Power of Listening

We have forgotten James 1:19; “Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to grow angry.” (CEB)

The stance of the United Methodist Church on homosexuality has been a hot topic for a very long time…ok that is probably a huge understatement.  As discussion of General Conference in 2016 start to ramp up and all the talk about schism, I have noticed, for a long time now, how horrible the internet has gotten.  We, as Christians, as United Methodists, as human beings, have forgotten how to listen to one another.

As a member of some Facebook United Methodist Groups, as I read posts, my heart aches because of the inability of my brothers and sisters in Christ to actually listen, to “be quick to listen.”  I find comment treads get derailed so easily that no real discussion happens.  It is only yelling with the hope that the opinion being shouted out sticks.

I completely understand how touchy and heated this discussion over homosexuality and the church’s stance is.  As I have wrestled with this issue and explored the scriptural basis on each side, I have realized there is really no discussion happening anymore.  There is no conversation, online at least.  Have we arrived at the place that we have moved beyond that now?  Are we at the place that now where people are only digging in their heels and trying to shout over each other?  Have we moved beyond discussion and holy conversation?

Proverbs 21:23 says, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues guard themselves from trouble.”  Listening is learning to actually keep your mouth closed in order to let the other person talk.  Instead, many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have forgotten this and rely on being internet trolls instead.

If each side of the table has it all figured out…there is no conversation anymore.  If we have all the answers then who needs to listen to the other side.  There is no dialogue when we yell at how ‘unbiblical’ a person is for their interpretation of scripture.  There is no conversation when people are called ignorant, simple, closed minded, or heretics.

The joy I find in the United Methodist Church is that we don’t subscribe to one train of thought.  We have permission to disagree on things and still call each other United Methodist.  We can lean conservative or liberal (whatever the hell those unBiblical terms mean) and still join together to bring about the Kingdom of God.  Our connection is not based on agreement of social issues but instead is based on the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Maybe that is it.  In our haste to loosen our mouths and let our tongues flap without worry, we have convinced ourselves that we have all the answers.  We yell, “See it my way!” and will attempt to scream until every person follows suit.  We have forgotten the power of listening, hearing the other side, and understanding one another.

We have forgotten that we are to be like Nicodemus.  Even though he was trying to wrap his head around what Jesus was saying but couldn’t comprehend it, he eventually just shut up and listened to Jesus.  He stopped wondering “how” it was all to be and instead attempted to soak it all in.  My hope is that we will learn to be better listeners.  Through listening we will convey love and grace to our fellow brothers and sisters.  Through listening to Jesus we will gain understanding in what love and grace truly looks like.

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Homosexuality and Hamilton

John, drew my attention to Adam Hamilton’s most recent sermon on homosexuality. Last night I had a good 30-40 minute conversation on this topic with some of my flock at a Bible Study. I think Adam does a good job with this topic (the first time he preached it was a while ago and it is included in the Confronting the Controversies Study he put out).

We need to interpret scripture through a lens, that lens is Jesus Christ the Word which became flesh. I think that is something I need to remind my congregation about more often.

BTW we are currently doing the Confronting the Controversies series in a Sunday School class I teach and we will be doing this discussion in a couple of weeks. I should be interesting in the fact that I think we all are battling the same questions but think we are alone in thinking this way.

More thoughts on Gay Marriage

Usually when watching the Daily Show, I watch Jon Stewart’s commentary and then skip the interview. He is not my favorite interviewer by any means. Yet, I did find this one interesting. Mike Huckabee was on promoting his new book, Do the Right Thing. The conversation moved into a debate over gay marriage. Huckabee stuck to the fact that voters defined marriage as one man and one woman. Stewart refereed to Old Testament ideas of marriage as in polygamy. Nothing Biblical fell out of Huckabee’s mouth, no scriptural reference at all.

That got me looking into the Biblical accounts of a traditional marriage. Here is what I found (please add more if you know of any)
Gen. 2:18, 21-24 – God sees Adam as lonely and desires to make a companion for him, God creates Eve.
Malachi 2:14 – speaks of the marriage covenant, but is trying to get people not to marry foreigners.
1 Corinthians 7:1-2 – Paul tells us not to marry but that if we do every man should have a woman and every woman a man.
Ephesians 5:22-33 – wives submit to husbands, husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church. Talks about how a marriage should work, as far as the relationship itself
1 Peter 3:1-5, 7 – again talks about the relationship aspect of marriage
Hebrews 13:4 – states that marriage should be honored by all

Other than these there are rules about who should can marry a widow, how to set your daughters up with good husbands. There are stories of people trading their daughters for political purposes and many more, and even weirder scriptures. Besides the ones above nothing really speaks to why marriage should be between a man and a woman. Besides the Genesis passage, all the others speak to relationships and not to why marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.

Is our stance on marriage = man & woman, based off of more tradition than scripture? Are we fighting the idea of gay marriage because of social ideals or scriptural based theology? There was a time when a black man was seen as 3/4 human and women were property. Those were social ideals that were overturned. Ten years from now will we look at this issue and think the same thing?

I have a feeling I know what some people will say. Gay marriage is cultivating unbiblical morality. If gay marriage is legal then we are promoting homosexuality. I am wrestling with that idea as well…more to come.

Jon Stewart makes some good points and I think Huckabee (as a Baptist minister) should have come out stronger on Biblical principals. Yet he is also probably still trying to run for some sort of office and may want to shun the ‘preacher’ side of things. Here is the interview.

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Gay Marriage

What is the purpose of marriage? Why do two people vow to spend their lives intertwined? We are communal people who desire to be around and with others. But is that the only reason we marry? Is it only in order to have a buddy to go through life with or only to feed our sexual desires?

These are some of the questions that I have been wrestling with recently. I have been wresting with the issue of gay marriage. Am I for it or against it? Is there really anything biblical against the idea? Why is the government involved in marriage anyway, if it is a religious structure? I still have a ton of questions.

What I do know is the purpose marriage has seen some changes over time. The goal for Abraham’s kin was to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ Marriage was a place of procreation. When you are born to Jewish parents, you are considered a Jew. Having children, building a family, was and still is a way of building up a religious people and nation. That is not the case for Christians. Children born to Christian parents are not necessarily Christian. We promise, at infant baptism, to raise them up in a way pleasing to God, but eventually that child will have to make the decision him/herself. Being born into a Christian home doesn’t make you a Christian. Procreation within marriage is not an evangelical tool or building up a religion. What is the purpose of marriage now?
Marriage is a place where the love of Christ can be shared between two people in deeper and more intimate ways. It is a place of caring, joy, support and service to one another. It is a place where sacrificial love is practiced and perfected. Marriage is a place where when life happens there is someone there who will walk through it with you. It is having someone who will hold your hand when your parents die and also make sure to change the toilet paper when it runs out. Marriage is a place where tenderness is demonstrated with a kiss after being apart for a while and finding joy in doing nothing else but holding each other. Marriage is a place where deep conversations about what makes us, us happen with honesty and love.

Marriage is what happens in the bed room, the bath room, the living room, the kitchen and all the other places life happens. You cannot confine marriage to one room of the house. How you deal with dirty dishes day in and day out is as important as how you handle what happens in the martial bed. For marriage to succeed you look at all aspects of life and you promise to do everything you can for the other person.

If this is marriage, why does it have to be limited to only a man and a woman?

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) But David has a great post on other verses in the Bible that talk about marriage, ones we ignore constantly. How do we deal with those? How do we deal with the pieces of scripture on issues we ignore or have come to understand differently because of our post-modern thinking; like slavery, the role of woman in the church, and many others.

Peter Storey once said, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, but Steve showed up. Now what are you going to do?” He also said, “Homosexuals are the only people we demand be celibate.” We give them no way to deal with their sexual desires. A strait person could get marriage and have as much sex as s/he would like. We don’t even make that big of a deal anymore if they stray within their marriage and decide that they desire someone else instead. Yet we don’t allow two homosexuals to join in a monogamous relationship where commitment is demanded and expected.

I’m still on the fence. I see my gay friends and I feel their pain. I see them look at my wife and I and I feel sorry they cannot experience our type of relationship for themselves. Yet, I cannot ignore the current Biblical thinking as well. So here I sit, pondering on the fence.

Religion’s View of Sex

Here is an interesting graphic describing the different views religions have on sex (and others). (HT: The Blingdom of God) It is interesting to note that Roman Catholics are the only Christian denomination mentioned. Yet, I don’t think that many Protestant denominations would disagree with all the views. But I do think they wouldn’t get as much red.

I learned that Buddhists allow with masturbation and homosexual orientation. I am curious though what is behind the “in most cases”? Roman Catholics believe it is not right to masturbate but in some cases it is okay? I to would rather someone touch themselves and not others. Also, what cases is it wrong for Jews to use birth control?

My limited knowledge of the Jewish faith also has me questioning their stance (of course according to this graphic) on premarital sex. I was a little shocked that they are so ‘for’ premarital sex. Being our ‘father’ religion, I thought they would have a stronger tone to it. Or at least be against the idea.

Upon further research into the stats behind this graphic I was lead to ReligiousTolerance.org and their survey on teachings by faith groups on sexuality. Within this research is even some more interesting facts. Below is their list, and their numbers mean, 1 = “condemned”, 2 = “morally unacceptable in most cases”, 3 = “neutral” or “no clear position”, 4 = “morally acceptable in most cases”, 5 = “blessed”.
The website states that the information came out of the following: “The San Francisco Chronicle compiled a checklist of sexual ethics “based on official reports and expert advice.” 1 They included four Christian denominations (Baptists, Roman Catholicism, Methodism and Mormonism), and three non-Christian religions (Buddhism, Islam and Judaism). By “Baptists” they seem to be referring to conservative Baptists, like the Southern Baptist Convention. By “Judaism” they may be referring to Reform or Conservative faith groups. “
It is interesting to look at the different beliefs about human sexuality within the different major religions. I am in agreement of their findings on Methodists. Although I think it is telling when you look at the numbers on homosexuality. We have a 4 or morally acceptable in most cases on homosexual orientation but then we have a 1 and two 2s when it comes to homosexual acts or lifestyles. That kind of sends a mixed message. You are of sacred worth, you just can’t live it out. I guess it is the idea, love the sinner hate the sin.
Very interesting though. Enjoy and let me know you thoughts.