Monday, June 20, 2016

Elastic Waisted Pants

I used to have some really comfortable yoga pants. They were my fav. Soft, stretchy, some paint spots, and a few holes that made wearing them outside of the house completely inappropriate. I wore them for most of my twenties and into my thirties. I finally retired them after my second pregnancy when it was obvious I either needed to stitch them up or let them go.

I think most people come home from being out in "dress" clothes and slip into their comfy pants. The thing is, comfy pants weren't meant to be worn all the time. My first corporate job had a very strict dress code - slacks or skirt suit, hose (no bare legs), dress shoes...you get the drift. Keep in mind, I often had to wear this in high temps in Arizona summers. It was anything but comfortable, especially on the drive home.

As I look at the political, social and religious/spiritual landscape I see a lot of people slipping out of their appropriate attire and into their sweat pants. Much like George Castanza, they appear to have simply "Given Up".

I keep seeing "viral" blog posts recommending that we as believers stay in our comfy pants all the time...and even host cocktail parties in them.

There are a lot of TV preachers that will tell you that the Christian life will make you happy. It will smooth the road ahead of you. It will make relationships a breeze and open all the doors and windows of opportunity. Everyone will like you, because you'll be the most likable person now that you found Jesus.

That's a lie.

All of it.

There is a lot that changes when you ask Jesus into your heart. When the Holy Spirit takes residence in your heart and scales fall from your eyes (Is 44:18, Jn 12:40) and you are able to finally see things as they are and as they should be. One thing that doesn't change is adversity, suffering, human error, sin, emotions, etc...

One thing that stands out as being remarkably clear to me  in Scripture is that we are promised not only just the normal everyday conflicts but increased adversity, conflict, criticism and discomfort (if you will) BECAUSE OF our new relationship with Jesus. There are things that are required of us as believers that make life uncomfortable.

For example, I found a boy in Wal-Mart the other day. It was a huge inconvenience, but I spent 20 minutes with him looking for his mommy, making sure he was safe, helping him clean up his mess. My relationship with Jesus requires me to accept the opportunities in front of me to be the hands and feet of Jesus - to protect, love and care for those in need. Another example, Scripture requires that we save sexual intimacy for marriage. I went through guy after guy after guy in my dating years waiting for one that wouldn't push that envelope. Most wanted to debate, argue, or pressure their way into bed with me. It sucked. Truth be told I often questioned the wisdom of such Scriptural commands. I just wanted to be normal - like other girls. I didn't like it when co-workers referred to me as "the virgin" or appearing to be some relic from years passed when women had respect for themselves and valued their worth. Yet another example, I have been commanded to give 10% of my income to the church. Can you believe that? That God wants me to give that much money to the church. I could do so much with that money - fridge, shoes, new wood floors, cabinetry in my laundry room... And yet, out of obedience I obey. Because obedience is how I demonstrate my desire for depth in my relationship with Jesus.

In our current political and social landscape, Christians who believe the Bible and desire closeness with Jesus are going to be very uncomfortable. A man cannot have two masters. He is either loyal to the Lord and His Word or the the whim of society.

Consider Paul and other early Christians. What culture did they live in? What was "acceptable" at that point in time? I ask, only because often times one of the main arguments for not listening to Scripture is that it is old, antiquated and times have changed. Here's the thing - it's not different. Sin is sin. It always has been. It always will be.

Corinth, one of the cities where Paul planted a church and converted several Romans to this new sect of Judaism. During these times, many cities chose one god to whom they gave their allegiance. Corinth was known for their worship of the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite or Venus is the goddess of beauty, love and fertility. Worship of Venus often involved intercourse with one of the temple's 1000 temple prostitutes. Morals in Corinth were notoriously corrupt, even by modern standards. In fact, in Paul's first letter to this church he scolds them for not taking man, who is sleeping with his mother, more seriously. It is in this rebuke that I think we learn exactly what is required of us in terms of dealing with immorality today.

It's not difficult to decipher. Sometimes we make these things more complex than they need to be.
"I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people. I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES." (1 Cor 5:9-13) **See also Deut 13:5; 17:7, 12**

Here's a scenario for you. You have 5 kids. One is a drug addict. You love all of your children. It's likely this particular child probably tugs on your heart more than the other four. You may even feel he needs you more than the other four. You've done everything you can think of to reach this beloved son of yours. You've talked, you talked with counselors, you've done rehab, you've paid for so many treatments you can't count them anymore. You've gone to the pawn shop to buy back your own property that was stolen to buy drugs. You've chased him down in the streets. You've been in the ER when he almost overdosed. You've also watched as his younger brother began to shown similar signs. You caught him with pot.

What do you do? Do you invite the addict son to share a room with the younger son? Do you keep him in the house at all? Do you invite him on family vacations?

No. No. No. If you love him, you let him go. Paul says something interesting about the man sleeping with his mother. "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Cor 5:5)

What does that mean? That means that sometimes, in order for us to be saved from ourselves we have to "hit rock bottom". Or as I like to say - one sometimes needs to feel the full weight of the impact of our sin in order to make a change. Some times we change. We can repent and return to fellowship with the body, or we may die in our sin. In which case, we will still meet Jesus face to face, but we will "have some 'splaining to do'".

The world tells us, "If you love someone you let them do what makes them happy." I have so many issues with this statement. First and foremost, you never watch someone you love self-destruct...even if they do say it makes them happy. I've heard the common phrase regarding our friends in the LGBTQ...community, "No one would chose that life with all of it's difficulties." I disagree. People chose every day to do things that are bad and wrong. Addicts, adulterers, binge eaters, criminals, gluttons..I mean, the Croughnut is an actual thing that actual people put in their actual bodies. Heroin is an actual thing. People drop out of high school. People stay with abusive men. People cut themselves with razor blades. We as humans are often so unwilling to deal with pain that we will do any and every thing we can to destroy our flesh in an attempt to make it stop. Often times, that effort includes behavior that actually increases pain. The evidence that trans-gendered and homosexual persons are actually some of the most unhappy people in the world BECAUSE OF their sin is overwhelming. I have a bookshelf full of studies (non-Christian psychological studies) that show that.

If we love them, we will not affirm or support their self-destruction. If they are professed believers, we lovingly minister to them, unless or until their disobedience to scripture requires that we do not associate with them. If they are not, we love them. We don't require a change of behavior, but we don't affirm that behavior.

Am I a bigot? No. I'd argue that this response is actually the most loving thing a human can do for another. If you see someone trying to kill himself (emotionally, spiritually or physically), you don't clap your hands while they pull the trigger. Even if he tells you it makes him happy.

I think what has happened is that we were comfortable as a church in American culture. We put on our elastic waisted pants and sat down with a bowl of popcorn and our fuzzy slippers on the big sofa. We just hung out. The truth is, that was okay, because they weren't that different from us. But, times have changed. We aren't the same as the culture around us. And we're not supposed to "fit in". We're not supposed to be comfortable. We are supposed to be very uncomfortable. During the early church Christians faced stoning, whipping, being hung in Nero's garden and burned alive for their faith. We face minor discomfort, losing some Facebook friends, being called names and potentially in rare cases losing a job. Imagine if you faced death?!

When dealing with "the world" (non-believing folks) we can't be in our comfy pants. You need those support hose and that suit. You're gonna have to endure being slightly uncomfortable for the sake of Truth. For the sake of the Gospel. That's what being a Jesus follower means.

So, to all the writers, speakers and teachers, who are having their heartstrings pulled by the shooting in Orlando and all of the people who think they have transgender kids or maybe your silly enough to be fooled by Bruce Jenner...Yes, we should love them. No, we should not affirm them. Yes, as long as they are seeking Jesus and not their own interests, they should be welcome in our midst. No, we should not allow ourselves to be bullied into "associating with immoral" people. Why? Because that is the Truth of God's Word. That is Jesus' version of Tough Love. No one ever came to know the true Jesus through a false Gospel.

I know it's not fun. I know you wish you could keep those comfy pants. But, friend, church, it's time to be uncomfortable.

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