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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Entry 29 I Will Deliver That Pizza

May 16, 2015

Dear Friends

Re:  Entry 29

I wanted to write this a month ago, when it was a national topic of interest, and although it has somewhat waned in the popular press, it will come back with a vengeance if what I think will happen in the June does happen.  Regardless of that, I have been attempting to come to grips with how all of this fits in with what I know:  God works all things together for good, for those who love Him.  He can than that be possible in the face of what most believers and churches consider to be an existential issue?  I hope the following lays out my arguments as to why it is not, nor is it the most pressing issue for Christians.  That remains the Great Commission.

I have listened in on this gay marriage vs. Christianity debate (if there is or has to be such a debate), mostly filtered through two channels:  popular culture and the church.  I can’t help but to come to the conclusion that most of what I hear is warped in the case of culture and misguided in the case of the church.  Note that when I write “church” I am using the lowercase, as I am intending to imply the body of individual Christians and not a specific congregation.

For some reason I seem to watch reruns of Law and Order even though I never recall watching the original series.  And I’ve noticed, in watching these reruns, that “Christians”, “The Faithful” or “Believers”, as they from time to time appear in the series, often have a few relatively salient traits.  First, their dress is out of fashion.  They wear older clothes, usually very modest, but with all the buttons buttoned up to the collar.  White socks with highwaters (do they still call them that?).  Clean cut, out-of-place-looking.  They tend to speak without contractions and use words like “infidel” (a word I never recall hearing in a sermon), or phrases like “Thus saith the Lord…” even when making minor pronouncements like announcing dinner.  They walk around with the Bible, but often only quote the Old Testament and then heavy with the vengeance and the wrath.  They often look as mesmerized (or mesmerizable) zombies and cultists.  Southern or Midwestern more often than otherwise, hickish and backward.  All in all, it is very apparent.  You wonder if any of the writers ever knew a real Christian, or if this caricature is all they know.  What is more to this point is the current news media seeks out only these types, they stumble into some pizza parlor somewhere in the Midwest and trip up some unsuspecting young girl on what was really an irrelevant question—would you deliver a pizza to a gay wedding?—and then use the answer as proof positive of widespread bigotry.  In thus doing so, and having the broadcast platform for its propagation, they “define” the Christian as the caricature they have already created.

And what of the church (or, better said, of the people in the church)?  Well, if I hear one more “Adam and Steve” reference, I will want to scream.  It sounds so self-righteous, plays right into that caricature above, and completely trivializes the hurt and burden of homosexuals.  But it continues, if you ask most people the greatest problem facing the church, inevitably, gay marriage will come up as a topic.  The solution? Elect other people to office, as if changing Nero would have saved Peter. Or shun known gays.  Or my personal favorite:  “Take A Stand”.  This latter solution often takes the form of denouncing sin in some public forum, a rally, a service, or a Facebook post.  Where, I ask, are all those posts on adultery? Or on selfishness? Or on my personal struggle (among others, surely): Faithlessness?  I would be shocked to log into Facebook and find someone condemning me for having such weak faith as I do, exorcising me from the church, condemning me as an outcast.  Surely this sin with which I struggle does not rise to that level of punishment?  I fear it does.  I may like to think I am a lesser sinner, and take comfort in the fact that my sin isn’t as pronounced, or highlighted, or repugnant to some.  In the end that is cold comfort.  Jesus had to die for my sins as well as those I like to think of as worse off than me (remember the Pharisee “…thank you Lord, that I’m not like that wretched sinner over there…” is that how I feel is my justification as I write this?).  Maybe this is how the Pharisees got to be Pharisees, by losing track of the need of the church to be a hospital and not a courtroom, by foregoing every opportunity to show compassion and mercy and love and confusing that with fulfillment of our mission to spread the gospel.

Some months back I wrote, as a personal exercise, seven “pillars” of work behavior.  Perhaps someday I will share them in a post.  I found no new wisdom in writing these pillars, nothing really being new, as Solomon said, under the sun.  However, two of my favorite (Numbers 2 and 7) are applicable here in this discussion:

2.            Commit to learning, from yourself, from others.  Strive to be an early adopter.  You may have difficulty changing others but you can change you.

7.            Stand in the gap.  Be the first in line for criticism, the last in line for recognition.

In asking myself how I can be a better servant to the Lord, I think the above are very important especially as I have been called to change myself, to subvert myself, my goals, my wishes, my biases, my perceptions.  I have no right to call others if I cannot call myself.  And then standing in the gap, for the Gospel, for sinners when I can, for believers as well, for the great charge Jesus gave us to enable the preaching of the of the Gospel to the world, as liberation and not as a jail.  To be a light in the darkness is to illumine when there are not other lights around you (again, if you only lift your light with other lights, do you really illuminate anything?).  Doing so doesn’t condone any sin, whatever it may be.  To go into all the world, among sinners, to take the risk of repudiation, to put yourself among those the Lord wishes to save is to be an instrument to further the Good News  It simply follows the Gospel, and trusts in the Lord for conviction or mercy or judgment.  My role as an indebted bondservant to deliver the message doesn’t permit me to be the judge.  Those are the two things I clearly understand about my duty in furthering the Gospel, all in one sentence.  Praise the Lord for that.

And what of standing the gap today? A poetic, soldierly phrase.  We like to think of taking a stand in large, profound ways:  Saving some life at the risk of our own, standing for the truth in the face of lies, standing in time past (and perhaps to come) and admitting to being a Christian, being a believer in times of great peril.  Those are the things our Christian forebears have suffered, persecution and earthly tragedy.  Those will likely come again.  We may all be called one day at the end of all things to stand in the gap in some great way.  Today it may be as simple as shining that light in the darkness, when no other light is willing.  It may be as simple as delivering that pizza.

I remain,


Fessler