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Thursday, June 08, 2006

On Sin and "Separation"

Here, Sara asked a question about sin and "separation." Here's my answer.

Sara, the questions you are asking are important. I feel a little bit, though, like you are asking Windows questions to a Mac guy. The operating system we are using at Vintage is not the same one as we used in college. Certainly, we all want to accomplish the same thing, but the terminology and processes we use to get there might look completely different and sound completely foreign. With that in mind, here's how I would answer your question.

Vintage is / will be guided by a set of value statements that help us determine the flavor and focus of ministry that we will engage in.

Some of the pertinent ones are:

Truth Transforms - We believe that as we teach truth in a relevant and abductive way, people over time will grow in their love for and obedience to Jesus. The journey has a destination and we will give people a map so they can walk it.

Grace Happens - We believe that in a world where people get judged and condemned by their bosses, their spouses, the supermodels on TV, and more, church ought to be a place where unexpected mercy comes crashing in. Nothing helps someone keep going on their journey like a compassionate friend to walk with them.

Love Wins - We believe that hope and optimism are the order of the day. We believe that the world can be a better place, that people can change, that love - not condemnation - gets the last word. The journey has a destination, and it is a really, really good place.

So ... I hestitate to answer any "what about the gay guy" question because it isolates one sin and one group of people while insulating everyone else. Our approach will be simple - and really hard.

- Teach the truth. Not just on Sunday mornings at the theater, but in conversations and emails and blog entries. What is wrong is wrong - in my life and anybody else's.

- Don't withhold love. When I read Paul say to treat someone like a pagan and an outsider, I ask myself "How did Jesus treat pagans and outsiders?" Frankly, they were his best friends. That is the pattern we ought to follow.

- Keep hope. Sin does not go away quickly in my life. I am still struggling with the same things I did in college. Years and years and years people walk the path with an albatross on their necks. The only hope is that progress can be made and love wins. If God is patient with people, not wanting any to perish, why can't we be the same? Peter asked Jesus how long he had to keep forgiving someone, and the answer was something like "forever."

9 comments:

A said...

I will chime in with a real example that very well could face us at Vintage on Sunday. A business contact of mine has an acquaintance that has opened up to him recently, admitting to him that he has an $800 per month habit of smoking marijuana. He wants help. He's prayed with my friend and wants to know Christ. He's done many things to try and quit, but cannot kick the habit. The one thing he hasn't done is go to church, and his stated reason is fear of rejection and judgment instead of help. This guy isn't antagonistic toward God, nor is he in denial that he has a problem and needs help. He needs to be embraced by Christians who will accept him where he is, problem and all. Love him for the long haul. Walk with him through a journey of quitting and letting Jesus change his life. That is the kind of place we want Vintage to be. It isn't that we think pot is ok, or that he should keep smoking it. Quite the contrary. We believe that with enough time, grace, and love, he'll kick it and be able to grow in Christ. Will it take a week, a month, a year, 10 years? I have no idea. It would be great if it happened overnight, but it will probably be a prolonged battle with ups and downs, two steps forward and one step back. But the thought of setting some sort of time to give up and walk away from someone struggling like this is a bit ridiculous, and what Vintage won't do. It doesn't mean we condone the behavior, it means we beleive God can change it, on His timetable.

So, here's the thing. Are any of us free from sin? No. Just because the sin in my life isn't so outward or blatant as pot smoking or homosexuality, why should I be treated any differently than those who do? We all sin and we all struggle and we all take way more time to fix it than we should. And if we ever do gain "victory" in one area then we probably end up struggling with some other sin after that.

It is only because of God's grace that any of us can experience forgiveness, reconciliation, and renewal. I am in no position to say that there is a time in anyone else's life that their sin doesn't deserve to be handled with grace, love, and effort toward helping them change.

Sara said...

thank you...Robb and A..those were exactly the kind of answers i was hoping for

Andrew said...

I'm all for loving people and helping them get untangled and unburdened from sin.

What about theological separation? Robb, you mentioned that some have separated from you. I can't speculate about their motives, but it makes me think about when there is a time and place for theological separation. At Vintage, have you determined a set of beliefs for which you will not compromise? On the website you include the Apostle's Creed - is that a litmus test? Would you separate from those whose beliefs differ from the creed?

klasieprof said...

I hesitate to throw this in the very deep discussion but...

Is it REALLY GOOD pot? I mean like sticky, with lots of tar? LOL

Not That I would know.
d.

Robb said...

Andrew,

Interesting question, but like I told Sara, I feel like a Mac guy trying to answer Windows questions. Honestly, the concerns and buzzwords and issues of college and my early ministry are simply not the same ones I have today. Ultimately, I have the same goal I always did, but the way I seek to accomplish that goal - the processes and terminology - are completely different.

I now am not so concerned about who I am going to cut off from myself. I am now concerned about what I can learn from and incorporate into my ministry to enrich it from those who see the world and the church from a different perspective than me. Does that mean I hold joint services with an episcopal church? Who knows, but it definately means I will use some of their liturgical elements from time to time.

Frankly, at this point in my life, I am much less inclined to partner with the God and Country, Jesus Votes Republican kind of churches than any other. While they might not have compromised some element of doctrine, I think they have so shifted our focus from what it should be that they have done harm to the kingdom in an effort to amass political power.

Those are just some thoughts. What do you think?

klasieprof said...

NO really, I've been thinking about this situation a lot.
To me,It is similar to a battered wife.
She loves her husband.
He beat the crap out her periodically, then is instantly sorry, and "woos" her with flowers, candy and good behavior. She believes it was her fault somehow, and thinks if she trys harder it won't happen again. Then..the cycle starts building, she starts walking on eggshells, and then he assaults her again.
Each time, the police come, or she talks to a friend and gains a little bit more knowledge about how this is inappropriate behavior from her spouse, and she doesn't Have to be treated this way.
When she learns enough, and gains enough knowledge, and has a backup plan and friends to help her...a safe house or whatever. She leaves. Many times..she goes back. He beats her again. But....EVENTUALLY sometimes years later when he may be starting in on thekids...SHE LEAVES FOR GOOD. SHe doens't want her children to see this. (94 % of boys in prison for murder between 14 and 21 killed thier mothers abuser)
IT IS A PROCESS. This process may take years. IF someone were to tell her she was STUPID< WRONG, to Stay with her spouse that doesn't help.
What does help?
Someone...to calmly speak to her, Consistantly love and offer help to her. THATS who she is going to be calling when she decides to end the abuse.
That's the mission as I see it of Vintage. To offer consistant truth, support and love, to allow others to MAKE THEIR OWN decisions as Guided by teh HOLY SPIRIT, and NOt Ramming predisposed ways of living down their throats.
Who are WE? I swear. I drink wine. I try and stop. Do I remain friends with those that don't accept me? Hell no. They dont' make me feel good, they make me feel bad. Why would I go to someone that makes me feel bad when I am in trouble?
The battered wife, ON HER OWN timetable, through education, acceptance and love, realizes There is a BETTER WAY.She is more likely to stick to the Better way when its on HER timetable , not one shoved down her throat.
((Hugs)) and love to all.

A said...

Andrew,

I'll add my $.02 worth here. The apostles' creed stands on our website mostly because we haven't had time to put together our own yet.

I also agree with Robb about the PC/MAC terminology. I might use a different analogy though. The last 5 years have been for me, like Neo in the Matrix (the first movie). GARB churches, and baptist churches up north are like living "in the matrix" and not knowing that there's a whole other world out there. No one in the south has ever heard of the GARB. No one associates the things "we" did in college with the term Baptist here. And, there is a huge world of fine, godly, Christian people in churches that I probably would have written off before. That's the matrix for me. Having moved to a different part of the country that knows not the GARB has been like seeing the characters flowing down the monitor and realizing that there's a whole world out there that I previously knew nothing about. I took for granted that what I knew and my experience was normative for everyone else everywhere. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Yes, there are some differences. But, for me, the number of things that I would put on the list of "theological deal breakers" has grown pretty small for me. There is a lost world out there that doesn't care if we're amillenial or post-trib. They need to hear about Jesus.

I also think that we spend far too much energy debating things that are surely important (and you know we used to love to debate this stuff for hours in the dorm) but may not be very relevant to the average lost person in their day to day lives. What's lost in all this time and energy is working on getting the basic stuff right. Once we have love, grace, kindness, foregiveness, etc. figured out, nailed down, and lived out in every moment of our life, then maybe we can start to hash out the ordu salutis.

Right now, we, and Vintage, are very focused on our mission to show de-churched lost people the love of Jesus and how it can change their life forever.

ness said...

One of the sweetest things I've experienced at Vintage already is that as we have partnered up with people and churches, we have spent very little time analyzing theological crossing of "t's" and dotting of "i's". It's been more a process of finding other churches and people to work with who are kingdom minded and willing to do the "insane" for that kingdom. It's people who are committed more to the Jesus they know and love than to a denomination they are used to and find comfortable.

ness said...

d, excellent example (the battered wife). Amazing stat about boys in jail....