A friend posted an article by a gentleman named Chris Kratzer the other day titled “What if you’re wrong?” I was busy with babies and other things, and did not have time to write about it then. But, it has remained in the back of my mind these last few days, gnawing at me. It struck a false note and gives that overwhelming sense of needing to address a missed truth. I will admit I don’t know a whole lot about Mr. Kratzer, other than he says he’s a pastor and founded a church called the Grace Place. In another article he mentioned a bit about what he doesn’t believe, i.e. he’s not a Calvinist who believes in pre-destination and he’s not a Universalist that believes all roads go to Heaven. But, that unfortunately doesn’t describe much about what his theology is. The closest I could discern is that it’s grace based, and pretty much rejects the Law. Funny that he seems to claim that is the Gospel, but the references he made in the other article were all to passages in the Epistles. And considering how much he relied on Paul, it’s a little funny too, because Paul himself in Romans refers to the fact that grace doesn’t wipe out the Law. But, I suppose that is neither here nor there.
What struck me instead was the absolute emotional play of the piece. There was a whole lot of alluding to assumptions about people who disagree with his stance on the issue of homosexuality and think it’s a sin because the Bible said so. There were a whole lot of comparisons to racial atrocities, slavery, and even Hitler. There was a strong appeal to emotion at the end, kind of a if I’m wrong it’s no big deal, but if you’re wrong you’re getting in the way of God and condemning a whole bunch of people… Really? You can claim in one breath that Holy Spirit will have the power to redirect your false teaching if you’re wrong but doesn’t have the power to intervene in the teaching of those who disagree with you? What kind of God do you follow that cannot redeem either side of the things that divide us?
But, it wasn’t just that strange cognitive dissonance in the logic of it that has been tugging at me. He rails against the idea that anyone would call a person to repentance. How dare we preach such a thing when God is all about grace, except…
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Those were the words of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for Christ. They were also the first words Matthew records in the public ministry of Christ that began just after He returned from the wilderness. The first words the personification of God on Earth spoke to those He had come to save were about repentance. And contrary to the implication made that to believe that is somehow to take Scripture out of context, the whole of the Bible thrusts that way. God desires to save us, but we have to let Him orient us toward Him and away from sin, or we will remain separated from Him. This isn’t a lack of perfection of the cross, or a lack of grace. It is how God is. He cannot remain in the presence of sin, and if we insist on orienting ourselves toward sins, whatever sins, we remove ourselves from His presence. That was the purpose of the cross, to give us a way and His very presence with us in Holy Spirit to drive out our sins and be oriented toward Him.
But it doesn’t suddenly mean that sin no longer matters. In fact, I can testify in experience and from a lot of Biblical study, that sin in our lives will keep separating us from God, removing His peace from us, because we will incessantly get in the way of His plans for our lives if we keep chasing our own understanding instead of His. So, I can state with confidence that if I am wrong in telling people they need to repent, grace will always find a way to them. It always does, which is good because our understanding of God as human beings is limited, and we are bound to screw up the message. Grace always covers our errors when we are set on God. At the same time though, the Bible speaks pretty clearly on leading people astray and introducing false teachings. I do believe it references millstones and such. So, I am careful to seek God’s guidance before I speak on issues of eternal life and death for people. And this is where I run into the question this sparked for me.
What if I’m not… What if telling someone that homosexual practice is sin and that the power of Christ can set them free, not to keep sinning but from the sin itself is the same as telling them that bearing false witness grieves God but that if they will repent and seek His face He will forgive them and set them free from not just the eternal consequences but from the desire to lie? What if remaining silent about sin, any sin not just this sin, and the glorious truth that God’s grace is sufficient to set us free from our sinful nature and redeem us into the people He meant for us to be, isn’t wrong? What if showing people that they are in need of a savior, in every area of their lives, is the only way they will ever know and be able to accept the Good News that Christ is Lord? What if speaking truth as it is revealed in prayer, in Scripture, and by Holy Spirit is something I do, not because I am as the author intimated “anti-gay,” but because it is where and how Holy Spirit leads me to speak because I love them, just as Christ does?
I have never been one to beat people over the heads with their sinfulness. I have no need or desire to walk up to perfect strangers and tell them that they are going to hell. I find it a bit aggravating when folks do that, and I have enough of an understanding of human nature to realize that that approach will typically cause folks to dig in their heels. My Lord knows full well it certainly did with me, and that digging in of the heels led me down dangerous and heartbreaking paths over the years. Yet what led me home was the gentle reminders from those who loved me deeply, no matter how far I strayed, the gentle reminders from those I barely knew and loved me deeply anyway, those who didn’t shy away from telling me I had sinned, and was sinning, and that if I ever hoped for things to be better I had to repent and give my life over to Christ. That was what saved me, and most of the lost and lonely of my generation who finally came home to the arms of their loving Father.
The Bible (all of which is Christ speaking, by the way) tells us a number of sins specifically. It also tells us that we as human beings invent ways of doing evil. It tells us we are not alone to battle the destruction those sins wreak in our lives, even when we don’t see it as destruction. Christ, in person, also had a lot to say about sin in general, and most of it didn’t fall into the category this author labels grace. He spoke of repentance, he told people to go forth and sin no more. He told us to follow His commands, and aside from the ones everybody loves like “Love your neighbor as yourself,” He told us it was better to pluck out our eyes, and cut off our hands if they caused us to sin because maiming, which in context meant miserable poverty and a lifetime of begging, was better than going to hell.
The Gospel isn’t about what I think. Or what a pastor, or a thousand pastors for that matter, think. It is the revealing of God, the most complex being to ever exist, the Creator of everything we have ever or will ever know. He gave it to us so we could know Him, and so we could draw near to Him. Part of what He gave us was the understanding that while we may not be able to balance justice and mercy, truth and love, grace and law, He can and does all the time. He gave us His word to help us remain in the center of His will so He could do that balancing for us, and keep us free from the things that separate us from Him. It isn’t our job to pick which part of the Gospel or the Bible we like or which part we think will reach people. It’s our job to speak Christ crucified, raised and reigning. It’s our job to share His truth because we love what He loves, and He loves people too much to leave them bound in the chains of sin because we find a lie more comfortable.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if someone thinks I and millions of other Christians throughout the traditions of the church (including the earliest of them) are wrong. What matters is God does not lie, and He does not change, and He has His reasons for telling us what we can and cannot do. Sexual immorality of any kind was one of those things He said not to do. In this day and age, most of us have participated in some form or fashion in that particular sin, but just because sexual sin happens to be the sin of this season, and everybody is doing it, doesn’t make it okay for us to call good what God says is evil. It does mean though that there are a lot more prisoners that need to be set free from the chains of a world that refuses to tell them they are sinning.