loving gay Christians is also uncomfortable as hell.

But it’s the only way love works.

And when we’re okay with that, we’ll be doing this whole church thing right. ■