acceptance, brokenness, community of grace, Compassion, ethics, grace, Holiness, inclusion, LGBT, love, truth

It’s a SIN?

I recently blogged about the Church needing to be loving in its attitudes towards people especially those in the LGBT community.

I deliberately didn’t blog about where I personally stand on the issue, as normally that normally means that only the people who agree with you read your post!

I long for all sides of Christ’s Church to become more loving, to read the Bible together in loving, God-honouring, humbling, respectful exchanges.

People talk about grace and truth being held together, and I think much of our Christian theology is about holding some difficult things intension in a Godly way (which is hard at times).

For some this is primarily a debate about the authority of scripture, what authority does scripture have over how we are followers of Christ live our lives? Does scripture say what we think it does, are we reading things the same way? Let’s talk and seek God together about authority of scripture and then about what it says within it?

For some this debate is about pastoral theology, how do we live out our faith together in community?

For others it is about how people make sense of their story and the story of God that captivates us, and the fundamental question of “who am I in Christ?” And for some, how do I make sense of “who I have discovered I am” with “who I have discovered I am in Christ?” and is there a tension with the two, and if so, how do I authentically deal with this under the Lordship of Christ.

The question people often say is “is it a sin?” as it seems be saying “if it is a sin, then the gloves are off and we can treat them how we like”, pastorally, even if it is a sin we are still called to love people and to “love our neighbour as our-self”.

Some think unquestionably the answer is yes.
Some think unquestionably the answer is no.

Some distinguish between desire and inclination and the practice.

I think the problem is we want a ‘clear cut’ discipleship and yet I have discovered that most pastoral theology is often complicated, messy and often not as clear cut as we’d like it to be.

I know many people in different places on the spectrum.

One Christian I have spoken about this, is an amazing Godly person and this person has chosen to be celibate rather than living out her sexual desire.

I know other Christians, gay and straight, who genuinely have really studied, prayed and sought God and believe the opposite.

Much ink has been spilled in the “nature/nurture” debate, yet irrespective of this Jesus is a God that meets us where we are at, and this is true for all people regardless of gender identity, and yet loves us too much to let us stay that way. we all need transformation, and we are all fallen, broken people. The straight person is not superior to his gay neighbour, as before the foot of the cross it is level ground, we all come from any and all walk of life, empty handed before a loving God who died for us.

I worry we have re-written the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to the “straight and the gay person”, and I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the parable.

Christ’s grace and love extends to every area of our lives include our sex lives and inclinations, as does his Lordship too.

As I said in my previous blog, the only way we can see these rifts within the wider Church and individual fellowships be healed, is in love journeying together prayerfully, seeking God and seeking him honestly through scripture (which can be immensely challenging for us all whatever perspective we hold, as scripture always shapes and challenges us profoundly to the core of our being).

Even if we don’t agree and may never read the Bible the same way as someone else our challenge remains to love them and to ensure that our conduct towards them reflects the Christ we serve.

It is a difficult call, and groups like synod will make stands some of which we will applauded and others of which leave us perplexed, yet rather than walk away, lets keep engaging, praying and seeking God with those who see things differently by reading his word together.

It is hard being in conversations about things that are deeply personal and important with people that don’t agree with us, and the Bible can feel incredibly sharp on occasion, yet even though it is difficult it is the cost of being a disciple to be a loving community, gathered around Christ and his word, and to seek together to follow Christ, which is often more complex, messy and ambiguous than we would like it to be.

As we seek to share our journey of faith with our brothers and sisters from many different walks of life, we need to let God work in us and shape us, and these things are often costly, “Iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another”.

The Church in the U.K looks like it might split over this issue, which would be a tragedy for us all. There have been many big and important issues that have threatened to tear the Church apart, but we need to remember the heart of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane that prayed “let them (the Church)be one as you and I are one”, Christ wants his bride to be united. To stop fighting and prayerfully gather around scripture takes bravery from all sides, and even more courage to stay praying and sharing around the Bible when it gets challenging, but worth it, to show the world that Christians can disagree in a Godly and honourable way.

The Church needs to heed the words of murdered MP Jo Cox that said “there is more that unites us that divides us”.

I believe the Church can and should be an outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven, and I believe it is worth fighting for, because you are worth fighting for, because we are the Church of Jesus Christ and we will not let’s not allow Satan to divide us.

Keep loving.
Keep meeting with people who we disagree.
Keep praying.
Keep sharing.
Keep reading scripture.
Keep on seeking God together.

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cost, ethics, Giving/Generousity., justice, Kingdom, Money

Kingdom Economics 2

So yesterday we thought that Money itself isn’t intrinsically evil, but we need to have a right attitude towards our money. Yesterday I quoted Bishop Mike Hill who said “Money should serve but never rule”, I would go further and say “money is makes a good tool but a lousy God -Money is a God which takes everything, and promises much… and yet gives nothing of any real or lasting value in return”.

So, in the second of this series I am exploring what it looks like to have a Godly attitude to money…

Are we Generous?

Generosity and extravagance is part of who God is, he is a God who gifts lavishly and abundantly and calls us to live the same way… I love the contrast between the expensive perfumed poured on Jesus’ feet and Judas sulky comments about where the money could have been spent better (how many times have we experienced the same poverty spirit in much Church stuff? -more of this later!).

Scripture says “those who sow generously will reap generously”… and you “reap what you sow”…in fact when Jesus once said “if someone takes you coat, give them your shirt too!”

Are we pursuing justice? -Are we seeking his Kingdom?

Sadly, money is power -and as people living in the 5th richest nation on earth our wealth carries with it responsibility. Did you know if you have a freezer you are in the top 10% of the world’s richest people and the internet puts you in the top 3%? We have a responsibility to ask if our purchases are ethically sources… The problem is that many Christians still think that the ethical consumptions means occasionally drinking fair-trade tea at Church rather than whole spirituality and life style.

Every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in? If this is true (which it is) what kind of world are you sponsoring, one of abused children in sweatshops or where the world’s poorest get a fair day’s work for a fair days pay.

Jesus said in Matthew 25 what you did for the least of these (the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty and those in captivity -slavery?) you did for me…

Do we just chuck a few quid at the vicar and the busker to feel better about ourselves and go on with our lavish lifestyle, or do we use what God has given us to bring transformation in the name of Christ.

Why is it that when we take the highlighter pen to our Bibles we highlight Jesus saying to Nicodemus “you must be born again” but leave unhighlighted “go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor”.

When John (the Baptist) tells his followers “if anyone has two cloaks, he should give one to the poor?” -do we overlook that verse?

I have heard many (normally evangelicals) say “we should not neglect preaching the word to wait on tables” and yet we forget that the early Church says “they had no people in need among them for everyone gave what they had”.

Are we building in faith?

Money is something we often place our faith in, someone once joked that the American Dollar should read “In GOLD we Trust” rather than “In GOD we Trust”, yet money is transient and its value is effected by much we can’t control. We are called to live by faith, putting our trust in Jehovah Jira -our God who provides… Just listen to some of those remarkable stories of George Muller, right here in this city of living by faith and discovering that when we step out of the boat, God is faithful and trustworthy.

Now this isn’t saying we need to be completely reckless with our money, probably all of us feel uncomfortable by American telly evangelists with private jets, yet the danger I feel with the Church in the west is not a gluttonous irresponsibility but often a grasping greed that knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

Our trust is in Christ, the God who owns the Cattle on a thousand hills, who made heaven and earth… this mighty God is not short of a bob or two, and doesn’t need us to lend him a fiver…

The problem often is found in the epistle to James “You have not because you ask not?” because we aren’t prepared to experience his faithfulness, to ask and open our hands to receive… Where our eyes are fixed on Christ and his call, rather than losing our faith in the balance sheets.

So the question should be, how in my life am I stepping out in faith, practicing the generosity of God, perusing justice and seeking his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

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conscience, ethics, justice, Kingdom, Life in the Spirit, Life styles, priorities, values

What does it mean to be different?

My daughter has joined an ECO club…

It made me think that I am not as good on all things GREEN as I should be, and as I thought more about the whole Green issues I thought when was the last time I heard a sermon that mentioned things like carbon footprint, pollution, fracking and all those issues.

Yet when we think that we have a God given responsibility to be good stewards of creation, why is the Christian voice so hard to find on the national debate?

A while ago I was really challenged on my consumer ethics, the amount of clothes and other commodities (both high and low end of the market) that have been traded in an unfair and evil way, and yet it is a challenge to keep fairtrade teabags in our local Church.  In fact someone once said that often fairtrade tea-bags in Church often is more about a ‘sop to our conscience’ feeling like we are doing something, rather than really thinking about the ethics and power we have as consumers. A quote I heard once was “every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in”… Lots of web-pages about how to be a more ethical consumer, yet how often do we talk about our power as consumers.

There is something really wrong when we are more worried about how much of our bodies is covered up by what we wear, than whether or nor it was made by a child in appalling inhumane conditions.

Then I began to think about politics and faith, something I am passionate about, but then as I thought actually as Christians we  seem to focus narrowly on one or two issues such as (in the states) Abortion or here in the UK Gay Marriage, but there are so many more issues where we have good things to say that are worth hearing on debates. It was great to see ++Rowan Williams step up and ask tough questions in the House of Lords  on the validity of the war in Iraq, or the Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster condemning the effect  of the austerity cuts on the most deprived and vulnerable in our society.

Yet I think as Christians and Churches we ought to be thinking how does our faith effect not only our view of political issues, but also our practices and behaviors on them.

Sometimes I think we a need a wider world view as I think the Kingdom of God is something that is all pervasive, challenges our view on everything, we are ‘alien ambassadors’, this world is not our home and we are living to point people to a different Kingdom, a Kingdom where Christ is King, a Kingdom where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Described by Bishop Graham Tomlin as “where what God wants happens here” as a definition of the Kingdom, this means where people are loved, where truth is spoken, where victims are comforted and lifted up, where sin is challenged, where power is rebuked, when darkness is driven back and good news is proclaimed.

And Good News has got to be good news for everyone, I believe that good news isn’t simply something awaiting us when die, but should be seen and visible in life now

Too often we have thought of Christian living and holiness as not saying naughty words, not smoking or drinking… rather than what my friend Si Hall described as “Dirty Holiness”, about intentionally rolling up ourselves and getting down where people are broken, hurting and marginalized. Holiness defined by what you DO rather than simply what you AVOID.

It is meant to look different from the world.

Bishop Tomlin again said that the problem with people coming to faith is they look at Christians and they seem almost indistinguishable from themselves.

Yet alongside this my friend Jonathan Dowman once commented that the greatest desire in many peoples heart is “I want to lead a good life and be a good person” and yet they don’t come to the Church for help with this as they so often don’t see us as Christians as different from them.

So, lets embrace the Kingship of Christ over all our lives.

I’ll end with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Live in such a way that makes Atheists question their disbelief in God”.

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