Friday, March 28, 2014

Marriage Is Under Attack

This week I was saddened to learn that  a couple I knew from my Bible college days is getting a divorce. I'm not that close to either of them,but they are people I've looked up to. So it caught me off guard when she posted on Facebook that he had filed for a divorce. She seemed pretty distraught. I felt a little distraught too.

Gweneth Paltrow and Chris Martin also announced their divorce this week. Not such a big shocker. Celebrity marriage, what did you expect? It is the way they announced it that surprised me. They did not call it a divorce, they used a much nicer sounding word - conscious uncoupling. And the talk show hosts and bloggers all thought it sounded really nice too. You see, they decided together that it was time to end their marriage. It had reached it's natural lifespan. Although they claim to still love each other and have kids together, they decided to go their separate ways amicably. It's better for the kids that way. No fighting. No emotion.

I think I am a little sadder about Gweneth and Chris than my friends from college. Their story is so cold and impersonal. If divorce is so easy for them, then their marriage must not have meant that much to begin with. How can you end a marriage and not feel angry? How can you break a sacred trust without feelings of jealousy and rage? "It's better to feel pain than nothing at all." I don't think the Lumineers were the first to coin the adage, "The opposite of love's indifference."(1)  The messiness of a divorce is directly proportionate to the love that once existed in the marriage.

God describes marriage as two people becoming one flesh (Gen 2:24). Marriage is supposed to be so intimate and loving that each person loses a part of their separate identity and together they become a single family unit. They become one. And somehow that one is greater than the two that formed it. As my mathematically inclined  readers will know, dividing two is easy. Dividing one gets messy. The resulting pieces are never whole numbers.

If two become one flesh, then to rip apart that union is like ripping off part of your body. It always hurts to rip off your part of your body. Therefore, ending a marriage should be exceedingly rare, and always painful. Even if one partner is an abusive, unfaithful jerk, and the other completely innocent, it should still be agonizing for the innocent person to leave the marriage. It should hurt for the children too. I weep for the pain that innocent children face in their parents' divorce. But when divorce has to happen, it can not be easy. It should hurt like the non-anesthetized  amputation of a a gangrenous arm, excruciatingly painful, but necessary for life. Divorce should hurt like Hell. (2)

Your marriage is under attack and it has nothing to do with same sex-marriage laws. It is under attack by the temptation to do nothing. It is under the direct fire of complacency.Your selfish refusal to love will destroy marriage faster than anything anyone else can do.

The answer to saving your marriage is love. Sorry if you wanted something more complicated. I don't have the five easy steps to save your marriage (There are plenty of people that will sell them to you, though).  The truth is, only a stubborn, relentless, Jesus-like love will stand up to the attack on your marriage.

I have learned in almost 11 years of marriage, that self sacrificing love, not only does a lot for your spouse. It will do a lot for you. "For where your treasure is, their your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21) Treasure your husband or wife. Invest into them daily. Your love will grow. They will capture your heart. Their love for you will  grow too. And marriage will grow, if not easier, better. And there's a chance you will beat the odds and make it.

1. The Lumineers,"Stubborn Love"  Dualtone Records, 2012.

2. I am not cursing for cursing's sake. I sincerely believe the pain of the separation of divorce is one of the closest things people in this life will feel to the pain of the final punishment of the wicked, whatever you believe that looks like.

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's a Wonderful World (March 14, 2014)

3 Bits of Good News in a World Gone Awry

1) Fair Pay for Fair Work - Thanks to current Labor Department rules the manager at Taco Bell could make less per hour than the employees that work under him. Salaried employees are often required to work well over 40 hours/week without overtime pay, even if they make as little as $24,000/year. If they work 65 hours in a week at that rate, they are actually making less than the Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, let alone the time and a half pay that hourly workers are entitled to.

But that is about to change. The president has instructed the Secretary of Labor to rewrite the rules so that these workers will be eligible for overtime pay. That's really good news to Taco Bell managers and other underpaid and under-appreciated workers everywhere.

boys w book small2) 7 Year Old Raises Money For Sick Friend - Dylan's best friend Jonah suffers from Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD) There is no cure for GSD, and research is underfunded. When Dylan was just 6 years old he wrote and published his first book, "Chocolate Bar."  100% of the proceeds from "Chocolate Bar" are going to GSD research. To date, Dylan has raised over $750,000 for GSD research at the University of Florida. But really, he is raising it to help Jonah. Love in action. It changes the world.

You can buy a copy and help Dylan reach his million dollar goal.

3) Free Stock Photos  - It can be difficulty to find good stock photos to illustrate a blog post. And just text is really boring. Now one of the biggest names in online stock photography sites is changing that. Getty Images has announced that it will now allow free noncommercial use of  many of its vast collection of digital images. It's not because they are so kind, but mainly they are just too tired of tracking down all those copyright infractions.

Regardless of the motivation, Thanks, Getty!

Enjoy the cool pics and have a great Weekend!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Five Truths About Homosexuality Every Christian Needs to Learn

1. There's No Such Thing as a Homosexual

Homosexual is an adjective not a noun. There are people with same-sex attraction, people who engage in homosexual acts, but there are not homosexuals. See what I did there? I identified them as people, because that is what they are. People who happen to be attracted to others of the same sex.

Who was the genius who decided sexual orientation was a person's defining characteristic. I don't go around identifying myself as a heterosexual as that one thing can define who I am. I am a husband, a father, a teacher, a writer and a follower of Jesus, a child of God. I certainly don't identify myself by my sins, I don't introduce myself by saying, "Hi, I'm Zach, a luster and coveter."

Rather than identifying themselves by the full majesty of their God image and all that it entails, people who are homosexual often identify themselves by something as trivial as sex. And we (Christians) help push them to do that. We have so marginalized homosexuality apart from all the other "socially acceptable" sins that homosexual people feel they have had no choice but to band together, to form a community and a culture based around their attraction and their practice. A culture full of marches, rainbows, sweater vests, and a hundred other things that have nothing to do with sexual orientation.

People with same sex attraction are so much more than that. They are people made in the image of God, with potential to do any number of wonderful, almost miraculous things. Many of them engage in constructive things for society, working in essential jobs, making beautiful art, volunteering to help the poor, and giving generously.  And until we learn to see them as people, we will continue to isolate them and marginalize them. And they will not want to listen to us either.

2. Homosexual People Are Not Destroying Our Society

We did that long before gay marriage became part of the national debate. We destroy society with our greed and our lust, and most importantly by our denial of God as the Maker and Sustainer of all things. At least, that is how I read the Bible.

The first chapter of Romans explains the downfall of a society. First people suppress the truth about God (Romans 1:18). They do not thank him for what He has done for them (1:21). Then they worship other things, created things (1:22). As a result of their evil, God gives society over to unnatural things like same sex acts (1:26-27).

Homosexual acts are not the cause of evil, they are the effect. People do it because we've already ruined society, because we've already been unfaithful to God. They do it because we worship money, possessions, nature, and ourselves instead of worshiping God

When we look at sins that do the most to destroy society, we should look at divorce and heterosexual irresponsibility which leads to millions of fatherless children, broken homes, increased poverty, higher crime rates, These children face more learning difficulties, emotional and behavioral problems and are more likely to do the same thing all over to their children. That is the kind of thing we should be getting offended about, not whether or not gay marriage is legal.

3. The Causes of Homosexuality are Complicated and not Fully Known

Here is what we do know. There is no "gay gene" no genetic predetermination to homosexuality, although some evidence indicates certain genetic markers correlate to homosexuality. Statistical correlations have been found linking homosexuality to sexual abuse, paternal involvement, and birth order. But for every identified "cause" of homosexual attraction, there are innumerable exceptions, people who don't fit the stereotype.

So it would be irresponsible to say you're gay because your dad didn't love you or you are lesbian because you were abused.  It would be equally irresponsible to say someone engages in homosexual acts  because they were genetically predetermined to do so, as if they are an animal with no control over what they do.

Homosexuality is complicated just like people are complicated. There is no easy fix to make someone stop having same-sex attraction. We must hold up the truth of God's word without denying the complexity of homosexuality, and the complexity of the people it affects.

4. Homosexual Acts Are Sinful

I'm sure this will be the most critiqued point, especially with a certain segment of my readership. I don't mind if you disagree, just make sure it is for the right reasons. A lot of people are reevaluating their stance on homosexuality, not based on the Bible or what they believe God actually wants, but based on popular opinion. Jesus had no trouble taking an unpopular view from time to time.

I'll admit that I am not a theologian, and I don't have a mastery of New Testament Greek. But here is how I see the Bible.  It's not like homosexuality is mentioned only one or two places in Scripture. It comes up a lot. It is assumed and condemned as wrong every time it comes up with no exception, from Genesis to Revelation. It goes against the fabric of how God created the two sexes to interact. I don't buy argument that it is not a merely cultural wrong based in the society of that day. Look at the context it comes up in.
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine  that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Tim 1:9-11 NIV)
According to the Apostle Paul (and inspired by God's Spirit according to how I understand Scripture) those practicing homosexuality are in the same boat as others who practice anti-gospel behavior such as murderers and liars and heterosexually immoral people. We would not say murder is a cultural issue that is no longer relevant to us in the 21st century, why would we attempt to say the same thing about anything else on the list?

And if people practicing homosexual sin are in the same boat as murderers and liars and heterosexually immoral people, no one of these sins is more evil and defiling than the rest. And as I look at this list, I see a couple places where my name could be added. I am no less guilty than they. I thank God for His grace to not destroy me for it.

I think it's worth noting that homosexual acts are sinful, but same-sex attraction is not. God does not hold us accountable for feeling a certain way, but for what we do with those feelings. At the end of the day, we are all sinners, and all dependent on God's grace. Let's extend the grace given to us to people who are homosexual, fellow sinners, fellow humans.

5. God Demands We Love Homosexual People

"Love your neighbor.. love your enemy." However you view gay people, the response is the same. God demands it.

It is easy to love people like you. It is easy to love people you agree with. If we did not believe homosexuality was wrong, it would be no great feat to love gay people. It would be a given.

Our love is best demonstrated in accepting people we disagree with, loving people we believe are wrong, sitting at the table with people we believe are sinning. That's exactly what Jesus did. He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34), the kind of sinners that religious people in his day thought were too evil to associate with. Jesus did not condone their sin, but he never let it come between himself and them.

Following Jesus in a culture where homosexuality is becoming normalized means associating with homosexual people. And in associating with them we change too. We don't have to change our beliefs about sin or the Bible, but we will change our attitudes toward homosexual people. We will realize they have legitimate concerns about discrimination and dehumanization. We will learn to empathize with them, to work toward common goals, and to see the good in them. We will see them as Jesus does.